If you’re a gamer, then chances are good you’re aware that we’re on the cusp of significant change for the entertainment industry. The launch of the Oculus (and Facebook’s acquisition) along with healthy competition from the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Samsung Gear VR have churned tremendous interest in virtual reality.
Unfortunately, consumer adoption has been slower than expected. A 2016 Virtual Reality Industry Report included a 10-year map with predictions showing, based on sales and performance, that it could be six to eight years before there’s mainstream adoption among consumers.
But VR has plenty of applications beyond consumer entertainment. In fact, investors have continued to finance startups at an increasing rate where augmented reality and virtual reality are involved.
In 2017 there was a 36% increase in investor deals over the previous year. As equipment and hardware become more affordable, startups (and incumbent brands) in numerous industries are finding use cases and leveraging opportunities beyond gaming and entertainment.
With existing VR tech alongside new AR platforms from Apple (ARKit) and Google (ARCore) and Amazon unveiling augmented reality for online shopping, AR and VR is poised to significantly impact numerous industries.
One of the toughest challenges a merchant must overcome with online sales is uncertainty. While 96% of Americans shop online for the convenience and savings, 88% of shoppers still prefer to shop in-store for most purchases.
They value the personal experience that comes with handling a product, turning it in their hands, and trying the product before committing to a purchase.
Both VR and AR are changing the shopping experience online.
I already mentioned Amazon’s AR app that lets you view products in your home before you buy them. On the VR side, Lowes has launched the “Holoroom” experience that lets visitors design a kitchen or bathroom and then explore that space as well as share it online via YouTube 360 video.
Bold Metrics is working to help online fashion retailers through the power of AR/VR. Its technology uses highly accurate body mapping to allow customers to try on clothes, using visualization to remove that barrier of uncertainty.
Trillenium is taking a similar approach with augmented reality; imagine pointing your phone at your feet to cycle through shoe styles and colors until you find one that looks just right.
Modiface is working with AR tech targeted toward beauty brands with it’s Mirror functionality — users can use the incredibly accurate app on a tablet or other device to try on makeup before purchasing it. There are even apps for hair color and nail polish.
We all dream about where we’d love to go on vacation. Those fantasies are usually fueled by pictures and video that captured our attention. When it comes time to book a trip there’s still that barrier that pops up — uncertainty.
VR lets travelers experience a destination and make a more informed decision about where they want to visit. Imagine being able to view and tour a resort, landmarks, shopping districts, or the beach.
Marriott, among other hospitality brands, have been testing ways to use VR to transport guests around the world.
Whether the trip is for business or pleasure, Google Translate’s Word Lens app function is using augmented reality to make travel a lot easier by removing some of the language barrier, providing instant translation in real time. Just point your smartphone camera at the words (document, sign, menu, etc.) and the language is instantly identified and translated.
Visuals are a huge part of real estate. Unless a renter is desperate they likely won’t touch a listing without pictures. Likewise, a study done by Redfin proved that homes listed between $200k and $1 million sell for $3,400 to $11,200 more relative to their list prices when high quality photos are included.
The same study showed that homes with images sell faster.
We’ve moved beyond 360-degree virtual tours with rotating panoramic photos. Companies like Matterport and YouVisit are now utilizing technology that allows people to use VR to immerse themselves and stand inside of a home without ever visiting the destination.
Common.com showcases their rentals using VR tech from Matterport, making the selection process much easier for renters.
Virtual reality technology can make purchase and rental decision far easier for interstate — or international — moves.
VR isn’t just making its way into the real estate industry for purchases and rentals. Virtual reality is already being used by architects, giving prospective home owners and developers a better view of finished properties — before they’re finished.
This can speed up the development process as homeowners getting their property designed before a build can see it and make real-time changes with the architect, which saves time and money for everyone involved in the process.
3D modeling is nothing new to architects, but VR tech allows them to explore, design, and develop at a level never before seen. Autodesk’s Revit Live is just one platform architects are adopting to create immersive visualizations.
The healthcare industry has widespread adoption and use of VR in recent years and additional branches are developing use cases for VR to enhance and improve patient care during the treatment as well as the recovery process.
