The next five to ten years will be huge for virtual reality. Already, VR promises to connect us, making geographic locations irrelevant and changing our ability to experience something that would otherwise be out of our reach.
To understand how it will be used by businesses in the coming years, a group of successful entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) explain some of the most exciting opportunities they see for VR.
1. Brands Will Use VR to Improve Customer Loyalty
Brands and VR were made for each other. Businesses and brands will engage consumers with story-driven VR experiences that educate and entertain. This will create a new kind of relationship between brands and their audience as they start becoming active participants instead of passive bystanders. The hardest thing to do as a brand is to get your audience to actually feel something. Immersive, interactive VR experiences will get people closer to feeling, which gets people closer to caring.
2. There Will Be Changes in Teleconferencing
Trying to connect everyone by phone and talking to laggy, pixelated faces on a flat screen is probably one of the most hated things in modern business. Virtual reality will change that and allow these sorts of meetings to take on a more personal and natural feel. As the technology progresses hopefully it will be able to incorporate expressions, eye contact and other human elements we currently lack. This will make our telecommuting lives better and our meetings more productive. When fully formed it might even reduce business travel significantly.
3. It Will Improve E-Commerce for Products That Require Fit
Complemented with augmented reality, VR will have a big impact on online shopping. One industry that’s not making as big a breakthrough as others is shopping for things that need to fit well (whether clothes for you or furniture for your place). Being able to “see” those things to determine the fit will remove the handicap for these products and open the floodgates for online shopping that have been lagging. It will be amazing to see how a couch would look in your living room before buying it.
4. There Will Be Changes in the Education Market
From applications for all levels of education, including college and university classes, virtual reality can make learning more enriching and enjoyable as well as address some of the various ways people learn that current curriculums cannot seem to individually address. Companies that can offer educational products that use virtual reality have a real opportunity.
5. There Will Be an Improved Design Process for Products
I think it will further enhance the ability to design products. With virtual reality and simulations, you can do much better user testing without them having to be in the same room and get faster feedback, as well as make much quicker changes. This will decrease the overall cost of production.
6. It Will Offer the Opportunity to Have an “Anywhere” Experience
VR’s use cases for businesses are only limited by our imagination. A huge application I expect in the near future is in e-commerce. Currently, one of the biggest issues with e-commerce, for both the store and the consumer, is ordering something that doesn’t match your expectations. VR gives us the opportunity to create the “anywhere” experience so that a user can manipulate a product and get a better understanding of what they’re buying. The same can be said of booking hotel rooms, cars, travel and adventure tours. Virtual reality is poised to bring the world to you, just like the internet itself, on a more nuanced level.
7. It Will Offer Improvements in Entertainment Like Movies, Media and Games
Entertainment will be the first industry to get disrupted by VR. Imagine sitting in your living room and watching the Superbowl with VR. VR takes you right in the stadium. It will have a similar impact on movies and gaming. I was at CES recently and I saw that even a one-person VR startup had 10 minute-long queues simply for trying out the demo. The VR economy will easily surpass the app economy in my view.
8. It Will Advance Real Estate Sales
Nobody is satisfied purchasing a house based on pictures, and some people would rather not go “house hunting” physically. VR could be a great bridge between those who would like to see the property up-close and those who’d prefer a less involved approach. It will assist agents in increasing turnover by making fewer site visits, and might be a more efficient (and secure) way to conduct business in real estate. While it might currently be reserved for apps on smartphones and tourism, VR has the potential to change how we make investments into property. There’s a huge opportunity for a company that will be able to assist realtors in capturing real-time imagery of each property in a manner that is timely and user-friendly.
9. HR Departments Will Become 100 Percent Remote
I think the best aspect of virtual reality is that employees can have more engaging interactions with the HR department, whether it is in the interview process, training, or just a simple meeting. This will be able to happen from anywhere in the world and still feel as though they are sitting across from you. For example, instead of asking an employee a situational question and getting their reply, we could actually put them in a situation in VR and see how they truly react. This will take HR to a whole new level never before experienced.
10. It Will Impact the Health and Fitness Industry
Virtual reality will become a tremendous performance hack for anyone who wants to visualize the future as if it is already here. Athletes and doctors are already using hardware like OculusVR (acquired by Facebook) to visualize all of their goals coming into fruition, including perfect health and performance. People will finally be able to step outside of themselves and hit the winning shot, beat illness, or close the perfect deal.
11. It Will Offer Immersive, On-the-Job Learning Experiences
I’m most excited about the opportunity of virtual reality apps to facilitate learning and relationship building in a business setting. You’ll be able to master public speaking by practicing in front of a virtual audience, you’ll be able to see how business is conducted in Japan by working virtually from that office for a week, and your avatar can get together regularly, face to face, with your boss across the country. The number of skills you’ll be able to acquire and mentors you’ll be able to tap will explode when there are no practical or geographic limits.
12. Geographical Location Will Become Irrelevant
Already we live in a virtual age, where with the usage of Skype, Google Hangouts and other forms of digital media it doesn’t really matter where you are physically located. However, with the advancement of virtual reality, not only will it not matter where you are geographically, but it will actually appear as if you are in the same place even when you are thousands of miles apart.