Virtual reality has been excitedly discussed for half a century, but only now is there finally a sense of critical mass being reached. Global VR revenues reached $7 billion last year – a figure expected to increase tenfold by 2021. And while headset sales are driving much of this meteoric rise in value, VR for business is expected to make up an increasingly large percentage of total revenue in the coming years.
Virtual reality applications have obvious capacity in theme park roller coasters and ghost trains, or as the logical successor to 3D showings at the theater. But the potential offered by VR for business purposes is far greater – limited only by our imagination. These are some of the industries with the greatest reason to embrace virtual reality as it advances…
There’s obvious opportunity to use VR for business expansion, increasing sales by offering prospective customers interactive samples or taster experiences. Travel agents could give walk-in customers a five-minute ‘journey’ to a preferred destination, letting them survey a popular ski slope or explore different suites in an overseas hotel resort. Walk-around tours would also benefit real estate agents, hosting virtual tours in out of state homes – even demonstrating interior layouts of as-yet unbuilt apartments. Imagine being able to view an upcoming new car before it arrives at the dealership, changing the color and specifications, and hearing the engine fire up.
The days of traveling halfway across the States to attend a sales conference may be drawing to an end. A key benefit of VR for businesses involves the ability to impart information more dynamically. Those obligatory health and safety videos might actually place employees in perilous situations, enabling them to experience first-hand the dangers of anything from collapsing seats to chemical spills. Much of this is achievable while seated or standing still, but improvements in VR headsets will support tethered or untethered movement. From games and simulations to team-building exercises, staff will better understand and remember information provided in a virtual format. The same is true of learning at any age.
Personal health has a major impact on our performance as employees and our enthusiasm for daily life. Someone with agoraphobia or anxiety may struggle to leave the house, preventing them from holding down an office-based career or spending money in real-world environments like cafés and shops. Virtual Reality Therapy has already recorded notable successes in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological conditions like PTSD and autism. Immersive therapies might enable people to book their first flight or visit a restaurant after years of avoiding public eating. Similarly, physical therapies aren’t just transformative for individuals – they benefit businesses and the wider economy.
Bars have become soulless places, where people scroll through dating apps on their phones rather than making eye contact or talking to each other. Since we’re voluntarily surrendering the ability to communicate face-to-face, why not go the whole hog and date virtually? Not only does this eliminate most of the risk involved in meeting a stranger, but first dates could be held in a Scandinavian ice cave or on the Moon. Training simulators would enable shy souls to practice their conversational skills on bots, developing confidence along the way. VR dating might introduce disabled and housebound singletons to experiences they’d otherwise never get to enjoy. And at least we’d all be talking again, rather than tapping on screens…
#5. Software development.
As a leading provider of hosting solutions and servers, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss the growth opportunities for programmers and software companies. Every VR experience has to be programmed, beta tested, debugged and then hosted – requiring a diverse team of IT professionals possessing overlapping skill sets. And though WestHost can provide dependable, high-speed foundations to VR apps and software, we recognize there’s a shortage of firms currently offering virtual world design and environment mapping. We anticipate the VR development industry will grow rapidly with each passing year, requiring new skill sets among computing graduates and professionals.
It’s worth noting the VR units of tomorrow will be far more sophisticated than today’s clunky (and usually hardwired) technology. Wraparound glasses should eventually supplant bulky neck-straining headsets, with discrete earplugs immersing people inside virtual audiovisual environments. Tentative steps are also being taken to engage the other three senses – haptic bodysuits provide touch-based feedback, while research on temperature variations is ongoing.
Smell and taste are harder to engineer into VR hardware, though the former may be achieved via diffuser kits capable of mixing different aromas together throughout a program’s running time. Either way, today’s laggy virtual environments will swiftly give way to far more authentic and immersive experiences.