You might think that virtual reality is just a party trick with some cardboard and your phone, but it has real utility in the workplace, too, and not just at the science factory. VR and augmented reality (AR) have applications you wouldn’t have imagined a few years ago.
First, a quick primer:
Virtual Reality is all about the creation of a virtual world you can interact with (like these guys experiencing some things virtually for our amusement).
Augmented Reality refers to the blending of virtual reality and real life, best seen lately with Pokemon Go, where virtual critters were imposed on your phone camera’s view of your surroundings.
Now that we’re up to speed on that, let’s look at the industries that are using VR/AR today:
You might envision surgeons using a virtual reality tool to train or even perform long-distance surgeries, but it doesn’t stop there. Many patients are getting help from VR for psychological reasons to treat a phobia like a fear of flying or crowds. This provides a “safe” but very real feeling environment for those who might not want, say, to be dunked in a vat of snakes in order to break them of a fear.
2. Automotive Industry
Not only are engineers using VR and AR to see how designs work in the real world — for example putting a real person in a digital seat design to see how it would fit and feel — but they’re also using it as a tool for developing technologies remotely. Ford is experimenting with “shared control” of autonomous (a.k.a. “driverless”) cars. This would allow someone to remotely drive your car for you, while you relax, or snooze, or whatever. (Of course, James Bond already dealt with this once in For Your Eyes Only, so engineers will have to work out the “sinister” aspect here first.)
3. Car Dealerships
Similarly, car dealers will be able to use AR to show a new car’s features to prospective buyers without even having a vehicle in the showroom. Audi is working on this with a virtual dashboard for the TT called a “Virtual Cockpit.” Just this week, at CES, Google announced it was partnering with BMW to launch a virtual showroom and sees it as the future of the car-selling industry.
Why not experience that distant island beach before you book the vacation? Providing a realistic virtual experience is a great way to sell someone on a big-ticket purchase like a time-consuming trip to a distant land. Maybe they’d like a beach on a different island instead of the one they try first? Sample before you buy, or even sell some virtual escapes to those of us trapped in a polar vortex. It might help rejuvenate the tourism industry.
5. Skilled Trades
Employers can use virtual reality to help train or test workers on skills that involve costly materials, like oil pipelines or large electrical grids. Or, they can use special AR devices, like this helmet, to overlay a screen of instructions on a complicated system, even remotely. Gone are the days where the trainee can’t stop the cataclysmic event because he doesn’t know which lever to pull on the machinery.
Also: General Collaboration
Virtual reality tools allow us to absorb more information and thus become more in tune with our environment, but they also let us to make improvements in ways that connect us long-distance. If ever there was a way to truly collaborate across offices, VR and AR might be it. Let’s all put on our goggles and get to work!
Tell Us What You Think
What VR or AR tools could you use at your job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.