Virtual reality can trace its history back to the 1950s when pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, Morton Heilig and later Ivan Sutherland completed a number of ground-breaking pieces of research into the use of computer graphics.
In entertainment field, using 3D films and Cinerama with its massive wraparound screens, Heilig created what he called his ‘experience theatre’. He took all his research and built this into a machine he called his Sensorama.
Fast forward to 1984 with the foundation of VPL Research by Jason Lanier who coined the term virtual reality for the first time. VPL built the first examples of the DataGlove, head-mounted display and all the ancillary equipment that makes VR possible.
Until now, VR has existed in the popular consciousness via films like Lawnmower Man and Johnny Mnemonic. Today, however, VR is about to step back into the mainstream with a number of new systems that are not simply a new way to play games, as they offer a plethora of business opportunities.
VR is once again creating high levels of interest not simply because of its stellar success gaining initial funding on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, but the fact that computing power has now caught up with the promise VR made in the 1980s. Oculus Rift looks set to change not only the face of gaming – that’s mainly due to its buyout by Facebook – but also how many businesses develop new products and services, and also how they interact with their customers.
On purchasing Oculus Rift, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said: "This is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home."
Oculus Rift is also not the only company developing VR technology. Sony is working on Project Morpheus for PlayStation 4, VRVANA has its Totem platform, and Samsung has a soon to be released VR headset to give a few examples.
This should mean we see a rich development environment that won’t simply be concerned with games. Businesses that are looking for the next frontier of technological innovation will be using VR in many of their new products. The challenge that many in the industry have pointed to is how VR can become vital this time around, and avoid simply being another niche platform.
So where could the non-gaming applications come from? One of the massive growth areas at the moment is medical technology with wearable devices becoming increasingly popular. Here, VR is clearly a technology that lends itself to many medical applications. From the ultimate in 3D surgery applications, to phobia aversion therapy that could help many overcome their most deep-seated fears.
Retail is another business sector which could witness some very exciting VR developments. For several years, e-commerce has been expanding. Now moving to mobile devices, the immersive experience of physically visiting a store has always been missing. With VR that could all change, as VR-equipped computers could become your business’ virtual shopping environment.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWEonGJtvwo
And business processes are also being influenced by VR. One idea that perhaps illustrates the scale that VR could be applied to is Bloomberg’s development of a concept that would place trading terminals within a virtual environment.
Clearly, businesses in the architectural sector and allied design industries can see potential use cases for VR, but even small businesses can also begin to develop ideas for how VR could be used across their organisations. The virtual environments that VR transports the user to could easily become working spaces. Teleconferencing suddenly takes on a whole new meaning when VR is used. Customer service could certainly be enhanced with VR tech. At the moment the use of avatars works in some cases, but think how VR could be used to offer one-to-one experiences to your business’ customers.
Visualising data can also be a major application for VR. The masses of data that all businesses now collect (thanks mostly to their presence on social media networks) could be visualised more easily with VR technologies. But what would Facebook and Twitter look like in a VR environment? The marketing aspect of any product or service rollout could easily include a VR component.
Impact of VR
TechRadar Pro spoke with Jon Brouchoud, CEO of Arch Virtual, to gain an insight into how VR is impacting on business today.
TechRadar Pro: Is Oculus Rift a practical realisation of the promise that VR made decades ago?
Jon Brouchoud: Oculus Rift is a huge step forward, and it certainly does build on innovation momentum started some time ago, but calling it the ‘final’ realisation would be like saying the first Sony Walkman represented the final realisation of portable audio players.
Similar to the way cassette tapes with a single album gradually transcended into tiny devices connected to an infinite and invisible library of music streaming from the cloud, I see technology like the Oculus Rift becoming as ubiquitous and invisible over time, to the point where we hardly even notice it anymore. This is definitely becoming the VR we’ve dreamed of for many years.
TRP: Outside of gaming, how much of an impact will the new VR hardware have on how businesses approach the development of their products and services?
JB: The impact of VR hardware on product development will be staggering, eventually becoming the new norm. The benefits and cost savings are so incredibly obvious and easy to convey, even to sceptics, it’s only a matter of time before it permeates the industry.
TRP: Can you point to a business sector other than gaming where you think VR will have the most profound impact?
JB: It has the potential to completely revolutionise architecture and the built environment. Even with the first DK1 Oculus Rift prototype, clients who hired us to create architectural visualisations to help them understand their design concepts, or to help pre-sell and promote a new building development project, have already reported significant returns on their investment in VR.
They’ve already saved millions of dollars, and we’re just one year into developing with a first generation prototype. The impact on architecture will, without any doubt, be profound and disruptive.
TRP: What is your advice to businesses that are looking at VR technology and how they might be able to leverage its potential?
JB: Don’t wait for the technology to mature – start now, and start small, but do it right. Put together a small R&D budget, and start with some simple experiments or testing ideas that might be a good fit. You’ll have something to share with others in the company to help convey and build support around the value of VR, which will help make your application far more successful in the long run.
Doing it right means hiring a qualified VR developer. Developing solid, functional and high quality VR applications is a deceptively complex process that requires deep knowledge of real-time engines and hardware technology. Be sure to carefully vet developers to be sure they have the skills required to create a quality VR experience for you.
TRP: How do you see VR developing over the next few years as a business asset?
JB: I think it will take time, but it will grow fairly quickly. Nearly every single client we’ve worked with has become a repeat customer, and they’ve all experienced significant ROI, and all with the very first low resolution prototype. They’ll be far more competitive as a result, everyone else will notice, clients will start to require it, and the revolution will begin.
What is clear is that VR now has a chance to change how businesses approach a whole myriad of service delivery and product development issues. Gaming may be where VR has the most impact in the short-term, but it’s how businesses in other sectors innovate with this low-cost technology that is the most interesting point here. And what’s more, even the smallest business can begin to explore what VR could offer their company.
Originally Posted By TechRadar: All latest World of tech news feeds