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Virtual and augmented reality: The future of the workplace

Virtual and augmented reality are hitting the headlines for their ability to propel users into new environments or add new elements to games. But one of the most promising areas to be revolutionised will be the workplace.
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When it comes to virtual and augmented reality, the former is already widely used by companies all over the world. There is, however, huge potential for both to revolutionise the office and upend workplace needs.

Virtual reality in today’s offices

This technology should be viewed by forward thinking business leaders as one of the most essential tools for collaboration today. Conference lines and newer products such as iMeet, which enable computer screen sharing with remote employees, are becoming standard tools in offices.

In fact, these are early examples of virtual reality in action. Enabling colleagues to work remotely by sharing visuals goes to the heart of how it will impact flexible working. We are a short way from virtual reality changing the way we view the traditional 9 to 5. Simply by filming a meeting and streaming in real time, remote employees can dial into a call using a headset and immerse themselves in the conversation from anywhere in the world.

The potential for the virtual world to revolutionise remote working is hard to underestimate and will no doubt boost the movement towards smarter working that is being embraced by businesses of all sizes.

The future of virtual and augmented reality in the workplace

At the moment, most people think of augmented glasses and virtual headsets as a novelty, but where these headsets will add real value is in enterprise. Traditional presentations will soon be supported by such glasses or contact lenses, which bring up supporting information or figures to help employees engage with the presentation and provide extra, tailored information.

Training will be a particularly key area in which virtual and augmented reality will come to the fore. Situational virtual and augmented reality training can simulate environments which would be hard to practise otherwise – for example, surgeons performing intricate cases or pilots trialling a new cockpit design.

In industries which require huge amounts of technical knowledge, augmented reality will come in to its own and provide essential support. Imagine a police bomb disposal unit is deployed to neutralise a suspicious package in a busy city. As the officer approaches the package, his headset flashes up relevant and potentially lifesaving information such as temperature levels, chemical analysis and information on how to neutralise that specific type of bomb.

This service will not only be extremely beneficial to the policeman on the scene, it will also help the police in terms of improving their efficiency in dealing with such scenarios. No surprise then that businesses are already taking steps to embrace augmented technology as a tool for extra information in difficult or technical situations. For example, elevator manufacturer ThysenKrupp uses it to let technicians view digital overlays of repair guides and manuals when fixing elevators – a way to bridge the digital skills gap.

There are many other uses of virtual and augmented reality in different sectors. Interior designers will be able to visualise how changes will look and “walk” around a design without having to purchase the materials first. Virtual reality is already being used by larger businesses to help prototype designs without having to create them. Ford, for example, has reported using the Oculus Rift to collaborate on virtual models of cars with different team members.

There has been an overwhelming level of digital transformation that has taken place since the turn of the 21th century. While virtual reality has embedded itself into the everyday office, there is still more this technology has to offer. With augmented reality, we have yet to see the real impact it will have on enterprise, but this is set to change. The opportunities both present for the future of business are exciting, not only in terms of enabling teams to achieve greater things, but also in bringing people together in greater collaboration.

Chris Martin is CTO of Powwownow

Image: Shutterstock

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