The place of virtual reality in the corporate world

Virtual reality (VR) has become a hot topic, especially its growing appeal across a variety of platforms. Although the technology is still nascent, the potential for a major exit for a development company in the segment is strong. Many start-ups are in e-commerce and FinTech for example, but few are taking on the VR space. There is no doubt that the likes of Google and Apple are looking for potential acquisitions in this arena, and sell businesses are eager to expand their portfolio with innovative VR solutions. But what can VR do for a business in today’s world?

The purchase of virtual reality developer Oculus by Facebook in April for $2 billion highlighted what is already a growing strategy among some businesses: utilising interactive 3D environments for training, logistics, commercial orders and product design. As the virtual reality space continues to offer growing opportunities through technological advancements and lower implementation costs, the segment has the potential to transform business practices and consumer interaction with products and services.

Some notable uses of VR include:

  • The medical world has been one of the most proactive in utilising virtual tools, with Conquer Mobile and VRcade partnering to introduce immersive medical simulation, especially useful for teaching surgical skills;
  • The military has been an early adopter of virtual technologies for pilot training and battlefield readiness, with interactive 3D environments offering the only alternative to real combat;
  • In the retail sector, the UK’s fashion chain Topshop has already experimented with virtual shopping, letting buyers see the runway show of its latest clothing lines. Global Internet retailing value reached $638 billion in 2013;
  • High-tech manufacturers and developers of cars, airplanes and spacecraft implement virtual reality to simulate and test product design and assembly. This sector has been a major influence on the world’s $81.0 billion video games industry (as of 2013);
  • The potential to create social and corporate events via virtual conferences could redefine the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) sector, making long international travel and hotel bookings unnecessary. Facebook is likely looking at Oculus as a potential catalyst to develop virtual social media, which would provide a similar experience.

Despite the possibilities of this “holy grail” technology, there remain a number of challenges to implementation. Virtual reality has had a number of false starts and costs of equipment and software would have to decline significantly for businesses to consider investing into it. Broadband Internet speeds for businesses would need to increase to support a virtual online experience, especially in emerging economies. However, it is only a matter of time before executives join gamers in donning headsets and completing key transactions in a virtual world.

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