Virtual Reality: Far More Than Games and Entertainment

Modis Posted 22 March 2016

When Facebook acquired Occulus VR for $2 billion in July 2014, investors were dubious and the company's share price dropped more than $4 the day after the official announcement. Less than two years later, Mark Zuckerberg's faith in the technology is justified with some tangible results.

In a collaboration between Samsung and Occulus, the Gear VR, a virtual reality headset was launched in November, allowing users to immerse themselves in games, and live events, watch movies, experience flying a fighter jet, and more. With the March launch of the Gear 360, a camera capable of taking 360-degree photos and videos, users can capture their own movements and store or share them as needed. Clearly, the technology has much to offer, with Zuckerberg providing several examples at a recent Samsung event in Barcelona, including capturing a child's first steps for friends and relatives that are not present. He also predicted that “One day soon, all of us will have the power to broadcast live."

While the social and entertainment value of virtual reality is obvious, what about the business applications? We are all aware of the use of simulators by NASA, the military, and in healthcare (surgical training) to name just a few. What is impressive is that the technology has now advanced to the point where it is readily accessible to all and companies are already taking notice. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers in a recent blog post, one in three US manufacturers are using or are planning to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology in the next three years, with applications including engine prototyping, smart helmets for workers in dangerous environments, and smart glasses that allow access to manuals and process documents by a simple head tilt.

The wide use of the technology in key areas in film-making such as special effects (Gollum from Lord of the Rings was created using VR tech) and in healthcare for those suffering from agoraphobia and other conditions indicates that future VR applications are only limited by the creativity of the companies that employ them.

As with any progressive technology, there is a requirement for experts in the field (VR software and hardware developers, UI/UX, Unity developers, backend and front end designers and analytics) andthe good news is that many already have some of the prerequisite skills. Those with knowledge of 3D modeling software, C/C++, game design (this is necessary even when games are not involved as a 3D environment is required) and graphics programming make ideal candidates for VR roles. According to Ashley Zito Labor Market Analyst and Senior Marketing Manager for WANTEDAnalytics, in an article on Road to VR, demand for VR skills is growing each year, with 200 companies advertising in March 2015.

While positions with the big players are competitive, there are many other options to choose from, with startups or in industries such as architecture, engineering, construction, medical, education and the military. Realtors, for example, could use VR for showcasing their listed homes and provide immersive virtual tours that exceed those currently available.

How about some practical business applications of VR? With IT skills at a premium, why not attract the best candidates by offering a virtual tour of the company? Candidates know what to expect and are more likely to consider relocation if a company demonstrates exactly what is expected of the role and the environment they will work in. Taken to the next level, companies could use VR to test candidate abilities by presenting problems in a virtual world that they must solve to progress to the next level, an employment contract.

After hiring, full interactive training is offered using VR to outline the company's workflows, procedures and other necessary information such as fire safety instructions and security policies. For general employees, courses on security awareness, preventing security breaches and more could all be tailored according to company requirements and modified as requirements change.

Given that the technology is now affordable for all, can you identify areas where VR adoption can enhance your business processes?

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