VR has come of age – and what’s more, it looks like the VR industry is on the verge of massive expansion. Which goes against some spurious predictions that it’s peaked already.
When people talk about VR, they are usually referring to the gaming market. To be fair, that’s where HTC and Oculus – the two big names in headsets – focus their attention because, being early adopters, gamers are always going to be good consumers – always wanting to get hold of and experience the latest thing.
Also, the gaming market is worth a lot of money. Yes, the headsets are expensive, but gamers already have the hardware to use them, so HTC and Oculus target willing gamers who are the ideal testers. And with the VR market predicted to be worth around $117 billion by 2022 it doesn’t feel like a technology that’s in decline.
But actually, research suggests that this growth won’t be driven by gamers so much as by businesses. In fact, according to a MarketWatch report, the three factors driving the growth in VR and AR will be demand from big tech, demand from retail and e-commerce, and demand from the medical sector.
This implies, however, that this VR and AR technology is somewhere in the near future. In fact, savvy companies are using it right now. Employers use it for employee training, the military use it for flight and infantry training and remote use – for example drones. It’s being used in medicine, disability technology, and VR learning programmes in education are constantly gaining exposure.
And then there’s the potential of VR in biometric feedback and psychographic analysis, emotional response generation, and as an entertainment platform that offers gaming as only a small proportion of what’s actually available.
As these platforms move forward, we will see VR being integrated more completely into the way businesses interact with their consumers. As companies are looking for more interesting and effective ways to engage with their audiences, and as the technology advances, integration between the two will rapidly become the norm.
To get biometric feedback, algorithms calculate how your brain responds to stimuli providing data on posture, motion and gestures that can be translated into psychographics (grouping people according to their attitudes and tastes) and demographics. The power of this is extraordinary. If you consider the way Netflix uses its data to not only predict what will be successful, but increasingly to drive production and development, then the inclusion of VR into this process would have significant impact.
Netflix currently can see when you stop watching a show and what you watch next. With the inclusion of biometric feedback, it would be able to determine why as well.
Emotional response generation is a way of using VR to experience what may, for example, be a challenging scenario. Experiencing a difficult situation through VR may impact on, and inform, how we then view and respond to other people in a way that we never have been able to before. If we experience their difficulties, we may feel empathy, supporting us all to exhibit more positive or compassionate behaviours. Not necessarily entertainment, but certainly important. VR that allows people to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes could revolutionise HR, training and development.
VR is developing rapidly and is only going to become more and more relevant to medicine, education, retail and tech. The technology is here, and moving forward, it has to become an integral part of business models large and small.
We would predict that it will become as incorporated into the day to day business world as the internet, digital marketing and social media. Businesspeople over a certain age can remember when the internet was new, and the question of ‘why would I want to advertise online’ was a genuine and reasonable one.
Companies which foresaw the opportunities gained a significant advantage over those that lagged behind. But probably more importantly, there was a whole slew of companies that raced into the digital arena with no idea of what they were doing. The dotcom boom and bust was full of companies whose only real business model was to ‘be on the internet’.
Now VR (and AR) are probably as the same stage, from an adoption perspective, as the internet was 10 years ago. The difference is the rate of change is much faster, the technology is changing fast, and the time from early to late adoption is far shorter.
So, businesses that are investing now, and getting the best advice, will benefit.
Imagine not having a website in today’s world. Three years from now, that will be the position on VR.