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4 Exciting Uses of VR for Business (Without Crap)

VR for Business: find out 4 real use cases without any crap

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VR for business: can it really do something? If you want to know the applications of VR for business, you are in the right place. In this article, we give an overview of how you may use VR for your business. Yet, this article is different. Unlike many others you find online, we are not trying to sell you VR equipment, VR worlds, whatever. We just want to give candid opinion about what VR really is and what it can do for a business.

Understand VR for Business

Before writing this article, I started by doing some research. Among other things, I tried typing on Google “VR for business”.  Some ads were there on top of the list. Interestingly, the first one was from warstation.com. What was the proposed use of VR for my business? Buy some headset, buy their software, and then create a room/shop where people can come, rent the headset, and play together in VR PvP (player-versus-player). In case I want to start a recreational business and I am not much into bowling that might be something worth trying. Yet, if I am the CEO of a manufacturing company, or a division head of an insurer, that is not really appealing to me.

So, I tried to search some more. Other websites proposed me actually AR experiences (augmented reality), where virtual reality blends with the “real” reality. Good, but this is outside the scope of this article. Here, we focus on VR for business only: virtual worlds that are just that, virtual.

Other websites proposed to create 360 videos that can be shown with VR headsets, or virtual showrooms where you an actually walk to virtual stands and exhibitions to show products. Yet other sites, such as Oculus (owned by Facebook/Meta) proposed to use VR for collaboration, in virtual meetings.

Before we dive into VR for business, keep in mind what VR really is. Virtual reality is a way to present content that allows for user-interaction. It is much like a computer or a smartphone, where you see some content – whatever it is – and you can interact with it. In virtual reality, you see the content all around you and you can interact with it with special joysticks. It is exactly like a videogame, you have a virtual world that you can explore, but you do that in full immersion.

How to Evaluate VR for Business

I propose a simple framework to evaluate if VR can be good for your business or not. You just need to answer two questions, in sequence:

  • Can my business make use of a videogame-like setting where people can “play” by walking around? Think of this as a traditional videogame on a screen and find use for that.
  • Will the experience in such videogame be dramatically better or different if it is immersive?

If you can find a real use case for the first question, and then a positive answer to the second, that means VR is good for you. If no, sorry. That does not mean VR will be bad for your business: it just means it won’t add anything. You may pursue anyway as a vanity project, but sticking to what really matters to your business is much better.

Here we also discuss what working in VR looks like, a use of VR that frankly is not appealing to me. Now that we have this behind us, we can start to discuss actual uses of VR for business.

Real Use Cases of VR for Business

Connect with Customers

VR is fun, and it is led by game development for now. Some (young) customers just love to be in VR and play there. If you target such a customer base, you may want to create something for them to allow them to connect to your brand. This may be creating a store that allows them to order physical products inside a virtual world, creating a branded mini-game for brand awareness, hosts virtual concerts – whatever fits with your audience and brand identity.

VR for business can help connect with younger audiences
With VR, you can connect with younger customers.

But bear in mind, VR for business is no revolution here. Originally, people were reading newspapers and that is where marketing money went. Then, TV came, and marketing money shifted there. More recently, social media became dominant, and a lot of advertisement spending funneled to them. Social media introduced something new: bidirectional communication and targeting specific interest and demographic groups. In social media, a brand can speak with a very specific audience, that can reply back in turn. VR can set up something like this, but it is not something new of VR. It is something that has been around on other platforms for nearly 20 years.

Immersive Training

In tech, we sometimes forget there is a real world with real people out there. For most companies, forgetting this is not an option. They have production facilities, manufacturing centers, oil rigs, fleets of trucks, and planes, and ships – they permeate the real, tangible, world. And their people need to operate in such world. However, operating in such a world can be expensive.

Driving a gas-guzzling CAT truck to move sand, operate a large shipyard-size crane, or any other type of power-intense machinery is not cheap. It is not cheap because power is expensive, and because such machine is expensive. If you are using it for training, you are not using it for your business (aka to make money).

VR for business can be used for immersive training
Immersive training delivered in VR allows to simulate expensive or dangerous conditions.

What if you could create a training program where your people can learn how to operate the complex physical machines your business needs in the real world? You can train many people at once at almost no cost, and most importantly independently from the real machine, which is then used only for real production.

As a benefit, you can setup training that in the real world are simply not possible. This is important especially for safety training. What if there is a fire on the machine? What if there is some mechanical problem that causes some components to go outside its safe space? All those are dangerous situations, and you don’t want (or legally can) put people into them for training reasons. But you can in VR. And this can also be important to save time in places where space is constrained, such as an oil rig. You can send people there that already had the safety training needed to operate there and know how to move around the platform.

