The Untapped Business Potential of Virtual Reality
Words cannot describe the sense of wonder I felt when I first donned my Oculus Rift headset and stepped into the world of virtual reality.
In fact, I still get that same sense of wonder almost every time I put on the goggles and travel to a different plane of existence where I must slash colored cubes.
With the increased availability of consumer headsets, why aren’t more businesses stepping up and taking advantage of the consumer interaction that is possible through virtual reality?
Revolutionized Shopping Experience
If you can travel to space or other eras inside virtual reality, why can’t you travel to stores? Having the ability to shop from inside the home while still being (kinda) physically present sounds like a dream.
The good news is that is may not be as far away as it seems.
Some early adopters of the virtual shopping experience have already made virtual storefronts, placing customers inside a photo-scanned 3-D environment with some basic interaction.
Although the idea is awesome and offers new possibilities in eCommerce, there are still some limitations to using this approach. For example, the scale inside of virtual reality can feel off when inside a photo-scanned environment. Likewise, movement while inside these environments can also feel a little wonky if the scaling isn’t just right.
However, a true first step of the shopping revolution comes in the form of Amazon’s VR kiosks.
Instead of placing customers inside a photo-scanned storefront, Amazon India has taken the first steps towards a unique VR shopping experience by teleporting people into an entire city filled with Amazon Prime products.
The experience starts with a hot air balloon ride into a low-poly city filled with all kinds of attractions. This unique approach not only offers customers a truly different shopping trip, but also the ability to accurately get the scale of items before purchasing. Unlike the photo-scanned method, individually modeling the objects allows for easy accurate scaling of the item.
In a video released by VentureBeat about the kiosks, customers could be seen interacting with objects, such as viewing a smartphone from all angles or opening a refrigerator.
In true sci-if fashion, pop-ups would appear when grabbing an object that offered more information about the product.
Best of both worlds
The example put into place by Amazon shows that VR shopping is the best of both worlds by not only offering the ease of access of online shopping, but the ability to preview and interact with the product before purchase.
Even though Amazon is the online retailer, I thoroughly expect to see other companies adopt this same type of experience as consumer headsets become more widespread.
Where I work, the only training I received was about two sentences worth of advice before I was sent off to the wolves.
However, with virtual reality becoming more and available throughout the business world, smart people are starting to use VR as a training application.
Black Friday riot control training
A notoriously bad holiday for retail employees, the training needed to handle huge crowds is not available on a daily basis.
However, with VR, the ability to simulate huge crowds and long lines is easy. Recently, Walmart took a first step into this new era of training partnered with a VR company to make and provide a training program for employees before Black Friday. Although the effectiveness of this training was never formally measured, the ability to simulate the hostile environment without disrupting business hours is invaluable.
Another good example is the Oculus VirtualSpeech. The game/training app allows people to practice their public speaking by putting them in front of a large crowd. Once again, the true and actual effectiveness is unknown, but the idea of practicing in circumstances that aren’t usually available to be practiced in is an idea that is applicable in all business ventures.
Normal riot control training
Although not business-related, the training application that is available with VR is helpful in every field, even law enforcement and the military.
If the extremes that law enforcement and the armed forces face can be simulated and trained for, chances are that almost any field can use VR to better prepare employees for the tasks at hand.
As VR improves, so does the applications in business.
Lloyds Banking Group has introduced a virtual reality assessment to their hiring process, allowing the company to assess candidates in an entirely new way. The financial company says that the puzzles that are included inside the assessment help the hiring team find out about who the candidate is as a thinker and person.
Although not entirely widespread, the usage of VR to help identify good employees has only just begun. By being able to give people a sneak peek into the methods and thought process of a candidate, the traditional interviews and tests of the modern day job search may be one step closer to being a part of the past.
Although virtual reality is a relatively new technology and isn’t available to all consumers, the applications that are available in business are readily apparent.
As the average person comes to own a headset and more companies start to adopt VR into their practices, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.