How Virtual Reality Could Redefine Your Favorite Gadgets

Virtual Reality is expected to be an almost $5B industry this year. While the concept was originally designed to enhance the gaming experience, analysts are now looking beyond recreations to VR’s application in business and supply chain.

Virtually Awesome

The term “virtual reality” has captivated the minds of many. The concept of experiencing an augmented reality while in another environment was the stuff of science fiction. However, software and technological giants such as Samsung, Google, and Sony have recently released virtual reality technologies that seek to redefine the way business can be conducted. While Goldman Sachs forecasts strong growth in the virtual reality sector this year, the growth is different from what was projected during the 1990s. The difference, analysts say, is the actual technology. During the nineties, scientists were ambitious with their early efforts. Virtual arcade machines — similar to the Nintendo Virtual Boy — could not reach the extremely high expectations set by technicians; early 3D graphics simply could not deliver. But today’s computers are able to process infinite amount of data in a short amount of space and time.

The use of what business analysts call “Intelligent Automation” can have significant impact to how businesses control their logistics — even in the way they approach their customers. If the supply chain is seen as interconnecting points moving in the same direction to achieve the same goal, then VR technologies can be a means of removing unnecessary nodes. This means that fewer contact points connect the business from its clients; potentially saving a company thousands of dollars while still ensuring the same high standard of quality.

Reality Bites: Technology that is Virtually There

Despite the concept being quite old (the term being coined in the early 1980s), tangible and working virtual reality technologies are only in their infancy. That being said, a variety of industries are already seeing massive potential in how they can operate. For example, virtual reality software can take any employee to shipping or storing warehouses in real-time. The idea is being heavily considered by VR developers, although actual software has not been fully developed. Still, the concept is intriguing and initial “what ifs” and “virtual tours” are currently being created.

How does this impact your favorite gadgets? It immediately reduces delays as companies see the status of their goods without having to physically be there. This also means that any challenges or potential disruptions are instantly detected. As of now, the technology is being utilized by sales-driven businesses, such as real estate or car events. The Samsung Gear VR headset, for example, would show a 360-degree view of a location virtually. A user simply has to turn, and the scene changes in real-time.

WorldViz, a VR software company, has estimated that businesses can save a substantial amount of money using these technologies. Roughly 90% of costs involve real physical models. However, with virtual reality technologies, a business may create a new facility in VR prior to construction — already tweaking the design and minimizing costs. Additionally, virtual reality allows all parties involved, from stakeholders to designers, to collaborate and experience design alternatives together.

There are also training costs to consider. Virtual reality technologies are able to train an individual in environments that would otherwise be too expensive or dangerous. Emergency services training, military actions, and even psychiatric markets may benefit from experiencing these trainings beforehand. This may even have applications among oil and gas customers as workers can work in a “real” oil platform and learn how to deal with dangerous situations.

This implies that during actual operations, potential risks and accidents are averted. Actual delivery of a service is also backed up by experience — even if the experience was done in a virtual world.

A Look at Today’s Technologies

  • The Oculus Rift, which initially started out as a Kickstarter campaign, is scheduled to be released on March 28, 2016. Once available, it will be the first consumer-targeted virtual reality headset. While its primary focus is on gaming, developers of the Oculus predict that the headset will act as the foundation for future generations of VR technologies, as the company placed heavy emphasis to its marketing campaign.
  • HTV Valve is co-developed by HTC and Valve Corporation. It will serve as a means for programmers to document and build software that supports SteamVR hardware.
  • The Samsung Gear VR is built to be compatible with any Samsung phone and will allow its users to watch movies or play games.
  • There has been much speculation about all the recent acquisitions of Apple, from its latest Flyby Media purchase, to acquiring 3D sensing company PrimeSense in 2013. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s development team is composed of only a hundred people so far, but is steadily ramping up.
  • Google has officially set up its own virtual reality division. Spokespeople of the company have refrained from commenting, although rumors suggest the dedicated division hopes to beat rival Apple in terms of design and accessibility.

The Caveat

Virtual reality technologies are still relatively expensive and untested. There is still no evidence that these technologies will actually perform as predicted, or that the proposed applications will be developed. Furthermore, it’s likely that companies will focus on consumer-driven sales at the beginning. Companies with more unique takes on these technologies may have to wait a few years before having the chance to test them.

About the author: Raine Grey is an Analyst for Elementum News, where she covers breaking supply chain news and writes about the latest trends. Her favorite topics are gaming, mental health, and human behavior.

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