Virtual reality has been on the horizon ever since movies like Back to the Future and others started to show it off. Back then it was just an idea but now it is becoming more and more a (virtual) reality. Analysts have predictions in place that show augmented and virtual reality will be incredibly disruptive to our society. In the same way that the smartphone changed our lives, virtual reality may be set to do the same.
Virtual reality changes how we view technology both literally and figuratively. Until now technology has always been something that we have viewed and interacted with but never been truly immersed in. Virtual reality has the potential to change that. Imagine how you use your phone now. A small screen that you hold in your hand while the world continues on around you. Imagine instead the ability to step inside a totally different world.
Today, virtual reality is just in the opening stages. You can take your phone and put it in a cardboard box and pop it in front of your face. This is barely virtual reality as we are not so easily fooled. There will come a time when we sit on a VR chair or step inside a VR room, slip on a VR device, and enter an entirely different world. The technology is largely available already so with further advances taking place we could be about to enter entirely different worlds.
Augmented reality will have many more business applications while virtual reality may be initially more suited to consumer applications. The obvious application for virtual reality will be gaming but there are many more applications as well.
In business virtual reality could be used to improve unified communications. One of the largest costs of any business is that of sending their team to different locations. As globalization continues it is increasingly important for teams in different areas of the world to work together. With the coronavirus that has become more difficult. Despite the success of things like Zoom and other video conferencing solutions, they are just not as good as the real thing. Virtual reality can offer an experience as good as the real thing without any of the expense of travel.
In areas like real estate VR can play a role too. Imagine having to visit ten to fifteen houses when you could just see them all from within your home. Similarly, if you are looking at potential universities you could go on a real tour of all of them without leaving your bedroom.
The greatest application of virtual reality though will be in training. Training is again an incredibly expensive area for businesses. If you consider pilots, the time they spend flying aircraft is both expensive and potentially dangerous. If more time could be spent in an immersive environment the cost to train any pilot and the time it would take would be greatly reduced. Similarly, expertise could be used across the world with the press of a simple button. Nuclear physicists could be used for reactors all over the world without having to leave their homes. Surgeons could advise more inexperienced ones about the work they are doing.
Proper virtual reality will be truly transformative as it can change how people work, train, and live. While the technology is still being developed we are not far away from a truly immersive experience. Within the next ten years, a solution will be in place that will be so convincing people will be unable to tell the difference between it and reality. In time the cost will reduce as well and make it possible to have a VR experience in every home and business.