It was 2016; Mark Zuckerberg addressed the world in Facebook’s (now known as Meta) VR event and showcased the futuristic capabilities of virtual reality.
The event also revealed a first-of-its-kind VR headset - Oculus Rift - that didn’t need any tangled cords and could operate freely. At that time, the technology seemed too revolutionary, and many experts believed that it’ll stay limited within the gaming and entertainment sectors.
Fast forward seven years, and VR has already proven to be a revolutionary technology for different verticals.
As of 2023, gaming only showcases the tip of the iceberg. The technology has spread its roots in other industries and opened new avenues for growth in sectors such as education, healthcare, design, and retail.
Virtual Reality - A Quick Recap
Let’s start from the basics; what does Virtual Reality mean and what makes it a “revolutionary” technology? VR is simply a computer-based simulation where users can interact within a virtual environment.
Unlike traditional computer screens, virtual reality integrates an additional layer of engagement. Consequently, it takes users away from the real world and throws them into a virtual realm.
The inception of VR can be dated back to 1968 - when Ivan Sutherland developed the first wearable VR device to develop a virtual simulation platform. But, it wasn’t until 2014, when Facebook, Google, HTC, and other tech giants invested millions of dollars into VR development, that it became a mainstream technology.
How Can VR Integration Benefit Different Business Industries?
As we mentioned earlier, VR is not just a gateway to more immersive gaming experiences, even if that’s its primary forte.
It further offers endless possibilities that can help businesses streamline daily business operations, cut down on operational costs, and enhance overall productivity as well.
It’s no secret that the conventional classroom-based education model doesn’t promote the idea of interactive learning. And, with time textbook-based learning can become monotonous and raise a learning barrier for students. With VR-powered classrooms, tutors can bring back the fun element and help students learn in a more interactive environment.
Even when we talk about higher education, Virtual Reality can help students acquire necessary skills without endangering their lives. A mechanical engineering student, for instance, may use a VR session to explore different moving parts of a heavy machine before working on it in real life.
Retailers can choose virtual reality to equip their online stores with a persuasive user experience. In fact, online shopping is one of the biggest industries where VR can accelerate growth for companies.
Retailers can set up virtual shopping rooms for their online stores and let shoppers try products in a virtual environment. It means before making a final commitment, they would have an idea of how the product will look in real life. Consequently, this can lead to lower cart abandonment rates and higher sales.
VR has already set foot in online retailing and 32% of online shoppers have already tried virtual try-ons to virtually test products before purchasing. Industry giants like Nike, Adidas, and Ikea have already launched VR-based shopping experiences. Many mid-sized e-commerce businesses are following in their footsteps as well.
In the pre-VR era, the automotive industry had to bear losses of millions of dollars in operational costs while testing vehicles and validating the functionality of different equipment.
With Virtual Reality, that’s not the case anymore.
Now, these initial testing models can be tested in the virtual environment before they’re ever put on the manufacturing belt.
Similarly, car manufacturers are also setting up virtual car showrooms to let customers virtually explore different car models and even take a virtual test drive to check the driving experience.
4. VR in Healthcare
In the recent past, global healthcare institutes have implemented VR-based training to switch from traditional training modules.
The virtual environment replicates different medical procedures, allowing students to visualize organ placement and understand the right approach to conducting critical surgeries. Another application of VR in healthcare is relieving chronic pain during orthopedic surgeries.
VR can be used as a distraction so that patients don’t experience severe pain while undergoing painful surgery.
5. VR in Real Estate
VR services for businesses operating in the real estate industry can transform their daily business operations.
How? Instead of visiting and providing physical tours of their properties, real estate agents can create respective virtual tours and let potential buyers remotely walk through the desired building. Not only does it save customers from the hassle of walking to each physical location, but it also helps retailers provide excellent customer service.
6. VR for Business Training
Like the automotive and medical industries, many businesses are actively using VR to train new employees before they move on-field.
VR training emphasizes creating a virtual simulation of real-life environments and replicating daily operations and their executions in a virtual space.
VR training for businesses provides better safety and helps employees learn in an interactive environment. Unlike reading textbooks or employee training guides, they can interact with physical equipment (virtually) and get a better understanding of their functionalities.
It means when they’ll move to the real machines, they’ll already have hands-on experience, resulting in frequent human errors.
How Different Companies Use Virtual Reality in Modern Setup
At this point, you already know that VR is being used across different industries. It can help modern-day companies mitigate human errors, streamline complex operations, and improve business productivity. Let’s go through a few industry leaders who have benefited from incorporating virtual reality in their day-to-day business operations.
AUDI has heavily invested in VR-based training to ensure their new employees get hands-on virtual training before they jump on board to work on real-life complex systems.
The virtual training programs are designed in such a way that they provide a comprehensive insight into the complex systems of employees’ respective departments, which eventually reduces the scope for unexpected human errors in the long run.
Space travel, despite being highly rewarding, is a risky endeavor and astronauts putting their life at risk must be trained thoroughly to survive in the harshest conditions.
NASA uses virtual reality to create exclusive training programs for astronauts. Before embarking on their space adventures, astronauts can undergo virtual training sessions to familiarize themselves with onboard equipment and other intricate technical details.
Air Force and Military Training
Both the US Air Force and the US Military use VR environments to prepare pilots and soldiers for real-life combat situations.
They use VR simulations to replicate the scenarios of attack, thus helping professionals to prepare for unexpected challenges throughout their service.
Virtual Reality has already come a long way since its inception. Apart from gaming and entertainment, the technology has further proven to be a remarkable technology across other sectors including education, corporate training, healthcare, and retail. Whether it's virtual try-ons in online shopping stores or integrating interactive learning in ed-tech through 3D modeling, VR in business has opened up new avenues for businesses to engage their potential customers in an interactive environment.