Here are just a few examples of how virtual reality and augmented reality are ushering in change in the healthcare industry:
Treating paranoia — Oxford University published a research study where virtual reality was successfully used to help treat paranoia. Patients were virtually injected into social situations they typically feared that were actually safe.
Neuro surgery prep — Surgical Theater provides precision VR technology that’s now being used to help surgeons prepare for operations by blending two dimensional scans layered to create a 3D model. Surgeons can then use VR to explore the patients scan in 3D to get a much clearer sense of the patient’s condition before surgery.
Treating PTSD — Over 60 VA hospitals, military bases, and universities are using Bravemind, a form of prolonged exposure therapy using virtual reality to treat U.S. troops suffering PTSD. Through VR, the hospital staff can recreate stressful events allowing veterans to experience them in a totally safe environment. This technique has been shown to resolve PTSD in a number of patients.
Augmented reality is also being used effectively to improve blood draws and IV starts. Rather than a blind stick by feeling and trying to visually spot a vein, the Accuvein uses AR to show vein placement.
Infrared technology detects the veins and the device creates an accurate “roadmap” of the veins on the surface of the skin.
Through augmented reality hospital staff have been able to improve “first time stick” rates by almost double. In one study the success rate rose from 50% to 96% using the Accuvein on women with a BMI of 35.
Recruitment and Training
While VR and AR have been used in very specific ways for some of the industries I’ve listed above, the technology has wide spread uses for virtually any business.
It can be a powerful tool for recruiting and employee retention.
Roughly one quarter of U.S. companies admit to having an onboarding program that has zero training included. According to CareerBuilder, this can result in a loss of as much as 60 percent of a company’s workforce over a four-year period.
Rather than lose those employees — and your investment in the hiring process — a number of companies are using VR technology to improve the hiring and training process.
It’s a smart move, too. The average cost to fill a vacant employee spot ranges from $3k to $18k. Improve training and onboarding and you reduce turnover, saving you the loss of recruiting costs.
A good onboarding program also improves employee performance. One report from SHRM found that training factored into onboarding boosts performance by 11%.
Using VR as a training and recruitment tool has a number of benefits that will spur the adoption in coming years, especially for remote working conditions.
- VR can mimic real-life to create interactive scenarios for immersive, more effective training.
- Specific tasks can be done in VR as tests to assess competence during recruitment and onboarding
- Onboarding and training is more entertaining — brands are ditching the terrible corporate videos for more immersive training
- VR training is more engaging, improving the retention of information obtained.
And VR onboarding is suitable for a variety of learning styles, catering to employees that learn through visual, verbal, or physical.
Walmart saw great success with its pilot program using VR to train managers and customer service representatives.
UPS is using VR training to simulate delivery conditions and train its drivers.
Schools and universities offer some of the greatest opportunities to use virtual reality and augmented reality. The infancy of the industry and slow adoption of VR in the school systems means comprehensive statistics haven’t been gathered there are some terrific examples of how VR is already being used.
Science classrooms can use programs like Titans of Space to take a VR tour of cosmos, bringing the planetarium to the students.
Google has thrown its hat into the VR education ring with Google Expeditions, a growing list of destinations so teachers can take students on trips virtually anywhere — from Antarctica to Machu Picchu.
There’s also some very attractive opportunities depending on how creative developers can get with augmented reality apps. Many K-12 school systems already provide tablets to students.
The cameras on these devices can be used with AR applications to create interactive models and immersive situations for a variety of subjects.
AR and VR will also change the way some subjects are taught at the college level or for adult education around skilled trades.
For example, training firefighters in virtual environments or educating lab students about hazardous materials and chemical reactions without actually exposing them to danger.
Virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t new, but they have a way to go before they’re fully mainstream. As adoption continues the technology continues to expand and improve, including accessories that improve things like head tracking, motion sensing of the hands with accurate articulation, and even haptic feedback so users can feel the virtual environment.
One thing is for certain; numerous industries will experience significant change once VR is used to full effect by businesses. In a few short years the schools, labs, workplaces, and stores we know now — and how we interact with them — will likely be very different.