Virtual reality (VR) has landed. The idea of a VR headset was almost a byword for migraines, dizziness and nausea, but the technology now offers sophisticated experiences from the high-end Oculus Rift to the budget Google Cardboard.
The technology has its uses in immersive gaming and virtual experiences for the consumer world, but there were questions as to whether it has any enterprise application beyond providing developers with another platform for which to make apps.
However, VR is slowly making its presence felt in the world of business at the same time that is beginning to accelerate its way into the consumer market with the imminent release of the HTC Vive.
The main challenge in the enterprise world is to ensure that VR is used in a way that benefits the business and isn't just a ‘me too’ gimmick. Amba Hotels, located in Charing Cross and Marble Arch in London, is a good example of the former.
The company created an app with VR and creative agency Rewind that can be used with the Samsung Gear VR headset and Google Cardboard to provide virtual tours of its hotel rooms, restaurants and conference facilities.
Virtual tours are nothing new in the hospitality industry, but Amba Hotels wanted to allow its sales team to provide an interactive tour to clients when pitching conference services.
The sales reps can hand potential customers a headset and a compatible smartphone and leave them to look at the facilities at their leisure.
The idea is to make the whole pitching process more hands-on and interactive, which has the knock-on effect of getting the customer more engaged. The sales pitch becomes much more of a two-way process, which is more likely to persuade clients to sign up for the hotel’s services, Amba told V3.
Another business use for VR, and arguably an area where it will see the most use, is providing more interactive experiences and services.
Technology consultants Accenture has worked with the RBS Six Nations rugby tournament to make match and tournament data easily understood and more engaging for fans.
Accenture used the Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 VR headset to create a virtual stadium and locker room that can be explored in an interactive way as fans listen to facts and statistics from a virtual version of Rugby World Cup winner Ben Kay.
Car makers, which are often unexpected pushers of modern digital technology, are also getting on the VR act.
Volvo, for instance, has created an app that allows customers to have a virtual tour and test drive of the latest XC90 car. This allows them to see whether the car is to their taste without needing to visit a Volvo dealership.
Aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, is making practical use of VR with a Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory that uses Oculus Rift headsets and an enclosed room with holographic displays to provide engineers with virtual prototypes of products being researched and developed.
The idea is to create full-scale virtual models of objects so that engineers can get an impression of their size and interior rather than relying on images rendered on desktop computers.
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