Peer to peer: Virtual reality can deliver real results

How can my business take advantage of new technology like virtual reality/augmented reality?

Tony Bevilacqua - Founder and CEO, CognitiveVR

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are entirely new media for content presentation and consumption, and businesses have already started to examine the opportunities to apply this new digital paradigm to their businesses processes.

Both AR and VR give users the ability to immerse themselves in digital information, which vastly enhances the way humans can work with computers.

While virtual reality consumes the user’s entire field of view through the use of a mobile device or a desktop-connected headset, augmented reality layers digital information and imagery on top of the real world to add to the real-life experience. The Oculus Rift and the Microsoft HoloLens are examples of VR and AR, respectively.

Businesses can take advantage of AR and VR by using them to create lower-cost and more scalable simulation and productivity experiences. Companies can offer a real-world look into operating heavy equipment, performing surgery or walking a customer through some not-yet-built real estate. Because VR and AR are digital, the user input and engagement can be directly measured through analytics.

Primarily because of pricing, augmented reality works well for medium-sized and large businesses, but it’s not a consumer-accessible service just yet. Right now, though, the technology offers businesses an opportunity to provide guided training experiences for highly technical work, such as mechanical repair.

The new user manual is one that you experience in AR or VR, not one that you read in a book. 

Chris Vincent - Account manager, Flip Digital

Deloitte is predicting that 2016 will be the first year that the VR industry passes the $1 billion mark.

It’s exciting, but all the more impressive considering that in the U.S., two-thirds of the population is unaware of the technology at all. Businesses will play a critical role in bridging the gap between VR and the general population. Here are a few examples of how:

•Virtual tours: Real estate, architecture, hotels and similar industries rely on customers’ ability to imagine themselves staying at a particular establishment. VR or 360-degree photos/videos provide an opportunity to shape an experience as if a potential customer were physically present at your business.

•Employee training: VR allows organizations to create safe scenarios for employee training. Consider the worker learning proper procedures for responding to fallen power  lines, or a ship’s captain navigating through a storm. These real-life scenarios carry substantial risk, but their VR counterparts can teach valuable lessons, hazard-free.

•Live event streaming: One of the world’s largest music festivals, Coachella, announced it would begin streaming select performances in 360-degree video this year. Videos are now available on YouTube demonstrating the unique perspective and access that organizations can deliver to their audience.

VR and immersive technologies will fundamentally shift the way people interact with companies. For both business and consumers, there are bound to be growing pains. Businesses can start exploring VR now, together with their customers.

Paul Stewart - Founder, Wondr VR

We ask companies these crucial questions all the time: What does it mean to move from desktop computing and mobile to digital immersion? What opportunities does it afford your customers?

The answer, of course, is different for every business. When we posed this question to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, their response was to produce a 360-degree virtual reality video for fans who had never experienced a game before. It includes the whole game experience from the fan parade to the opening anthem, from the players competing on the pitch to signing post-game autographs. Wearing a VR headset allowed viewers to step right into the action.

Millions of high-end VR headsets are shipping right now to customers throughout the world. Companies can experiment with immersive video, whether it is trying a simple office or factory tour, a product release, an annual meeting, event, announcement or HR recruiting video. Each VR project is a learning experience. Practice will help you prepare for the transition.

If you want to position your brand on the leading edge of new technology transitions, virtual reality is a great place to start. Higher-end headsets such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are a great way to build immersive experiences that will allow you to stand out in your industry. The budgets are much higher, but once you immerse your stakeholders using 3D computer graphics, where their eyes and minds can be tricked into believing they are physically somewhere else, the possibilities are endless.