Did you know that the Virtual Reality (VR) industry is currently worth tens of billions of dollars and is projected to reach $150 billion by 2020?
Sometimes, because VR hasn’t fully taken off yet, people think it’s one of those innovations that will ultimately die away, leaving behind a trail of dust. It’s important to note that VR is not failing. If anything, experts predict that it’s the next frontier for customer experience.
Aside from experience marketing, many industries are also keen on using VR technology to train workers, advertise products, and provide excellent customer support. Let’s take a look at some of the early adopters and find out how they’re using VR to streamline and improve processes.
While the retail sector has done pretty well even without VR, there have been many cases of poor experience, especially for e-shoppers. Contemporary consumers want to able to browse through various products, check features, and compare products more efficiently. Unfortunately, online shopping hasn’t been able to deliver on this front yet as there are some instances where buyers receive goods that don’t actually look like what they ordered.
This is where VR comes in. With Virtual Reality, consumers are able to go right into the store, select and compare items as if they were physically in the store themselves. They are able to inspect color, texture, and compare prices like they were doing it in reality.
Amazon and eBay are already on this bandwagon and another retailer doing incredibly well here is Lowe’s. With Amazon, for instance, customers can now use VR to visit different departments, pick whatever items they need, place the items in baskets, and check out as if they were doing so physically!
In the entertainment industry, three sub-sectors that are leading the VR charge are film, sports, and gaming. With regards to film, VR is now being used to immerse viewers into the experience. Rather than watch a movie on TV, VR makes you feel as if you’re a few feet away from the action. This is called Cinematic VR and the experience will undoubtedly transform the industry.
In sports, enthusiasts are now able to watch their favorite games as if they were inside the stadium. With your headsets on, you can choose a seat within the stadium, bring along your colleagues, bite on your popcorn, and cheer with the rest of the fans as your team thrashes the opponent.
Finally, in gaming, we’ve already gotten a taste of the action with Noitom’s Hi5 VR Gloves. The gloves are designed in such a way that they track user’s hand motions and allow players to interact with virtual objects and use their bodies to perform actions such as throwing, drawing, grabbing, and stacking.
There are two ways Virtual Reality is changing the tourism industry. First, VR is being integrated into marketing campaigns to give prospective tourists a glimpse of what awaits them. This includes showing tourists the sights they can expect to see and giving them a tour of the amenities at the hotels they’ve booked.
Hotels can also use VR to promote different locations while entire countries can use the technology to show the world their top spots such as museums and waterfalls. A perfect example is “Wild Within” which promotes tourism in Canada’s British Columbia.
The second way is through virtual tourism which is becoming very popular. This is utterly different from promotional tourism where you’re shown highlights of a destination to persuade you to visit the location. With virtual tourism, you don’t have to visit the location in person. Instead, it involves the use of VR headsets to explore the desired location. Visit Finland, a tourism initiative, and Rovio Entertainment recently partnered to create such an experience and the reception was fantastic.
The automotive industry was one of the first adopters of virtual reality and that journey isn’t coming to an end any time soon. Ford and Audi, in particular, have incorporated the technology into their processes to terrific effect.
Ford currently uses VR in its Immersion Lab to help engineers get a sense of how consumers experience their cars. Using Oculus Rift headphones, the engineers can explore the exterior and interior components of new cars. The benefit of this approach is that Ford gets feedback in real time and collects all the data they need without waiting for the physical prototype of a new model.
On the other hand, Audi is using VR to attract buyers, improve customers’ experience at dealerships, as well as form stronger attachment to products. Using visualization technology created by virtual reality company ZeroLight, customers can experience their dream cars virtually and in real time.
Finally, VR is also making significant inroads within the education industry with top colleges, universities, and other training institutions keen on leveraging the technology to meet various objectives.
In one school in the Irish Town of Broughal, students recently went on a field trip to a nearby historical ruin known as Clonmasnoice. When they came back, they recreated a virtual model of the site in OpenSim. Though it took two weeks to complete, the creation is now available for other students to view using Oculus Rift. It means that in the future, students can ‘visit’ the ruins without actually going there.
Closer to home, the Western University of Health Sciences, California, has a virtual dissection table housed in the J and K VR Learning Center that lets students perform virtual dissections. Meanwhile, at Eastern Michigan University, one Professor has built a VR sandbox that allows students to learn about mountains, volcanoes, and glacial deposits using VR headsets.
There are still a number of challenges with VR that range from lack of a single platform right through to cost. Subsequently, VR is still struggling to make a mark on society. However, the current challenges won’t hold this technology back from growing rapidly into the future. There is no doubt VR will take off; it’s only a matter of time.