Enterprise use cases abound for virtual reality solutions

‘The only limit is creativity’

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Virtual reality (VR) is a real-world solution to modern business challenges, helping companies improve collaboration, learning, productivity, and more.

Multiple industries stand to benefit from VR solutions in a variety of ways, according to members of IDG’s Influencer community of IT professionals, industry analysts, and technology experts.

“Virtual reality applications today have only creativity as a limit,” says Enrico Molinari (@enricomolinari), an innovation manager and university professor. Molinari cites surgery, intelligent driving assistant systems, maintenance services, tourism, design, and real estate as “just some of the use cases in which it is easy to apply the value of VR today.”

A safe yet realistic training environment

Experts agree that VR’s immersive characteristics and sense of presence make the technology appealing for the enterprise. One example: functional training.

Cedric Wells (@cedricfwells), former IT director and current tech optimist, says a common problem with traditional training settings is that they have “negative impacts — from an unsafe environment to unhappy employees, ineffective management, and ultimately low productivity.” VR, he says, enables individuals “to experience certain situations that would have otherwise been dangerous and/or life threatening, and be able to react in a manner that would produce a more favorable outcome.”

Colin McGuire (@realColinMac), entrepreneur, investor, and tech evangelist, agrees: “VR provides a safe space to improve reactions and engage in real-world scenarios.”

Other promising use cases involve “being able to learn how to use complex machinery, or how to act in certain circumstances where replicating it in reality would be difficult,” says Dave Evans (@DaveTheFuturist), CIO and vice president of technology at The Computer History Museum. “Training on a multimillion-dollar machine, for example, is expensive and possibly dangerous, but simulating it in VR removes those barriers.”

Virtual reality solutions can reduce risks in other types of training, too. For example, “VR frameworks can simulate emergency situations that would be difficult and expensive to recreate in the real world. Think natural disasters and extreme acts of violence,” says Phil Siarri (@philsiarri), founder of Nuadox.

Presence in the room

The sense of presence that VR provides also makes the technology effective for remote communications, whether as part of a training program or as part of day-to-day collaboration. “VR allows for the interaction that is the key ingredient to communicating,” says Anna Frazzetto (@AnnaFrazzetto), chief digital technology officer and president of technology solutions for Harvey Nash/NashTech Global.  

Interaction is critical for organizations to stimulate creativity and enhance productivity and collaboration. 

“VR has the potential to truly enrich the current remote meeting and presentation experience by making them much more immersive and engaging, and hopefully less fatiguing,” says Mike D. Kail (@mdkail), CTO at Everest.

In addition, with the right implementation, VR enables superior “face-to-face” meetings even when they happen virtually.

“I see virtual meetings as being very promising by having an experience that is as close as possible to a physical meeting,” says Dr. Marcell Vollmer (@mvollmer1), partner and director at Boston Consulting Group.

And when it comes to sales, business team, and customer meetings, VR solutions “reduce costs of sending people off site with the overhead of travel expenses,” says Brian E. Thomas (@DivergentCIO), CIO of Coruzant Technologies.

Practice makes perfect

Experts also cite the potential of VR in specific industries, such as healthcare.

“In healthcare there is a requirement to have repetitive practice before going into surgery or running heavy complex equipment,” says Tony Flath (@TmanSpeaks), enterprise account executive at Shaw Communications. “Being able to train utilizing VR is huge. The students can practice over and over in a simulation, thus drastically improving their success and safety in real scenarios.”

Such scenarios can have a significant impact beyond learning and knowledge sharing. “VR is already saving lives,” says Molinari. “It has been used to examine the exact structure of a heart affected by severe malformations — observing it from the inside to identify the correct surgical procedure to use.”

Looking to the future, Molinari believes “VR technology will take healthcare to the next level — drastically decreasing medical costs, while increasing care with the possibility of materializing one's own family doctor in the living room.”

Time to get started

Some experts suggest organizations should get on board now to begin experimenting with VR technology, which will open the door to new use cases and opportunities.

“VR will be more prominent in the enterprise in the next few years,” says Adam Martin (@colttrickle), IT director at American Structurepoint Inc. “There are a lot of good opportunities for VR in retail, architectural/interior design, and real estate.”

Jack Gold (@jckgld), principal analyst and founder at J. Gold Associates LLC and a veteran tech analyst, cautions that there are challenges ahead, but that shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

“The use of VR will expand greatly over the next few years as the cost and complexity of delivering VR services decreases and companies become more comfortable with the use of the products,” he says. “The biggest barriers will be companies figuring out how best to use VR, and that will be a learning curve. But they should be starting down the path now to gain the needed experience.”

In other words, now is a good time to consider piloting the technology. As remote-work policies remain in place, there’s a great opportunity to test new and different ways to use VR across your organization. 

“Leveraging VR is an awesome way for improving training in the enterprise in the era of COVID-19,” says Peggy Smedley (@ConnectedWMag), editorial director at Connected World and president of Specialty Publishing Media. “Most companies are sheltering in place, and VR helps employees get familiar with high-risk processes, advanced equipment, cutting-edge technology, and customer service, just to name a few.”

Jola Burnett (@JolaBurnett), vice president of GfK, agrees: “The timing is right for a few reasons. First, 5G technology will soon be available to remove barriers like latency. Second, COVID-19 has pushed us further into digital work, with many people rethinking boring business meetings and long commutes. Lastly, VR allows for more space to be available for the exchange of ideas and experimentation.”

Learn more about how VR solutions can be applied in your enterprise.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.