Knowing a new technology is going to be important for business is one thing; developing a great use case for it is entirely different.
In the 90s, with a heightened fear of missing out, CEOs rapidly commissioned the creation of company websites to make sure they were keeping up with what was showing itself to be the new ‘must have’.
Cut to the early 2000s, the attention was on mobile apps. In those early days, with new technologies quickly evolving, business leaders weren’t sure what practical use a website or app was going to have to their business — they just knew they needed one. The results? Most of the early websites and mobile apps just weren’t all that great – often not designed to solve any real problem or provide any real or tangible value to users. But hey, the CEO could tell the board they had one.
VR: the new ‘must have’?
Jeremy Bailenson, head of Stanford University’s virtual reality lab, remarked that “Most things don’t work in VR.” It’s true, not every application a creative marketing team might want to throw at VR works, but when it does, it can be remarkable and there are a number of industries nailing it.
Construction, design and real estate
VR is already enabling real estate pros to showcase properties, both built and unbuilt to potential buyers from anywhere in the world. VR allows them to immerse themselves in a virtual environment and experience its finest details, not only interior layouts and specifications, but also property locations, views, and surrounding neighbourhoods.
As a result of early client interaction with a new environment, designers are becoming better equipped to create what clients want and greatly reduce gaps between their expectation and eventual reality.
Marketing and advertising
With a unique ability to go beyond ‘showing’ products or stories and have viewers experience them, VR has delivered an entirely new toolset to marketers and advertisers. Studies have shown VR to deliver a 27 percent higher emotional engagement and 34 percent longer engagement than 2D content, so for those already using images or videos to tell their story, it’s a compelling new option.
VR remains a technology in its infancy within business.
VR gives consumers more control, allowing them to lead their own experience, progressing through the design story at their own pace and choosing to take their own detours – yet all within parameters set by the designer.
Numerous brands including Jaguar, Coke, Etihad Airways, Audi, and The New York Times have rolled out experiential marketing campaigns using VR. From enabling people to virtually experience the luxurious surroundings of Etihad’s first class airline cabin, to placing them on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, VR is enabling marketers to interact with their customers in more unique and personal ways than ever before.
VR has taken its place among a select group of new technologies with potential to help retailers face the challenges of a rapidly changing industry. Shoppers will soon be offered opportunities to visit virtual malls where virtual stores can be visited and products viewed in styled, curated, virtual environments.
Startups such as Bold Metrics have been using VR technology to create ‘virtual maps’ of shoppers’ bodies, allowing them to virtually try on clothes or shoes in a 3D environment. And while shopping may continue to be a social and recreational experience where people enjoy visiting physical environments, retailers are able to reduce store footprints by having a selection of products accessible virtually and also allow their customers to experience flagship locations, fashion shows, and more regardless of where they’re located.
VR for events and conferences
Virtual Reality is seeing growing popularity in the events industry and enjoying some celebrity credibility. Paul McCartney recently released a 360° concert recording through a VR app linked to Google Cardboard. This meant anyone could experience his concert at a fraction of the cost and without the cramped train ride home.
In the same vein, conference organizers are using VR technology to power virtual conference attendance and also creating collective experiences among those who do attend. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took 250 attendees at CES 2017 on a live inspection of a solar power plant in Moapa River Indian Reservation. And smaller event planners are learning how to use VR to attract exhibitors, showing off a virtual representation of the show floor, or showcasing last year’s event.
With its unique abilities to immerse viewers in environments too complex to model using other means or long distances away, VR has found a clear home in healthcare. From training surgeons using virtual scenarios, to treating phobias and developing new life-saving techniques, VR is allowing professionals to learn new skills — or refresh existing ones — in a safe and adaptable environment.
VR is also being used as a smart diagnostic tool, enabling doctors to immerse patients in virtual environments.
VR is also being used as a smart diagnostic tool, enabling doctors to immerse patients in virtual environments, carrying out functional tests for some neurodegenerative disorders in order to come to a diagnosis without invasive surgery or other methods of treatment. Other use cases include helping the elderly in nursing homes ‘travel-by-goggles’ and in treatments for behavioural and mental health issues, using virtual immersion therapy.
The automotive industry has adopted VR in a number of unique and intelligent ways, such as taking potential customers through exhilarating experiences in virtual high-performance cars, or virtually specifying a new car with access to every possible option while visiting the dealership itself.
Audi has been offering immersive car tours and virtual test drives, and Ford have been working with the Oculus Rift team to design, prototype, and evaluate vehicles in a virtual setting. This is already bringing significant change to the dealership experience, as well as saving car manufacturers millions of dollars in testing elements of new cars. Learning how to use VR has been key for an industry that knows its customers dislike interacting with sales teams, and even entering dealerships – offering exciting experiences people can navigate on their own goes a long way to overcoming the issue.
Similar to the automotive industry, VR has seen growing popularity within manufacturing through offering major efficiencies in virtual training.
The technology is able to accurately recreate things that are large and complex or expensive to model and, within manufacturing, this can mean students are able to learn complicated engine repairs on large, complex machinery using virtual models rather than having to find the real thing. This type of virtual training has the power to heighten the technical skills of graduates far more quickly and efficiently educate students In disciplines such as welding, plumbing and electricals as demand fluctuates.
These are just a handful of industries where we see VR being used transformatively. In truth, VR remains a technology in its infancy within business and has the potential to bring significant changes to a whole lot more.