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Is there a place for Virtual Reality in business

VR is the term commonly used to refer to a computer-simulated environment that represents places or objects in either the real or an imagined world. Also referred to as immersive multimedia, the most likely place where the man on the street will come into contact with VR regularly today is in computer gaming.

Immersive experiences are all about appealing to more of our senses and since engaging consumers is what marketing is all about, it’s easy to see why VR has such great potential in the business world today. This, together with the fact that were all turning to our computers and mobile devices to seek knowledge and to carry out research makes it completely logical that the ability to make something seem real on a screen is a highly powerful money making tool with huge potential.

The problem with VR to date has been how to create an immersive experience without having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on hardware to support the imagery. The likes of the military and communication sectors have embraced simulation and VR over the years, but the cost of convincing displays were beyond the majority of businesses.

That said, innovations such as the Cobra Curved Display have enabled truly immersive technology to come within the reach of businesses, gamers and individuals with only relatively modest budgets. This type of innovation, together with headsets such as Oculus Rift, Gameface and Morpheous mean that convincing, truly immersive VR is a whole lot closer than we imagined even a couple of years ago or so.

Read about the companies taking advantage of the virtual reality trend:

But is there truly a place for VR in business

Gamers lead the way and luxury brands follow

Affordable and convincing immersive headsets mean that everyone from gamers to luxury brands is enjoying the opportunities opened up by VR. Theres no doubt that gamers are the most demanding and vociferous consumers of VR right now. They are accustomed to being on the other side of a TV screen, a tablet or a PC, but they want a whole lot more. They want to be convinced that they are truly part of the game theyre playing. Theyre demanding to be immersed.

Curved screen technology and headsets mean that senses are heightened and the whole gaming experience takes on a new edge. The likes of the Wii and the Xbox Kinect also provide immersion by including the body in the action. Adding gestures to sight and sound has served to further heighten the immersion in these games; but is it enough One thing is for sure and it’s the fact that gamers are likely to push innovators in this field to their limit.

But it’s not only gamers who are pushing the boundaries when it comes to VR. This years Web Summit saw Audi using the Oculus Rift VR experience to showcase its new vehicle. Audi Ireland, who was official car sponsor of The Web Summit 2014 used VR technology to support the launch of their new A3 Sportback E-tron in the hope that it would seriously excite attendees. It certainly got lots of press coverage and adrenaline from those testing it was running high.

The luxury car brand used the Oculus Rift to offer consumers and delegates the chance to experience the new model first-hand using VR and spec the add-ons they would like to see in their own personalised Audi model. Question is, will this disrupt the car market and will it be the end of the car showroom

In our view, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to luxury brands enabling their target market to immerse themselves in a world that they could become part of if they choose to invest in the right brands. Our belief is that it won’t be long before luxury tour operators and high-end property sales executives will be using VR to share the experience that their brands promise to seduce potential buyers.

Training opportunities

Other significant business opportunities for VR are in training and collaboration. In the oil gas sector, as well as the education and medical sectors, the opportunities are huge. Training that takes place in a safe environment such as the simulation tool from Live Visualisation means fewer compliance constraints, lower risk and fewer accidents. Education thats delivered virtually is already proving a huge hit with academic institutions worldwide, but convincingly immersive VR will take this experience to a whole new level.

A great way to communicate

Accustomed to Skype and other forms of video communication, were all ripe for VR in communication. No matter whether the goal is to meet and discuss without the need to travel or to deliver quality guidance and communication to inaccessible countries or locations, VR simply has to be the solution.

Peter Andrew is head of innovation and incubation services at Alba Innovation Centre.

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