How is Virtual Reality changing the way we do business?
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How is Virtual Reality changing the way we do business?

Innovative technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) is already being used in modern business and marketing today. Daniel Colaianni, CEO of The Academy of International Extended Reality explains the benefits early adoption can have for your organisation, and explores the areas where VR is already having an exceptional impact. 

Wait, I thought VR was just for games?... 

This is the response I often get when I tell people that 80% of my work is with businesses and enterprise-based VR solutions. 

The innovation of new technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR for short) is driven largely by the financial investments of businesses that can afford to take a risk before the mass market expands to envelop a wider consumer base. 

While marketers have been arguing over if they really need to jump on that new TikTok trend, smart businesses out there, going as far back as 2015, started to identify a gap in their business acumen that had the potential to completely revolutionise the way they do business. 

Of course, those who had their head start, now have fully-fledged VR teams embedded within their day-to-day operations. 

Companies such as Shell, Audi, and major fashion house brands have seen the writing on the wall when it comes to using VR for remote collaboration, training, and even customer service. 

The biggest thing? 

While for some VR may still seem far-fetched or like something from a sci-fi film, they’re now on the clock and operating on borrowed time. 

Andrew Bosworth, the vice president of augmented and virtual reality at Meta–formerly Facebook–describes it as the technology as the next generalised computing platform with the potential to transform the landscape of global work. 

In fact, Meta has gone to the extremes to say their next headset hopes to replace laptops altogether. 

We should probably start with a definition: 

VR is a form of immersive technology that completely replaces the physical world with a computer-generated virtual alternative. Users interact with these virtual environments and the digital within through devices such as headsets. 

(And yes its one of those “metaverse” technologies you’ve probably been hearing about) 

Recently there has been a concerted effort among manufacturers in VR to make headsets more affordable and accessible. 

8.7 million Meta’s Quest 2 VR headsets were sold in 2021. This is almost double the headsets sold in 2020. 

But… 

…VR is by no means the only form of immersive technology. 

Augmented reality (AR) is a similar, if not in many cases more, promising technology. But rather than replacing the physical world, AR overlays digital content onto it. 

At the moment, this is mostly done via our smartphones through things such as filters on Instagram or Snapchat. But in the near future, we can expect to see AR smart glasses move toward mainstream adoption, with Apple being the latest company rumoured to be working on an AR device. 

So where is VR fitting into businesses exactly? 

We’ve already established that the financial investment from businesses has been a large driving force for kickstarting the modern VR Renaissance. 

But what's one thing businesses like to do more than spending money? 

Making money. 

Let’s take training as a prime example. If you could save on costs while decreasing risk and increasing retention, would you do it? 

A young male wearing virtual reality googles and holding a virtual reality tool in each hand. People in the background on the left of the image
[Photo source: AIXR]  

Well, those who started early have found the technology has not only been shown to significantly improve information retention and employee satisfaction, in many instances it has been proven to reduce the cost of training, particularly in high-risk environments, such as in engineering or healthcare, where training is not only expensive but also dangerous. 

Working on a similar premise to flight simulators that have been used for decades now, VR enables employees to gain on-the-job training in a risk-free, highly replicable environment. 

But perhaps more pertinent to the vast majority of businesses, VR is being used to keep remote workforces engaged. 

Over the last couple of years we have all become used to working from home, and according to the Office for National Statistics remote working is here to stay. Online job adverts including terms related to homeworking have been increasing at a faster rate than the total number of adverts. 

Airbnb was recently lauded for its progressive work-from-home policy, and with workers reluctant to give up the improved work-life balance that comes with remote work, homeworking, or at least flexible working, is a huge draw for prospective talent. 

However, this does come at a cost. 

Collaboration is widely seen as the greatest challenge associated with working from home in 2022. A recent peer-reviewed article in Nature suggested that Zoom interactions come with a cognitive cost for creative idea generation, with videoconferencing struggling to replicate real-life interactions. 

This is where VR is having an unprecedented impact. 

By recreating virtual working and social environments, VR enables remote workforces to stay connected and collaborate more effectively. And this is something that businesses could implement now. There are already several off-the-shelf VR workspaces such as Horizon Workrooms and Altspace VR. 

In fact: AIXR Member, Accenture, recently ordered (at least) 60,000 Quest headsets as part of its remote onboarding process. 

At a capital investment cost that ranges in the millions of dollars, decisions like this are not taken without careful research, planning, and modelling of ROI. 

The move makes up part of Accenture's strategy of replicating the intimacy of an in-person work environment while preserving the flexibility of working from home. 

We at the Academy of International Extended Reality (AIXR), have been holding a record number of meetings and social events in VR. With our team spread across four countries, VR has enabled us to stay connected. 

The 5th International VR Awards - Virtual World Hop Experience visual including virtual reality human figure in light blue on the right, purple background that appears like a building with blacked out windows and icons for users in multiple colours along the bottom left to the right

[The 5th International VR Awards - Virtual World Hop Experience] 

We also held our flagship event the VR Awards entirely in VR last year–becoming the first awards show ever to make this move. What had previously been a black-tie, exclusive event was now open to millions of people across the globe for the first time. 

With the advent of the “metaverse” promising to revolutionise the way we work and play forever, we will not be the only organization using VR to reach new audiences. Rather, we can expect to see businesses across all sectors begin to use the technology more and more to connect not only with internal teams but also with their customers, who consumer trends indicate will be increasingly defined by their virtual presence. 

So the question you need to ask yourself now? 

  • When (not if) will you start to leverage VR within your business? 

 
If you want to learn more from Daniel about his predictions for the future of VR, some of the challenges it brings, and the other areas of business where it will be introduced, tune into the CIM Marketing Podcast - Episode 58: Step into marketing's extended reality. 

Daniel Colaianni CEO The Academy of International Extended Reality (AIXR)
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