Video games may be the killer app for virtual reality (VR), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many other opportunities for this exciting technology, which places you in 360 degree virtual environments using immersive headsets. Here are five industries that stand to benefit from the introduction of VR, and examples of what they're already doing with it.
At its heart, VR is an experiential technology designed to help evoke visceral reactions from users. What better place to use it, then, than in tourism? This is the business of experience, which is why tourism boards and travel companies alike are using it to lure potential visitors.
African travel company Matoke Tours has launched a mobile virtual reality tour that lets virtual ‘visitors’ walk with gorillas and go on four-wheel-drive safaris from their living rooms. In Canada, Destination B.C. released a similar virtual reality app, called The Wild Within that takes visitors through the remote Great Bear rainforest, allowing them to make decisions about which route they want to follow on the way.
In the U.S., Marriott took its traveling virtual reality Teleporter kiosks on the road in 2015, setting them up in the streets so that passers-by could see, hear, and feel what it was like to be on a Maui beach, atop London's Tower 42 skyscraper, or inside the company's own elite hotel facilities. More recently, it launched VRoom, an in-room service enabling guests to use its own VR headsets, albeit in select hotels. The VRoom experience includes VR Postcards, a selection of VR travel videos that lets guests travel to select locations, including Chile.
Virtual reality apps may offer a 360° view of amazing destinations, but nothing beats being there – and that’s what their creators are banking on.
In real estate, potential buyers or renters must also see a place in real life to really evaluate it, but it doesn’t make sense to travel to every potential future home on your list. Virtual reality applications are enabling people to narrow down potential homes before visiting those on a short list. In 2016, Goldman Sachs predicted a $2.6 billion market for real estate VR applications in 2025.
Companies like Matterport had expanded from traditional web-based VR in which people click and drag their way through 360° images in a browser, to headset-based VR experiences that truly immerse potential buyers in home and office spaces. U.S.-based real estate broker Halstead is using the technology to showcase select houses, while property developer Onox worked with solutions provider VR Global to provide a VR tour of its Queens, New York-based development, The Grand at Sky View Parc.
Retail is another area where companies strive to delight customers with new experiences. Bricks and mortar is combining with clicks and mortar to produce virtual reality department stores. EBay has partnered with department store Myers to create a VR shopping experience in which people use a mobile phone VR headset to navigate around a 3D space, selecting items that have been personalized for them based on their shopping history.
Shoppers can find out more information about products by fixing their gaze on them for a short time to gather data including specification, size, price and availability.
Gimmickry aside, the advantages of this approach includes the ability to flip some ‘in-store’ items around in 3D space, enhancing the shopping experience.
Not all VR applications focus on consumer experiences, though. Some offer professionals new ways to do their jobs more accurately and efficiently. In healthcare, VR company Surgical Theater is using the technology to present doctors with immersive 360° views of the patient’s anatomy.
This enables doctors to explain patients’ conditions to them in detail, and then to plan the surgery process by viewing the body from the inside, offering unique perspectives in unprecedented detail. Expect to see healthcare organizations spend $5.1 billion on healthcare VR by 2025, says Goldman Sachs.
Training and Personal Development
Anyone who has felt nervous about a job interview or business networking event might enjoy the VR offering from VirtualSpeech. This company offers immersive training sessions that let you learn and practice interview techniques and communication skills in a safe virtual space.
VirtualSpeech also offers a VR app to help you practice public speaking by putting you in front of a practice audience, which is an experience that practicing your speech on the dog can’t emulate. An hour or two in these virtual worlds might help erode those pre-speech nerves.
With relatively low-resolution displays, modern mainstream VR headsets still have room for growth, but the kinds of applications in production show how different industries are already developing imaginative uses for the technology.
As display resolutions increase, VR technology can become increasingly convincing and offer an even more compelling platform for the creation of new, groundbreaking experiences in cyberspace.
About the Author
Danny Bradbury has been writing about technology and business since 1989. His clients have included the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Canada's National Post.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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