Bringing Virtual Reality to Business

  • Oct 3, 2016

How Will Virtual Reality Affect Your Particular Industry–And What Can You Do To Capitalize On It?

Austin, Texas: What’s your first thought when you hear someone mention “virtual reality”? Teenagers playing video games? Computer geeks building fantasy worlds? Time to update your perceptions. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have progressed to the realm of business and industry. Both are poised to change the way we shop, learn, receive healthcare, create, and travel.

pexels-photo-123335Defining Virtual Reality

So what is virtual reality? Virtual reality or VR means blocking out the “real world” to experience a computer generated alternative. To truly be considered VR, there are a few criteria that must be met:
— Believable: you must believe what you are experiencing is real
— Interactive: what you are seeing or experiencing must be responsive to your body’s movements.
— Computer Generated: what you are experiencing must be generated by a powerful, high-speed computer.
— Explorable: the program must offer a place for you to explore and allow you to choose where to go or what to do.
— Immersive: you should be able to employ several senses to experience the virtual world.

Fully immersive VR usually involves 3 components:
— a computer generated world to explore
— a powerful, high-speed computer
— linked hardware, such as headsets or goggles

VR allows you to walk on the Moon, take the field in the World Series, or explore the ocean floor. Businesses can use it to allow home buyers to tour houses, pilots to practice landings, and travelers to select hotel rooms.

vr-1570071_960_720Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is related to VR, but not quite the same. AR enhances the “real world” with computer generated images. Google Glass and other “smart glasses” are examples of AR. It is also used in cars that feature windshield displays of directions and road conditions.

Virtual Reality Gets Real

VR is not new to business and industry. Some of the earliest applications involved training airline pilots and surgeons. However, new technology and affordability are bringing VR to more disciplines. Headsets are now available in all price ranges. They are also more comfortable and easier to wear. Powerful computers are able to create more realistic experiences.

The success of Oculus Rift headsets indicates both industry and the public are interested in exploring VR possibilities. We are in the early days of exciting new opportunities. Let’s explore how VR is being used in many different industries.

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Virtual Reality Steps into Education and Training

Have you ever noticed your children often navigate technology better than you? Has your child ever said, “Give it to me, I’ll do it,” and then taken your phone and made it do something wonderful that you couldn’t figure out? Today’s youth are the first generation growing up using tablets and smart phones on a daily basis. And the classroom is keeping up with them. This involves more than just smart boards, tablets, and laptops. VR is blazing a path into education and training.

red-school-blur-factory-mediumVR in the Classroom

TechCrunch reports a spike in the number of companies marketing VR technology to schools over the space couple of years. One factor behind this is the recent release of affordable VR headsets. These headsets are often made from cardboard. In addition to affordability, they fit comfortably and transport easily. Schools can now afford to purchase enough headsets for an entire class to use.

Some researchers report VR may lead to better memorization and comprehension. The interactive and immersive nature of VR activate more of your brain. VR also allows students to see and experience things they wouldn’t be able to without VR. For example, a class in rural Iowa could turn the British Museum or visit the Amazon Rainforest.

Current VR offerings mainly focus on biology, anatomy, geology, and astronomy. But other applications are set to make an impact, such as field trips to historical sites, museums, natural sites and architectural construction models.

The following companies produce VR technology for schools and universities:

Pioneer Expeditions by Google: Allows students to visit anywhere from the Great Wall of China to Mars.
Immersive VR Education: Students can travel to the moon on Apollo 11 as Neil Armstrong, take a trip around the solar system, or explore Mars.
Lecture VR: Recreates historic lectures such as those of Albert Einstein.
Universiv: Students learn anatomy or explore the Titanic, Stonehenge, or the International Space Station.
Alchemy VR: Students discover the inside of the Egyptian pyramids or explore the Great Barrier Reef.
Zspace: Provides STEM education via VR.
Woofbert VR: Concentrates on the arts. Students visit museums and galleries.
Nearpod: Students take field trips to places such as volcanoes, the Coliseum, the Lincoln Memorial, caves, and travel the Oregon Trail.

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VR in Training

Schools aren’t the only places VR is impacting the learning process. Businesses also utilize VR to train employees. In fact airline pilots were the first to use VR in their flight simulators. Since then, other industries have adopted VR training:
— skilled trades, such as welding
— medical professions, such as surgery, paramedics, ER personnel
— hazardous occupations, such as mining, oil rig platforms
— transportation personnel, such as airline pilots, truck drivers, police and fire
departments, railroad personnel
— combat personnel
— factory assembly lines

Venture Beat outlines several benefits of VR training over conventional training:
— safety: Surgical residents can practice surgery in a virtual environment, before moving on to working with patients.
— affordability: It costs less money to purchase a virtual training module and allow pilots to train on it, rather than providing maintenance and fuel for a fleet of jets.
— relaxed: Trainees know they are using a virtual environment, so they will not be as nervous about messing up. This allows them to think more clearly and to learn.
— Knowledge retention: The VR experience involves several senses and activates more parts of the brain. It also helps promote more abstract thinking.

