If you think virtual reality is just a toy that won't have a transformative impact across a number of industries, think again.
Even businesses not exactly known for their technological adventurousness are already working VR technology into their operations in innovative ways. Lowe's Home Improvement, for example, has installed product visualization centers called "holorooms" in some of its stores. Consumers choose home improvement products on an iPad app, then put on a VR headset to virtually tour the room they're designing and make changes in real time.
Enhancing the retail experience for home improvement consumers is just the beginning, however. Here are four other industries that are set to be transformed by VR technology, as reported by Fast Company.
1. Live events.
One of the more promising areas for VR in the near future is live events such as sports contests and concerts. In 2014, Paul McCartney fans were treated to a front-row view of the former Beatle's concert in San Francisco courtesy of Jaunt, the VR hardware and content creator that filmed the event with its proprietary 360-degree camera. Live and and recorded VR content company NextVR has also experimented with shooting NBA games and NASCAR races in VR.
2. Real estate.
Virtual tours are another VR experience that could have a huge impact on the real estate and hospitality sectors. 3D video startup Matterport helps real estate companies design interactive models for listings that let prospective buyers experience immersive virtual tours of homes. Hotel chains are also using the technology for virtual room tours.
Volumetric VR, the ability to walk around an object or person and see it from every angle during a VR experience, is expected to significantly enhance the way people shop for clothes. New Zealand-based startup 8i has been called a "pioneer" in volumetric technology, but the company is keeping a tight lid on its plans, aside from saying it has been discussing partnerships with some large fashion companies.
4. Health care.
A number of professional training processes are ripe for integrating VR tools, including surgery in hospitals. U.K.-based startup Medical Realities has a virtual surgeon training tool that helps less-experienced doctors view real surgeries from a surgeon's perspective. Another company, VR training services startup VR HealthNet, is building VR experiences for nurses to help them practice various procedures without requiring actual patients.
Perhaps the most forward-looking application for VR technology is virtual tours of other planets. Last month, NASA released a 360-degree video shot by its Curiosity Rover from the surface of Mars. Though the video was not technically shot with a VR camera, future Martian expeditions equipped with a VR rig could produce the first virtual experience letting humans tour another planet.