A Compelling Argument for Virtual Reality in the Workplace

By Kim Fairfield, Improvement Interactive Systems Architect

Every six months, Improvement Interactive holds a company-wide management summit where we discuss the state of our company, our projects, the industry and our company culture.

After the summit, Frank, our CEO, challenged me to provide a compelling argument for using Virtual Reality at Improvement Interactive. I thought, thank goodness, an easy question! I know VR is going to shock a lot of people; it is a true disruptive technology. VR will transform society like the automobile, the phone, and electrification have in the past. I have been thinking about it for a long time. I was reminded of the old joke from the late 80s, “VR will be the next great technology, and always will be.” — Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation

A compelling argument is similar to the classic “elevator pitch”; you have to be able to describe a new idea so well in 45 seconds, that the CEO you “happened” to bump into is hooked. I came up with a hypothesis: “The compelling argument is obvious when you think about the business needs for specific business areas.”

To test this hypothesis, I went through of list of business areas to give each a compelling argument for the use of VR technology.

Movies

You are in the movies; your favorite movie star will be interacting directly with you. You are no longer in the audience, you are on the stage.

Note: Lots of the big name directors are exploring doing VR things now (i.e. Lucas, Cameron, Spielberg, etc.).

Sports

You are ring-side at a hockey game.

Note: NHL is pushing hard. The best VR I have experienced so far was just behind the boards at a NHL game. Binaural sound is amazing; take a walk while recording with binaural microphones (they sit in your ears), play it back and you will fool yourself.

Medicine

Save a few lives in third world countries during your lunch hour.

Note: Tele-operation gets press and it is a very hard problem (real-time exact calibration!) but remote diagnosis / treatment is relatively simple with current technology.

Gaming

Twitch.tv audiences already surpass the Super Bowl and they are all going VR along with the industry.

Note: EVE is awesome (millions of players and a very complex Star Wars like VR universe). 2nd life could get very scary. This is an upbeat blog but watch for huge segments of the population deciding they like VR worlds better than the current one.

Photography

Instead of snapshots, record memories indistinguishable from the active event.

Note: Soon VR technology will record and replay “memories” at the limits of our optical and audio resolution. This is another real concern, I can’t imagine not becoming addicted to just sitting down and watching loved ones play after they are gone. This crowdfunded 180 degree binaural video camera looks like a cellphone. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lucidcam-the-world-s-first-consumer-3d-vr-camera#/ Samsung will have their 360 degree version later this year.

Recorded VR Video

Sit down with Paul McCartney in his barn / studio in Scotland as he shows you how he composed a new song; add some “VR mastered” old scenes of the younger Beatles that might move you to tears.

Note: The VR experiences with the most impact for me so far have been VR videos. As a SNL fan, the 360 degree view from on top of camera one for the 50th anniversary event, was great. Sure fun to look at celebs when they are just hanging with their dates. Watching a North Korean parade makes you feel like you are there. Look for “Within (also called Verse)” for the best examples.

Education

Five minutes in VR teaches 5th graders more about the solar system than two weeks of traditional classwork.

Note: There are very few education VRs and few studies but intuition and the limited results suggests that VR can improve speed and retention dramatically. Try “Titans of Space” yourself, that is the one they used for one study of 5th graders.

Shopping

Take a ride in that Tesla. Go to a supermarket that only has products you like.

Note: Pokémon Go is a real estate company, they are monetizing the earth. How long before you pay them to put a Pokémon Go hub outside of your ice cream store?

Telepresence

Visit your host family every night during dinner. Go to any major museum or important site along with your family whenever you like.

Note: Telepresence by itself will change the world!

The Elderly

“Cure” age limitations in VR worlds that provide perfect eye sight, hearing, motor movement, and memory.

Note: I have a favorite aunt with late stage Lou Gehrig’s disease; I record kid events and play them back to her. She loves my “photospheres!”


This list is intended to prime us to think about how we could use VR at work. The goal is to understand the technology and start building our own capabilities.

Hopefully it got you thinking about what would be a compelling idea in your workplace projects.