Chances are good that you will soon experience VR training or education or your business may benefit from VR training experiences.

berlin-1429878__180Applications in Healthcare and Medical Training

Most people have visited the doctor, the ER, or even experienced a hospital stay. Those interactions usually involve an examination by the doctor and other medical staff, prescription medication, surgical or other physical intervention, and discussion with your healthcare provider. Few people have participated in VR as a part of their healthcare regimen. But this is about to change. Providers from all disciplines are developing VR applications for both medical treatments and the training of healthcare providers.

surgeon-1049534__180Virtual Reality and Healthcare Interventions

Mental health interventions mesh well with VR. Virtual situations create safe, controlled environments for patients to practice behaviors. Some examples include:

Exposure therapy for individuals with phobias.
Bravemind is a program that helps veterans cope with PTSD.
— The DEEP application uses meditation as a treatment for anxiety.
Social cognition training for young adults with autism.
— Virtual opportunities for the disabled or homebound patient.

Virtual environments also make successful pain management interventions. Two examples are:

SnowWorld is a virtual world where patients throw snowballs at snowmen, penguins, and wooly mammoths. It was initially developed for burn patients who require painful dressing changes and other treatments.
Virtual reality applications are used to treat phantom limb pain for amputees. VR also helps them to learn to manage pain outside of the virtual environment.

Rehabilitation and recovery programs use VR to speed recovery. For example:

Brain damage assessment and rehabilitation after injuries.
Mind Motion Pro is a VR program used for stroke rehabilitation programs.

Many hospitals are using VR to delivery patient education and training. Some of these are:

Pre-surgery education for patients prior to surgery.
Quintiles is using VR to recruit patients into clinical trials.

doctor-79579__180Virtual Reality and Medical Training

Educators use VR to teach students of various medical disciplines. VR provides “hands on” medical training without risk of harming patients. It also helps students feel more comfortable learning medical procedures.

Doctors also use VR to prepare for surgeries and other procedures and to communicate with patients and other staff. These applications include the following:
SIM-K: A VR simulation of a total knee replacement.
Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform: helps surgeons plan the safety route to removing a tumor.
Virtual Interactive Presence & Augmented Reality: Helps deliver tele mentoring during surgery. An experienced surgeon at one location can guide a surgeon in another location.
Echo Pixel True 3D System delivers more detailed imaging by converting ultrasounds, CTs, and MRIs to 3D images.

In the next 5 years, VR will move into mainstream healthcare. Doctor visits may involve virtual environments to teach skills such as checking blood sugar or proper medication administration. Healthcare providers will use VR to review medical histories and charts. The possibilities are endless.

virtual-reality-1237523__180Real Estate Warms up to Virtual Reality

Imagine your job transfers you overseas. You need to find a new place to live, but you can’t take off a couple weeks to look for a house. What would you do? In the future, you might find yourself virtually touring homes in Europe from the office of a real estate agent in the United States. It might seem far-fetched, but this is only one of the many ways VR may impact how we buy homes. From the design process, to marketing, to house hunting….things are about to get virtual.

Virtual House Hunting

Sotheby’s International Reality is one of the first real estate groups to employ Virtual Reality. They currently use Samsung Gear VR to sell luxury homes. Agents can lead a tour remotely with clients all over the world. Home buyers have the convenience of touring several homes via VR to narrow down choices for actual visits.

Currently, this process works best with high-end homes because the cost of scanning homes for VR is quite expensive. However, experts believe VR tours will trickle down to lower cost homes in 5 years.

open-house-1163357__180Benefits of VR for Real Estate

Virtual tours are not the only beneficial application of VR for the real estate industry. Developers, designers, and architects use VR to design homes, businesses, subdivisions, and retail outlets. Then VR allows them to share their vision with clients in a more meaningful manner. Clients virtually walk through the designed space and experience how it will function for them. VR also provides a method of staging empty properties and customizing the space to the buyer’s needs.

Real estate agencies use VR to supplement marketing strategies. Agents can lead presentations from any location. VR presentations offer convenience and efficient use of time for both agents and buyers. Offering virtual presentations gives agents an advantage over the competition.

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Easier Access

There are a couple factors driving the implementation of VR in real estate.

— Affordable headsets. Cardboard headsets are now available in a wide price range. Most real estate agencies can purchase several headsets for clients to use. Clients can also purchase their own to use at home when searching for properties online. Geek Tech Branding offers a large selection of VR headsets that can be custom printed with your agency’s name or logo
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— iOS and Android compatibility. With economical headset choices, clients and agents can utilize their own tablets, phones, and other devices to view properties and developments.

These two developments make VR more accessible to the general public and to smaller agencies. Very soon you’ll begin to notice real estate agencies near you adopting VR technology.

