VR is quickly becoming a technology that transcends gaming. And with increasingly cost-friendly equipment, it continues to gain greater mainstream traction. In fact, the VR market is expected to reach $26 billion in hardware and software sales by 2026, according to ARtillery Intelligence.

This means that it’s the right time for businesses to grab a piece of the virtual pie. Several large and small businesses have already done so – which isn’t surprising given that Covid-inflicted physical restrictions compel technologies that support remote interaction. Who wouldn’t want a business unconstrained by space and time? It also helps that employees have been conditioned for digital business interactions.

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How Did We Get Here?

In the past, VR was expensive and primitive. Its use was mainly restricted to those few who could afford it. However, technological advancements revived the nascent industry and led to more research and investment. This, in turn, led to the development of cheaper and sleeker VR options, such as Meta Quest 2, which drives deeper adoption.

The turning point for all of this VR came when Meta (Facebook at the time) acquired Oculus in 2014. Soon after, Google released the Google Cardboard viewer and Samsung released the similarly accessible Gear VR (in partnership with Oculus).

This incited a herd mentality….by 2016, several companies were rushing to make VR hardware and software. Then, following what’s become known as the “VR winter,” Meta revived excitement levels when it changed its name and signaled its massive investment in its next era: the metaverse.

As you’ve likely read by now, the Metaverse is described as a customizable mimicry of our reality, in a purely digital form. This digital world will let users play, socialize, and work without needing to leave their physical homes.

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Finding ROI

So what are the ways businesses are realizing VR’s advantages today? Here are just 7 examples:

1. Communication and Remote Work

These days, a company isn’t restricted to hiring talent in its immediate environment. They can cut costs or better talent from larger talent pools that aren’t geographically constrained. They can also cut costs. The cost of hiring a new recruit in the US is $16,999. If they live far away, this sum increases. VR can shrink that distance with virtual interaction.

True, Zoom and other tools have met the moment in these scenarios, but they only go so far in terms of interactivity. As seen in implementations from PwC and others, VR can take it a step further with a virtual 3D representation of the office. Among other things, this can help prevent burnout and fatigue from video calls and strengthen the professional bond between team members.

2. Retail

In 2016, eBay and Myer launched what they described as “the world’s first virtual reality department store.” Customers could purchase Myer products without leaving their homes using a simple free “shoptical”—essentially Google Cardboard headsets—or a Samsung Gear VR headset.

This was revolutionary at the time, especially since all-digital commerce wasn’t as popular as it is now. These days, you can personalize your customer’s shopping experience by immersing them in a 3D version of the purchase from the comfort of their home. For instance, Lowe’s Holoroom lets shoppers see a VR rendition of their proposed renovation once they provide the dimensions of the room they want to remodel.

With VR, you can also ascertain what part of your virtual or physical store receives more traffic and re-position your products to increase sales.

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3. Real Estate

The real estate industry has also successfully utilized the potential of VR. Now, you can take a 360-degree virtual tour of an available listing from the comfort of your home. This reduces the cost of a physical showing on the real estate agent’s and the buyer’s side.

4. Manufacturing

VR plays a vital role in manufacturing. Companies can replace expensive full-scale, real-life prototypes with 3D modeling tools and applications that simulate engineering projects and help identify design flaws. This can engender better employee safety.

Ford uses VR to evaluate 3D car prototypes in a virtual environment, and detect safety failures before production. The popular car manufacturer claims the tool can decrease design time from weeks to hours, thus doubling their efficiency.

5. Training

Teams require continuous training and skilling-up. VR can be used to improve existing employees’ abilities and provide comprehensive training to onboard new ones. This way, businesses can eliminate the cost of organizing physical training seminars and orientation. It also frees up expensive equipment that would otherwise be tied up in long orientation classes.

Airbus teamed up with Microsoft to create a mixed reality tool that helps Airbus production and engineering workers access information and manuals while working on physical projects.

Businesses can also use VR to help develop employee soft skills like public speaking and presentation.

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6. Marketing and Advertising

Conventional marketing can get boring. People are tired of seeing the same old advertising tactics. With VR, businesses can transform their marketing game and opt for less predictable strategies. You can incorporate interactive 360-degree VR experiences into your website and promotional videos showing how your product can change your customer’s life.

For instance, Toms Shoes’ “A Walk In Their Shoes” VR campaign takes us through the journey of one Toms customer meeting a child in Colombia.

You can also embed VR and AR functions into your virtual or physical business card. People can use their smartphones to interact with your card and access personalized video messages or a virtual catalog.

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7. Building Tours & Interior Design

Given physical-distancing health measures, businesses need a stress-free way to showcase workplaces to a large number of people. With VR, they can organize immersive tours. For instance, the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia, conducts beautiful 3D VR tours of each of its campus locations. The school offers prospective students the option of experiencing campus life with customized VR headsets. Visitors can also see a 360-degree version of the tour on the school website.

VR is also fast becoming popular in the interior design space. Clients can take a virtual tour of their intended interior design/renovation for their commercial or residential projects. Companies like Ikea immerse users in a VR kitchen where they can explore freely, open drawers, and redecorate to their liking.

Early-Mover Advantage

So there you have it: real global enterprises integrating VR today. As they do this, they’re gaining an early mover advantage in both developing VR competency and new organizational muscles. Therefore, VR is quickly becoming the next major platform shift – like the PC and smartphone before it. And like those past shifts, VR will compel businesses to eventually adopt out of competitive necessity. Those who make that jump proactively will be primed for the next era of business.

Mikko Kiiski is founder & CEO of Cyberpine Solutions.

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