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Beyond the Headset: The Future of VR Across Industries

Jul 12, 2021 / SkillsVR

When most people think of virtual reality, they think of entertainment. After all, who doesn’t want to be fully immersed into the world of their favourite game or movie? The truth is, virtual reality’s applications are boundless.

Almost every industry in the world stands to benefit from the introduction of virtual reality (and we’re not just saying that). The power to place a viewer into any world, give them a set of rules, and let them run wild is incredibly valuable. It creates a safe space in which they can experience this environment, learn new techniques, or see a brand-new place without leaving the comfort of their home.

With benefits like these, is it any wonder that some industries are already readily accepting virtual reality into the fold?

Healthcare

healthcare team

Historically, cadavers and medical models have been used for training medical professionals. While this is – of course – the primary technique for understanding human anatomy, virtual reality offers a new and exciting avenue for doctors, nurses, paramedics, and more to learn more techniques.

Jumping into a virtual reality headset presents the chance for people to walk through human anatomy and try new procedures, all without the risk of wasting resources or injuring a patient irreparably. This ties into the concept of iterative learning, which allows them to practice a procedure thousands of times without consuming the requisite resources for such a task.

Another potential use for VR in healthcare training lies in the elevation of patient care. Clinicians must reflexively understand their personal biases, minimising their effect on patient care as much as possible and navigating them effectively to create healthy, collaborative relationships with colleagues. As observed by Fertleman et al. (2018), the adaptability of avatars in VR training scenarios offers clinicians a low-stakes training ground in which to reflect on their standard of patient care.

In other words, they can interact with people of many races, creeds, religions, and backgrounds in a clinical setting, then reflect on their behaviour objectively with the help of VR technology. This is a promising possibility for the future of patient-centred healthcare.

Architecture

In architecture, the number one desire for designers is the ability to visualise their design come to life. Understanding the ramifications of a particular design choice, experimenting with different structures, and being able to render their 2D vision into a 3D world improves an architect’s ability to shift and experiment in the early stages of development.

According to a study conducted by Delgado et al. in 2020 entitled “A research agenda for augmented and virtual reality in architecture, engineering and construction”, the following VR use-cases offer an entrance for VR into this sector:

  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Design support
  • Design review
  • Construction support
  • Operations and management support
  • VR training

Such an approach encourages not only reliable, long-lasting buildings, but also innovative, boundary-breaking progression in architectural design. While this field of study remains somewhat under-explored in comparison to other industries, architects and urban planners have been encouraging VR inclusion for years. Augmented reality has already found its niche in the industry, with several companies – such as DAQRI and Morpholio – creating devices to be used specifically for construction and planning.

Combined with the steady suffusion of VR technology in other industries, this might signal a quick uptake of virtual reality into the architecture space.

Retail

In an age where remote or online shopping is more frequented than ever before, the collective consumer market has accelerated our progression toward virtual reality in the retail space. From both sides of the digital aisle, VR offers ample opportunity to improve consumer experience, connect customer to business, and revolutionise how marketers approach the retail industry.

Offering disruptive technologies such as a VR experience to customers is now becoming an essential for businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition. The VR realm is comparatively vivid for shoppers, offering them a fulfilling shopping experience with no brick-and-mortar establishment necessary.

Interestingly, early research by Xue, Parker, and Hart (2020) is showing that pleasure-motivated shoppers (hedonistic) are more likely to gain satisfaction from a VR retail experience, as it provides escapism like any other shopping trip. On the other hand, practically minded shoppers (utilitarian) struggle with the experience of v-commerce.

Education

At SkillsVR, we’re obviously proponents of the power of VR in education. We create training and assessment simulations for every industry across the board because virtual reality – thanks to its immersive and iterative capabilities – is an ideal learning tool. In other words, people can drop themselves into a complete world perfect for teaching the particular concept, and they can do it as many times as they need to learn said concept, all with no consequences in sight.

Up until now, the free use of VR in education and training has been restricted by lack of technology, lack of funds, or lack of interest. That’s why this new era is so exciting. In the Experience Age, soft skills are more important than ever to employers, and learners are seeking more engaging ways in which to consume content. Enter, virtual reality.

Thanks to its immersive and hands-on nature, virtual reality presents the perfect tool with which to address deficits in the traditional learning structure. For example, learners who struggle with literacy, or are learning in a second language, or require a kinaesthetic approach to learning can find support through a VR headset. In a no-risk landscape with infinite repetitions allowed, the learner can adapt the way humans were meant to: through experience.

Tourism

Due to recent events, we’ve all been reminded of how wonderful the opportunity to travel is. Having the chance to visit new parts of the world is not only a privilege, but also a life-altering experience. Understanding and diversified thinking comes from seeing the world, the history it offers, and the myriad places, people, and things it houses. Exciting innovations in the fields of VR and AR (augmented reality) are occurring in the travel space. While the industry was on this path before COVID-19 struck the world, these breakthroughs have been accelerated as a result of the pandemic.

For the world to recover, Yung et al. (2021) postulate that “building interest and evoking positive emotions toward tourism products are vital for destination recovery”. Regions that rely on tourism for income have been deeply impacted by the pandemic’s presence. Necessity being the mother of innovation, this impact has strengthened the need for immersive technologies (like VR) to become commonplace in the tourism industry.

VR’s applications in this field are numerous, offering expansion in both the tourism supply and experiential sides of the industry. For example, digitally reconstructing historical landscapes as they once were would allow visitors to experience historical and heritage sites in-situ, simultaneously connecting them to their past and grounding them in the present. From the supply perspective, hoteliers and destination marketers can use VR to market rooms and experiences customers could enjoy upon purchasing a particular package, thus driving sales.

If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is the versatility of virtual reality. This incredible technology has a place in every industry currently in operation and will likely spark more in the future. The future of VR is bright, and the vision of our world embracing this technology is even more so.

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