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Traveling Virtually

Imagine you are traveling overseas for the first time. You’ll encounter new airports, new cities, different languages. You’re excited, but also a little nervous. But what if you could make a “trial run”? Navigate the airport, walk the city streets, step inside your hotel room? You might feel more confident when you begin you trip.

This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The travel industry is beginning to adapt Virtual Reality (VR) technology to help travelers plan and prepare their trips of a lifetime.

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A World of Opportunity

Until recently, the travel industry has been slow to adopt VR technology, which means there is a huge opportunity right now for early adapters. New technologies such as the Oculus Rift, GoPro, and drones make VR a viable and attractive options for anyone in the travel industry.

Use of VR technology in travel is not meant to replace physical travel with virtual travel. Rather, the goal is to market travel opportunities and entice consumers to travel more.

Travel Uses for VR

Experts see two areas for the application of VR in the travel industry. One is travel inspiration. This demonstrates possible trips and excursions available to the traveler. Secondly, VR provides a demonstration of travel options such as hotel rooms.

end-of-the-travel-1449763Travel Inspiration and Marketing

A few businesses already employ VR to market vacations, destinations, and experiences.

Thomas Cook: The tour operator, with offices in Belgium, Germany, and the UK, developed their “Try Before You Fly” VR program to entice consumers back into their brick and mortar stores. Recently, they filmed VR material in Egypt and mailed brochures along with cardboard goggles to targeted clients.
Marriott: The hotel chain is using VR as part of their “Travel Brilliantly” program. They offer 3 virtual experiences to market their travel destinations. They call these VR Post Cards.
Qantus: The Australian airline provides first class travelers VR experiences of Australia.
Destination BC: Offers VR experiences of various locations in British Columbia.

Travel Demonstration

There are endless possibilities for VR usage in demonstrating travel options and in the booking process.

— airlines and rail travel: demonstration of aircraft cabin or rail cars, seat selection, demonstration of business lounges.
— Hotels: demonstration of rooms, room selection, views, amenities
— Airports and train stations: provide an experience of the whole process including info desks, check-in, security, shops, lounges, gates, boarding, transfers.
— Conference and exhibition centers: demonstration of meeting rooms, conference rooms, and exhibition space.

The travel industry is in the early stages of VR adoption, so there is a great deal of opportunity for travel agents and tour operators.

woman-1418844__180Virtual Shopping

Technology is now a part of daily life. From smart phones to tablets and even to GoPros, we use technology to complete many routine tasks. Therefore, today’s shoppers expect, and in some cases demand, the use of technology when they shop. VR is poised to be the next frontier for retail outlets. In April 2016, Samsung’s Gear VR boasted over 1 million active users, and Tractica predicts almost 200 million VR headsets will be sold by 2020. With such a large potential audience, there is a lot of opportunity for companies ready to adopt VR.

Just like the other industries we discussed, the driving factors behind retail using of VR is affordability. All the shopper requires is a smart phone and a headset. Most people now have smart phones, and headsets are now affordable for businesses to acquire.

VR can benefit shoppers by:

— giving them more information to make a decision about purchases
— simplify the design and planning process for home and garden purchases or for complete outfit purchases
— allow immediate feedback from friends who may be shopping with them

What’s in it for Retailers?

— provide an economical testing market. It will be cheaper for retailers to test a shopping environment virtually, rather than building a physical space.
— Create a totally immersive brand experience.
— Showcase their products in more meaningful ways.
— May decrease the amount of returns or exchanges.

business-888146__180Examples of VR Retail Experiences

Although we are very much in the early days of VR retail adaptation, a few companies are testing the waters of VR shopping.

Westfield Malls in the UK, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop, and River Island have all used VR to provide in-store virtual experiences of their latest fashion collections. Shoppers can then shop the collection.
Lexus and Volvo have used VR for virtual test drives.
Lowe’s installed the Holoroom in 19 of their stores. It is an immersive space where shoppers can design their bathroom or kitchen.
Ikea is also piloting a virtual kitchen experience.
Tom’s offered an in-store virtual trip to Peru as part of their One-for-One campaign.
McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden gave away “Happy Goggles” with virtual snow skiing experience.
— UK retailer John Lewis used VR headsets as part of a Christmas promotion last year.
Ikebukuro, a Japanese retailer, features a virtual dressing room in their stores.
Adidas is piloting 2 VR options. The first is the Body Kinectizer which scans your body and allows you to find the right size and see how a garment will look on you. Cyber Fit is their virtual dressing room.
eBay introduced a VR app and virtual dressing room in Australia.
Avenue Imperial is a business that creates virtual shopping experiences for retailers. As we saw with real estate, a whole new industry is emerging to design and develop VR shopping experiences.

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The Common Denominator

Again, the affordability of VR accessories such as headsets, is behind the explosion in VR usage. Geek Tech Branding offers a large variety of headsets at every price point. All their headsets can be customized with your organizations name and/or logo. For more information, visit our website.

The website eMarketer recommends retailers, “start thinking about and preparing for virtual reality….sooner rather than later. The future is now.