As Virtual Reality fever continues to spread across the globe, the sheer scope of the technology is starting to become apparent - global searches for VR were up 400% on Google alone in 2016 and everyone wants a piece of the action! What started as a novel way of gaming, Virtual Reality has fast become a hot global industry with scores of potential uses. The Pokemon Go phenomenon was clearly the catalyst that generated an upswell in public interest, and it has quickly become clear that VR is not only here to stay, it is set to revolutionise countless industries. Here we look at eight that will benefit in 2017.
MOTOR INDUSTRY VR
They say nothing beats the growl of the engine and the smell of leather, as you floor the accelerator and feel your dream car lurch beneath you. However, more and more people are choosing to test drive their cars virtually rather than taking them out on the road. Brands such as BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Volvo, Lexus, Chevrolet, and Honda have all embraced VR and are using it as part of their marketing strategy in 2017.
But it's not just your dream car that can be opened up, there are other benefits of getting behind the virtual wheel too. Toyota used VR to educate parents and teens about the dangers of distraction with their TeenDrive365 campaign, and you can expect more innovation from an industry that has really embraced technology over the last decade.
HOSPITALITY VR TECHNOLOGY - RESTAURANTS, HOTELS AND BARS
We have all been there. Arriving at that restaurant recommended by a ‘friend’, only to get an immediate sinking feeling the minute you walk through the door. Yes the website looked cool and the photographs were amazing….but its not exactly what you thought it would be. Those vibrant pictures certainly never captured the grubby toilets or the sewage works next door!
Clever photography and a well worded menu can go a long way towards encouraging a customer to visit a venue - but the popularity of Trip Advisor show that customers want to know MORE about the places they are planning on visiting. They want to see where they will be eating on Saturday, drinking on Sunday or sleeping on Monday - and this is where a Virtual Walkthrough can be beneficial in building trust and showing all of the facilities on offer.
Customers can now wander around, look out of the windows, pick their tables, peek around the corner….even check out toilet facilities with a virtual tour of many hotels, bars and restaurants. Savvy brands are starting to see the potential in this digital marketing revolution too, taking steps towards giving customers what they want. Several of the larger hotel chains have recently commissioned VR tours of all public facilities, allowing both UK and international customers unrestricted 24/7 access to all public areas - even if they are currently being used for meetings
CARE INDUSTRY VR
One of the biggest challenges of being admitted to care, is the confusing and disconcerting nature of being moved from a well known and cherished family home to a large, unfamiliar facility with people you don't know. VR can completely break down that barrier of unfamiliarity, giving advance visibility of all facilities, even to the extent of being shown your own room virtually. With enough support people moving into care can be given the reassurance they need to make such a huge transition a little easier.
You may think that this kind of tech would not be for the older generation, but the silver surfers are one of the quickest growing demographics on Facebook. In the digital age many of the 50-70 age category see more pictures of their grandchildren on Social Media than anywhere else, so you can certainly start to expect a new tech savvy older generation in the next ten years - especially once VR shot on mobiles becomes widespread!
TRAVEL INDUSTRY VR AND 360 VIDEO
Given the nature of not being able to view in advance, the travel industry represents one of the biggest opportunities to really leverage VR. Hotels, airports, destinations, sights, attractions, conferencing, weddings facilities can all be showcased from the other side of the world, giving the overseas traveller a little more peace of mind rather than the current ‘book and hope’ scenario. Imagine being able to plan a romantic night, book all of your excursions and pick the room you want all from the comfort of the travel agent chair. If executed correctly this could even give customers more of a reason to visit the beleaguered high street travel agent - a sector desperately in need of invigorating.
