While it isn’t considered a workplace technology yet, more companies are exploring virtual reality’s various applications.
Virtual reality isn’t generally considered a workplace technology — yet. VR has largely been connected in the popular imagination with the gaming and entertainment industries, but that may be changing as more VR companies explore the technology’s various workplace applications.
“Virtual Reality is projected to see a 200 percent growth over the next three years, which equates to 25 million users,” according to a Touchstone Research’s Infographic – Virtual Reality in the Workplace. “Given these numbers, more companies are sure to familiarize themselves with this new technology and think of possible ways to integrate it into their organizations.”
Uses of VR as Workplace Technology
According to an article in Forbes, “many people believe that virtual reality’s most exciting applications will come in business, despite the technology’s origins in the gaming community.” How can VR be used to transform the modern workplace? Here are some now-evolving VR workplace applications:
VR and gamification are currently massive trends in the education and training spaces. VR allows trainees to viscerally experience real-seeming situations in three-dimensions, thus helping them develop improved skills in handling these complex, seemingly-real situations. Using VR for flight simulations is perhaps the most obvious scenario. NASA is also using VR at Texas-based Johnson Space Center to train astronauts for spacewalks.
But many more workplace training scenarios are possible, from customer service to machine operation. The upgrade VR offers over passively training with books and manuals or watching online videos is massive. Of course, VR is also safer than “real” simulations: VR is a better place to make mistakes, which are often essential for learning, and also delivers better training results as the human mind is immersively engaged in the 3-D sensory experience VR offers. The more real the training seems, the better the cognitive outcomes.
2. Data Virtualization
Today’s businesses are increasingly data-driven, as an array of dashboards are available to share key business indicators throughout an organization in real time or almost-real time. In terms of allowing businesses to be flexible and data-driven, data dashboard technology is hard to beat. That said, VR and data visualization hold the promise of making data even more engaging, and therefore, actionable. Data visualization can go far beyond charts and graphs: VR companies are now exploring the boundaries of what visualization can do, and it can also support better collaborative decision-making with remote employees. What we’re seeing today, as technologies like VR and visualization improve, is the virtual workplace taking shape in front of us.
3. Collaboration and Communication
Remote technology allows us to call into a video conference with clients or suppliers, but the virtual workplace and VR may allow even more engaging, immersive levels of interaction. “Immensely more immersive than today’s online meeting tools, VR will take business collaboration to a new level, allowing people to inhabit the same virtual space together — even when they’re thousands of miles apart,” as the Touchstone Research infographic on workplace VR puts it. Imagine, for example, meeting in a virtual conference room with a supplier or business partner in Ohio while you’re on vacation in Bermuda.
4. Testing and Other Possibilities
Think of the promise for product simulations and testing in a VR lab. As tech expert Mark Little told Forbes, “Forward-thinking high-tech manufacturers of spacecraft, airplanes and cars have been testing product design for years using virtual reality.” You might also be able to test-market your newly-developed products or services with real customers in a virtual, highly-immersive virtual environment. As technology companies continue to invest and research the array of workplace applications for VR, more innovations will be coming down the pipeline to render physical location increasingly irrelevant and transform today’s workplace.
VR is clearly moving away from gaming and entertainment to also include the workplace. The technology already has a number of potential workplace applications for training, collaboration and communication, testing and more. The number of these applications is only expected to grow as more research and investment moves into the VR space in the coming years.