4 Big Changes VR Is Bringing
The Future of Virtual Reality
June 14, 2017, Bruno Jacobsen
Until recently, progress in VR came slowly. Only from late 2015 onwards did VR seem to finally be on the brink of finally taking off. Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive’s sets, and social media like YouTube and Facebook making 360 videos for VR available, are just some examples of companies making VR more mainstream. But what does the future of VR have in store for us?
While there are still some challenges, like inside-out tracking, the nausea it causes to many people, lacking computing power, few people with capable hardware, and the occasional tripping over a stationary object, progress is happening fast.
We might ask ourselves: how will VR affect businesses worldwide? Here are a few areas where VR will probably have a significant impact.
Prototyping and Selling with VR
Virtual Reality will change the way many companies approach physical prototyping. With VR, companies will be able to design their products on a computer much like they do now but, after that, they get to skip a test and instead immediately visualize as if it were right in front of them.
For example, BMW has recently started using VR to prototype vehicle interiors, which allows them experiment with different styles and check visibility and movement within the car fairly quickly.
For manufacturers of large industrial goods, like cranes, ships and so on, this will save millions of dollars by cutting out several iterations that would be necessary along the way. For smaller companies, like some SMEs, for whom prototyping might be too costly, it will allow them to introduce a new step, try out new concepts, and make smarter decisions.
Of course, physical prototyping will not be removed from the equation entirely. It will still be an important part of product development. But much like designing new concepts on the computer helped improve prototyping, visualizing them in VR in the future, as if they were already completed in front of us, will make it even better.
It might also revolutionize demonstrations and sales. When speaking with prospective buyers on the phone or over the internet, it is often difficult to describe accurately a certain product. With VR, we may be able to just send them a file and they can plug it into their sets. Then they can see all sides of the product, play around with it, and become more familiar with it.
VR will also help when products cannot be brought into a meeting. Instead of describing it, in the future we will be able to show it right there, as if it were physically present.
Few would doubt these would make up for at least more interesting sales’ presentations.
VR and Retail
VR will also change the future of retail.
There are many customer experience aspects that online shopping does not offer but that physical shops do.
Let’s take the example of clothing stores. In physical shops, customers can try clothes on, serendipitously find new articles, be greeted by shop assistants and ask any questions they would like, get a greater feel for the company culture, and so on.
With VR, retail companies in the future will be able to create artificial shops online (Alibaba has already experimented with this) with most of the benefits of the physical ones and few of the problems. People at home can “walk into” these stores and immerse themselves in the shopping experience even though it is a virtual one.
The benefits for companies are tremendous. Unlike in a real physical store, companies do not have to deal with an overcrowded pace and there is no need for customers to line up for purchases (it could be done anywhere at any time). The clothes can be sorted based on previous consumption patterns of each individual customer, there is no disorganization nor litter, the costs are significantly lower than for a physical store, and the company can literally gather all consumer data that is created and prepare for future trends.
And it will not be constricted to only larger retailers. Even online stores, that have never built a single physical store, will be able to get in on the game. This is just one example of how VR will change the world of retail. The way products are displayed, payments made, layouts, etc., are all up for grabs.
VR and Human Resources
VR can also improve human resources and employees’ relations. Starting from recruiting, Ian Davies of Skiltrek Staffing suggests that prospective employees could use them to spend some time in the company, virtually, and assess whether they are a good fit with the company’s culture.
But companies will probably also benefit from reduced costs. Amy Cook says that companies will probably spend less on business travel. And it is not hard to imagine a future where flying for 8 hours for an important 2-hour meeting or product demonstration is replaced with a VR meeting between the parties.
VR Could Create Entire New Industries
Much like computers, the internet, and phones did, VR is another platform upon which many new businesses can be created. There are many questions still left unanswered: what operating systems will dominate VR? Will the market be dominated by a couple of OS like Windows and iOS today for computers? Or will each company have their own as in the early days of phones?
A new platform, and whatever it runs on, will also turn entrepreneurs to the possibility of many more opportunities, just like the App Store created the app industry. We could have new businesses in education, entertainment, communication, search and information, security, military, design, and so on. There could be a great number of opportunities waiting to unfold, much like at the beginning of the internet age.
But just like it could span new industries, it can also hit others that do not adapt. Many elders may prefer to travel virtually to different countries, cities, and even times, avoiding the hassle that comes with booking trips and flying long distances. Businesses must be prepared for the fact that what they offer may be replaced by virtual reality and plan accordingly.
Are We There Yet?
These were four examples of how the future of VR will affect the business world. But are we there yet? The answer is no.
Just last year NVIDEA said that 99% of the computers out there do not yet have the specs needed for a full VR experience.
But it is not just the computer power, it is also the headsets. The best ones are expensive and unless we are “techies” or like to purchase the latest gadget, we will probably wait a little longer to purchase one. Then there are those companies working on developing sets that function on its own without the aid of a computer, but those will likely be even more expensive and further away.
Nevertheless, the speed of adoption rates for new technologies have been increasing for centuries. So we shouldn’t be too surprised if the changes mentioned above come a little sooner than we expect.