Virtual reality (VR) technology creates a computer-generated environment where people can interact with objects or other people. Users become immersed in the environment, giving a holistic experience. As VR fuels digital transformation and innovation, more businesses are diving into the VR environment for more impactful meetings, sales presentations and training. We’ll explore five VR business use cases, and the pros and cons of using the technology in business.
Virtual reality in business
Interest in VR is exploding as manufacturers lower the cost of VR headsets and visionaries explore the business relevance and potential revenue-generating power of this emerging technology.
Augmented reality (AR) and VR overlap with many other technology categories, including biotech, video and gaming. This category list is expected to grow in the coming years and expand business opportunities across tech sectors.
While VR headsets are very cool, many VR industry insiders say hardware isn’t the only area growing in innovation. Most envision rapid advancements to underlying technologies that drive VR experiences, along with demand for new applications, content and accessories.
For companies, figuring out how to use VR to drive revenue – now and in the future – is a pressing task.
Virtual reality technology in manufacturing is revolutionizing inventory control, factory floor planning and on-the-job training.
How businesses can incorporate virtual reality
VR makes sense for business in a myriad ways. We’ll explore five ways your business can incorporate VR.
1. Utilize the try-before-you-buy concept.
If your company manufactures and sells products, VR might dramatically change your world. VR helps companies market and promote products in an entirely new way. For example, in select U.S. markets, Lowe’s Home Improvement customers can design their perfect bathroom or kitchen and then, using VR, walk into the finished space and experience it as a kind of test drive.
Powered by AR/VR application company Marxent’s app, Lowe’s Holoroom customers work with a trained sales associate to select from thousands of products – including paint, flooring, plumbing fixtures and appliances. According to Marxent, these products are added to the design as virtual 3D objects. Once satisfied, the customer dons an Oculus Rift headset to experience the space they’ve designed and make any needed refinements.
To bring their virtual design to life in the real world, the customer orders the products and services they’ve already experienced in the store’s Holoroom.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs has also created a VR Holoroom How To program to teach customers project skills and a Holoroom Test Drive program to instruct consumers on proper power tool usage.
Lowe’s conducted A/B testing to compare customers’ experience in its Holoroom How To program vs. watching a YouTube video. Lowe’s customers who experienced the VR instruction had a 36% better recall.
2. Introduce established products to new audiences.
VR experiences are a natural extension of the video gaming industry. But as VR becomes more mainstream, gaming companies can expand their markets by introducing products to new audiences. With specialized accessories, VR-enabled games won’t require mastery of complicated controllers.
With VR motion-capture gloves, playing a VR-enabled game can be as easy as turning your head or reaching out with a foot or hand to touch something in the environment. For example, international motion-capture technology innovator Noitom’s Hi5 VR Glove tracks users’ hand motions. It allows players to interact with virtual objects by using their hands to perform actions such as grabbing, throwing, stacking and drawing in a virtual environment.
3. Promote tourism as a virtual experience.
Sure, you could watch a film about a location or Skype your way across Europe with the help of a friend. But other than actually being there, nothing could be better than shutting out the real world and fully experiencing a place with VR. Antarctica too cold, too expensive, or too far away? Take a VR trip instead.
Wild Within was a VR experience that promoted tourism in British Columbia, Canada. Viewers traveled through a rainforest using their choice of two paths: the coastline or climbing a mountain. Destination BC has since expanded its virtual travel and online tours, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in visual stories to get a feel for their travel experience.
With VR gear like Taclim VR boots from Cerevo, virtual tourists can take a stroll on a beach and feel the sandy terrain beneath their feet. Other aspects of the virtual environment, like the effect of ocean breezes and the sound of waves breaking and shorebirds, could heighten the experience.
VR travel apps like Travel World VR and VR Cities can fuel your inner wanderlust. Add a VR hotel or resort tour and a virtual visit to a nearby coastal restaurant, and it might seal the deal for a vacation booking – or a vacation home purchase.
Virtual reality is changing the construction industry by allowing architects to turn 3D designs into VR-compatible renderings for collaborators and clients to explore.
4. Expand education and training programs.
For the past several years, e-learning has helped prepare students for jobs in many industries. But where these programs can fall flat is training for jobs that demand hands-on learning. VR can bridge that gap with immersive learning simulations.
For example, Houston-based Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating worked with Brown Technical Media to deliver a VR experience to train students for the air conditioning and heating trade. HVAC e-learning products included a full technician course that simulated the hands-on experience of an HVAC lab and physical school.
VR educational tools know no bounds. For example, the SkyView app uses AR night sky overlays to help students identify constellations and find planets and other celestial bodies. And Microsoft’s HoloLens helps medical students learn about the human body using mixed reality (MR) technology.
5. Challenge traditional sales strategies.
Automakers are looking to VR technologies to attract buyers, improve their time at dealerships
and form a stronger emotional attachment to products they helped create.
The Audi VR experience uses proprietary software and visualization technology from ZeroLight, a technology company based in Great Britain. Using a VR headset at the dealership, customers can configure their new Audi and virtually experience their dream cars. They also have the opportunity to explore every detail of the vehicle as they choose accessories in the virtual setting of their choice – a lunar landscape, a tunnel or the National Library in Paris.
Additionally, Audi introduced a VR experience for passengers to immerse themselves in VR games and movies. A technology known as elastic content adapts the VR experience to the driving route. For example, if the car turns right, the passenger’s VR vehicle – such as a spaceship – mimics the turn.
Virtual reality in the ad industry is fueling innovations like in-game advertising in a virtual setting and immersive, virtual room experiences where consumers interact with products.
Pros and cons of virtual reality in business
Consider the pros and cons of working with VR environments in your business.
Here are some key benefits to investing in VR for your business:
- VR is an effective communication tool.
- VR enhances users’ experience when they are in the metaverse.
- VR allows for detailed views from potential buyers.
These are some disadvantages for using VR in your business:
- VR tech can come at a high cost.
- Users may become addicted to the virtual world.
- Technology is in the early stages of development.
As the technology becomes mainstream, more companies will use VR in their sales process and customer service programs. With time, VR experiences will become more cost-effective, which will open the door for more companies to participate in the technology.