Virtual Reality (VR) continues to defy expectations and expand, with adoption levels higher than ever before, but the technology still boasts its fair share of skeptics. For many observers, VR is merely another video game peripheral, which severely limits its appeal.
They tend to respond to any defense of VR with the usual talking points. It's for kids' games. It's not for business. It's just a 'fad'. It's merely a novelty.
Even so, the breadth of users and markets that use VR expand far beyond what most skeptics would like to believe. The industry is slowly changing its public perception, not simply by refuting doubters' criticisms, but by demonstrating its versatility, diverse use cases, and game-changing potential.
Remote education is no longer remote
One of the key areas where VR can and is already making a big impact is all levels of education. In its most basic form, this means providing students the ability to attend lectures and classes from their own homes in a completely new manner. While MOOCs have failed to live up to their promise as a way of breaking down physical barriers in the field, VR offers a completely immersive experience that is more conducive to learning.
Even for more advanced fields like medicine, VR offers a unique opportunity for students to simulate medical procedures, different scenarios, and other important lessons in a safe and risk-free environment. Yondr, a VR production shop that specializes in creating immersive employee training experiences for corporations, has been able to warm up sales prospects simply by demonstrating the power of its VR solutions in remote webinar presentations.
"We want to show people how to integrate VR within their companies as a new tool and a medium to become more sustainable," Yondr Marketing and Events Manager Niels Waem said in a case study for ClickMeeting, the platform his team uses. "We have received some really great feedback. No matter what subject of the webinar is or what type of audience, the feedback is always positive."
Connecting business worlds
Even the world of urban planning and architecture has started to embrace VR, albeit in more targeted ways, making use of the technology to build more detailed and precise renderings and decisions.
Robert Allen, who handles marketing for carbon-neutral home design firm Citu, notes that "if you put someone in a VR experience, they can walk around the house just as they would in reality. They can poke their head around a door or look up to see things that they would have missed in any other format - even though the real house doesn't yet exist."
When getting stakeholders on board with an initiative requires leaps of imagination, virtual reality tech can help the conceptual to feel material.
Creating experiential entertainment
Finally, VR can open the world of entertainment to whole new markets. The current reality of ticket prices for attending sporting events and concerts means that a wide demographic is priced out of these activities.
VR is changing this paradigm by giving people shared remote attendance experiences. Facebook's new 'Oculus Venues' initiative, for example, allows groups of friends to convene at a Golden State Warriors game, a screening of American Psycho, or a New Orleans jazz jam session - and that's just a fraction of the lineup for November.
Wearing headsets allows participants to talk with friends and strangers seated virtually nearby. This creates a whole new industry for VR and provides a much more realistic use case than even video games, which, booming as they may be in popularity, have less mass appeal. It's a deeply immersive way to consume content.
Breaking down [virtual] walls
The VR industry isn't as mature as we thought it would be by now, but it does seem to be moving in the right directions. More of the industry's innovators and proponents need to help demonstrate why the technology possesses so much potential.
As TECHnalysis Research Founder Bob O'Donnell notes, "the enthusiasm in today's consumers will only grow. The opportunities may be a bit slow in coming, and the technology is unquestionably in its early days, but there's little doubt that both will likely surpass our current expectations."
Time will tell.