There’s no denying the impact virtual reality (VR) is having on industries outside of entertainment. What was originally perceived as basically a gimmick for hardcore gamers, VR quickly found its way into practical uses in industries one wouldn’t have originally thought possible.
With VR, businesses outside of the gaming industry are finding ways to operate in a more efficient manner, resulting in larger profit margins and better results for customers.
Here are just a few examples of how businesses in a variety of industries are using VR technology to cut costs, increase productivity and boost profits.
1. Educating Employees
Implementing new employee training programs, particularly in the manufacturing and service industry, is expensive for any business. That’s why immersive training startup STRIVR built a VR tool that educates and teaches employees new job functions using virtual wearables like Oculus Rift.
Industry giants like Walmart and PepsiCo are now onboarding new employees using this VR technology, eliminating the need for long, expensive training sessions powered by a human workforce. The system walks employees through real-world scenarios while they wear a VR headset so they can experience, participate in and learn from real-life situations without the risk of making costly errors.
2. Visualizing The Future
Nothing hurts a retail store more than pouring heaps of money into a new floor plan or advertising display, only to see minimal return on investment or even losses. That’s why InContext Solutions, which creates VR for retailers, developed a cloud-based VR platform that allows retailers and brands to virtually build out and evaluate new in-store concepts with real shoppers — before taking those ideas to market.
These VR simulations remove the need for the expensive mock centers traditionally required for testing store designs and layouts. The platform also helps eliminate the guesswork of trying to figure out which shelf layout or advertising concept will resonate most with shoppers. By building, testing and presenting new retail concepts using virtual reality technology, retailers and brands can accurately see exactly what these concepts will look like and, in turn, get better insights on what concepts will work or not. This practice avoids the expensive upfront investments of old, leaving operators confident their go-to-market strategies will bring home a bigger return.
3. Understanding Data Analytics
Data is only as strong as the results it delivers. That’s why it’s so important that businesses understand what the data they’ve collected actually means. Virtual reality is giving businesses better insights by making it easier to visualize data.
Typically, processing and analyzing large amounts of data by hand or by computer is a long, cumbersome task. With VR, however, businesses are able to complete this task in a time-efficient manner. Take VR data visualization company DatavizVR, for example. Its platform opens up an entirely new world of data analytics and visual analysis using VR headsets by letting users create and share a custom, three-dimensional visualization of data. This makes the data all the more easy to understand, leading to an increase in savings and productivity. With that extra time and manpower gained from VR, businesses can put the staff once assigned to this unwieldy task to better use.
4. Improving Sales Pitches
Want to know what it’s like to drive that brand new sports car that hasn’t yet hit the market? Well, you can with VR.
With VR simulations in their toolbox, retailers can show potential customers exactly what it’s like to drive that car, operate that grill or browse furniture that isn’t even in stores. Virtual technology in showrooms and on websites means that potential buyers can have fully immersive experiences before making major buying decisions, giving the customer confidence when deciding on a purchase.
It’s not just durable goods that VR can help sell, either. One UK-based travel agency saw that sales of a helicopter tour of Manhattan jumped 190% after customers got to experience the tour virtually. The results are impressive, but they may not be surprising to any creative writing student who’s been admonished, “Show, don’t tell.”
5. Eliminating Errors
In many industries, miscommunications with clients can lead to costly rounds of redos, jeopardizing deadlines and budgets. Virtual reality can aid in reducing errors, if not eliminate these issues entirely. With VR applications for architects — like Fuzor, CURV and Jaunt VR, which have been getting press in recent years for their ability to turn two-dimensional blueprints into immersive walkthrough experiences — the practical uses of VR are extending exponentially. The ability to show a client exactly what a design will look like in the early stages of a project can save time and energy iterating at later stages and give clients an overall sense of reassurance and satisfaction.
While architects risk dissatisfied clients, medical professionals have a lot more on the line when mistakes are made. Developers and VR industry insiders are working together to develop VR applications that will help surgeons practice making life-and-death decisions in realistic settings, a move that could prove transformative for surgery outcomes.
Virtual reality may have initially gotten the most attention for its slick consumer applications, but it’s clear that the tide is shifting. As more businesses realize the potential ROI that VR can introduce, we’ll begin to see virtual reality in places we wouldn’t expect. What’s even more exciting is that this is merely the beginning: Technology is always improving, providing even more opportunities not yet conceived to come to fruition. The future is bright when looking at it on the screens of VR.
Originally featured in Forbes.