Virtual reality has been on the cusp of mainstream acceptance for many years, and devices like the Facebook-owned Oculus Go represent the latest attempt to tip the scales. This standalone VR headset doesn’t require cables or computers, while a Nintendo Wii-style controller incorporates a trigger and a touchpad. And while the headset remains bulky and heavy, it does at least offer prescription lens inserts for consumers with less than 20/20 vision.
First, find a specialist…
So what can businesses do with this pioneering hardware? Or, more pertinently, what can they ask qualified VR developers to do on their behalf? After all, programming a VR app isn’t like compiling BASIC code in the 1980s. This advanced software development is managed by an elite group of specialists. Even the proprietary Oculus Start training scheme is only accessible to established VR developers, many of whom will already be coding for rival platforms from Samsung, Sony and HTC.
…Then develop a worthwhile concept.
There’s no point generating a VR app for the sake of it. A firm of accountants has no need for such immersive software, neither does a drop shipping wholesaler of imported consumer electronics. Successful virtual platforms will add value to customer experiences. Think real estate firms, who could walk prospective buyers through an off-plan new home. Clients might be able to reposition walls within the app, change material choices or see how much sunshine an east-facing bedroom receives. That’s clearly an improvement on 2D floor plans and artist-impression photographs, justifying initial investment outlays.
Consider in-house uses, too
Many companies will focus their energies on creating customer-facing applications for Oculus Go and its VR competitors. Yet there’s huge scope for internal applications as well. In July, Oculus launched a dedicated Business bundle, encompassing an expanded warranty and more relaxed licensing terms. Firms like Walmart and Verizon have already developed training applications for employees, though in-house uses extend far beyond inductions. Conferences could be held in cyberspace, allowing attendees to interact with displays and listen to presentations from anywhere in the world. Engineers, pilots and surgeons could be dropped into advanced training simulators, honing their skills in risk-free environments.
Remember there are limitations (and competitors)
Early adopters tend to endure certain privations, and Oculus Go customers are no different. At present, the software isn’t sophisticated enough to allow a trainer to view the same content as their pupils. However, Oculus is developing a video out capacity, enabling one person to see on a screen what a headset user is experiencing. Facebook’s ownership may pose ethical issues for some people; the links are hardly unsubtle, with comments on the Oculus website only open to registered Facebook users. Social media refuseniks may be drawn towards the Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive or Sony PlayStation VR, though the latter’s gaming connotations perhaps aren’t ideal for a business tool.
Too early to adopt?
Sales of the Oculus Go were in steep decline as of summer 2018, creating a scenario where firms might end up investing heavily in a doomed platform. The HTC Vive is also suffering a sales slump, albeit from higher monthly sales. Consumers aren’t rushing to acquire VR headsets for gaming purposes, which may result in demand becoming reliant on corporate investment. Virtual technology is perhaps best suited to companies whose customers will use it once or twice to influence buying decisions. If that could benefit your business, it might be time to investigate the virtual world.