Even the airlines have been testing the water with VR too - with both Delta and Lufthansa are using VR to demonstrate their facilities in the last 12 months, with Lufthansa going as far as allowing customers to hold a glass of champagne whilst sitting in Business Class! Let's hope that's not part of the pilot training simulation too…
ESTATE AND LETTING AGENTS VIRTUAL TOURS
Rumour has it that a good estate agent can charm the pants of a prospective buyer, turning a definite NO into a maybe and then that maybe into a YES. However, I'm not so sure. When making a decision about a £350k purchase are people really swayed by some cunning flattery, fresh flowers and a pot of coffee on the boil? People generally know the minute they walk into a property whether it's for them or not, and a virtual tour allows them to walk through any property from the comfort of their own home - reducing the number of wasted viewings, saving the agents both time and money.
Virtual Tours have been touted around estate agents for the last 5 years, though in a very basic and primitive form. More of a pan around the pictures with a guitar soundtrack, the virtual tours many agents know now belong in the archives.
Just in the way that Google Streetview revolutionised people's awareness of the area in which the property is situated, virtual tours are now set to show people INSIDE the houses they are interested in. Customers can now wander around, go up and down stairs, check out the garden, and even get the view from inside the shower! Residential Virtual tours are HUGE in the US, and they are set to explode in the UK too.
MUSIC INDUSTRY VR
Music is an emotive medium - it is all about experience. The memories recalled when you hear a song are special. The places you went, the people you were with, the experience you had when that particular song was played. There are many facets of music that sink deep into your psyche and VR really plays on that angle.
Combining elements of movies, gaming, and music, you will soon be completely immersed inside an entertainment experience and this has the potential to create whole new connections with users.
Jaunt VR are one of the key players in this emerging medium, and recently shot immersive 360 content with Paul McCartney which received rave reviews and really paved the way for artists such as Muse, Foals, and Taylor Swift to start experimenting.
Once the size of VR headsets reduces could a virtual concert from one band in multiple places be on the cards? It's certainly possible. Count me out of the mosh pit though!
VIRTUAL REALITY IN EDUCATION
Lets face it, for most of us, people ten years our junior will be far more technically adept than we are. Our grounding in spooling a Commodore 64 tape back up with a pencil didn't exactly prepare us for swapping out a hard drive, and seeing someone just out of school doing this in 5 minutes is nearly enough to make you utter the immortal Danny Glover line ‘I’m getting too old for this sh**.......’
But technically adept they are, and this will only accelerate over the next decade. Learning techniques have always embraced technology and VR is no exception. At a basic level there are VR apps such as VR Education, which simulates a lecture hall in virtual reality, adding additional special effects which can't be utilized in a traditional classroom setting.
However it is already going way beyond virtual lectures. In 2016 educators used VR tools with students to collaboratively construct architectural models, recreations of historic / natural sites and other spatial renderings. Instructors have also used VR technology to engage students in topics related to literature, history and economics by offering a deeply immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving.
This kind of interaction looks set to not only enrich the learning experience of our children, but also lead to an acceleration of technological advances as this pioneering technology is used to create the gadgetry and life changing advances of the future!
MEDICAL INDUSTRY VR
Mistakes in medicine are often the most serious, as the ramifications of getting something wrong can have life changing, or ending consequences to those involved. We all like to think that those people operating on us have had 30 years experience but everyone - every single person, has to learn somehow.
With this in mind it goes without saying that training for surgeons is a field that looks set to be revolutionised - with Virtual Reality provide a means of practice without any risk to real patients. The fact that learning mistakes would be digital rather than fatal would also mean that costs involved to invest in the training technology would be hugely offset by the savings in medical negligence claims!
And there are multiple other aspects in the world of medicine that look set to benefit from VR. Psychiatrists at the University of Louisville use VR in cognitive behavior therapy to treat patients with social anxieties or phobias of things like flying, public speaking, or heights. The controlled environment allows doctors to expose their patients to simulations and direct them on how to cope with how they're feeling.
And this is just the start. These eight industries are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how Virtual Reality can be utilised. The technology is reducing in size, the quality is improving, and the number of applications is exploding. Every single industry needs to accept the fact that on a technological level the world is changing, and it is NECESSARY to change with it.