Creating such immersive trainings can be expensive in software, but for large companies it is worth the effort. Delivering the training is then virtually free (electricity cost of powering the VR helmet, a few Watts), and you can buy as many or as few helmets as you need. This can be also a key differentiator of producers of industrial equipment, such as CAT or Komatsu: they can include free training software with purchase of their equipment, so that the customer only needs to buy the visor. That’s VR for business at work!

Design and Architecture, Prototyping

Another real application of VR for business is in the design industry. Here, I mean design as a broad term to indicate define the physical properties of a tangible product or solution. Such product may be an industrial machinery, a fashion bag, a skyscraper, or anything else.

VR for business can be a great enhancement here because it allows you for fast prototyping that feels (I would say) 70% like the real deal. This means you can create more prototypes faster and for no manufacturing cost before moving forward with a real prototype. Additionally, you can share prototypes with anyone, including potential customers, integrating their feedback early on in the process.

VR for business and industrial design
VR for Business can be used for industrial desing, or other types of design.

I think the benefits are fairly evident. Usage is also straightforward: you buy the VR headset and load it with the design software you need and you are golden. The only challenge with this lays in training your existing designers to use the new software and prototype in VR. This can take some time, and consequently some cost. However, think of it as a CAPEX (even if you cannot report it in that way according to GAAP). You invest in your people so that they gain skills to deliver more value faster.

Rehabilitation and Healthcare

People with reduced mobility or with psychological conditions that make it hard for them to go outside and in public can benefit from VR to get a virtual replica of such experiences. This is a VR use for end customers but can also be considered “VR for business” for companies operating in and around healthcare.

In one way, this is another way to connect with customers. Yet, it differs dramatically from what we discussed before that appealed to young customers. Here, the experience is likely to be hybrid (physical and virtual), and the cost structure is going to be different. Most people needing rehabilitation are unlikely to have a visor and not going to buy it. The company must own the visor, take it to the customer (often with a professional in the rehabilitation needed) and deliver the experience.

VR for business: healthcare can benefit from new ways of rehabilitation
VR can find applications for the rehabilitation of people with limited mobility that cannot experience outdoors easily.

This road is full of challenges. To start, most people needing physical rehabilitation or unable to go outdoor freely tend to be old people. Keeping a visor on for extended periods of time can be heavy for a fragile body, and taxing on the eyes. These challenges are likely to be reduced by technological advances, but for now they are there and any company approaching VR for business in that sense needs to deal with them.

Use Cases of VR for Business That Don’t Make the Cut

So, are all those the use cases of VR for business? Just that, four use cases? Of course not. But the others which you can find online are either visionary crap “foster revolutionary sales channels” that is not really actionable, or just didn’t make the cut. By not making the cut, I mean I didn’t find any real benefit by doing such activity in VR as opposed in the real world or on a normal computer.

I’ll spare you the crap, but I’ll list you the use cases that to me are not worth exploring. I also briefly tell you why.

  • Meetings – Traditional videoconferences allows you to see real faces and work at the same time with people in person and remotely (with VR, you are either in the virtual world or outside of it).
  • Working in VR – No real benefit, taxing on your eyes. Read more here.
  • Education and Teaching – Most of educational content is not “experiential”, but it is something to tell, read, or draw at most. The learning experience is not going to be better because it is in VR.
  • Virtual tourism – After a year of grinding work I can finally go to the virtual Maldives from the very desk where I home-worked my life away. Seriously?
  • Team building activities – Those can be good and effective, but so normal activities in the real world or in a videogame. VR does not add anything new.

This is pretty much it. You won’t find many more proposed uses of VR for business that are not a variation of those I mentioned. That’s because VR for business is a niche product that can apply only to special businesses that have the benefit of this.

Approach VR for Business with a Critical Mindset

The key takeaway is this: approach VR critically, and with healthy scientific skepticism. As just mentioned, VR is a niche product that can be a great business strategy for some businesses, but probably not for the mainstream economy.

But don’t be fooled at this point. VR technology is in its early stages, but if it is not gaining traction for most “real” businesses it is not because of technology. In other words, no technology advancement can make VR more appealing to businesses. This is because what is (or is not) appealing of VR itself is its concept: having an immersive experience completely detached from the real world. If your business does not benefit from that, it won’t even when helmets are cheaper and lighter.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2022-10-06T16:30:00+00:00

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