For many, virtual reality sounds like technology lifted out of a sci-fi movie. Some are quick to dismiss it as a toy or idealistic futurism — but there’s nothing artificial about VR opportunities on the horizon. According to a Fortune article, the VR market is expected to grow to over $150 billion in the next couple years. Those are real, not virtual, dollars at stake. VR is being used at the corporate level now more than ever and is growing in popularity among a diverse array of industries.
This wasn’t always the case — VR today is up against a storied history of logistical and practical disappointment. In the 90s, the automotive, aerospace and military industries utilized VR as a means to gain a competitive edge as early adopters. This marked the first instance in which an individual could don a head mounted display (HMD) and interact with a virtual environment, but ultimately the technology didn’t meet user expectations.
Computer technology was underpowered, imagery was low fidelity, the hardware was complex to use and the system was incredibly expensive. These issues and more caused the decline of professional VR use at the time. Today, thanks to a prosperous consumer market and technological advancements in the field, VR has reemerged as a viable corporate asset that many organizations are using to explore new efficiencies in design, creation, training and product interaction.
VR technology that was previously shunned due to price point, complexity and computing limitations has experienced a major comeback thanks to widespread acceptance in the consumer space. And thanks to recent breakthroughs in user affordability and accessibility, VR is in the midst of a strong corporate revival.
In 2012, the independent HMD developer and manufacturer, Oculus, set out to develop a high performance, affordable VR experience for gaming. This technological underdog garnered huge consumer support, leading to a Kickstarter that raised $3 million. Naturally, this sort of public financial outpouring turned heads in the tech world.
Oculus had only developed a prototype and planned for an initial run of unassembled HMDs, but industry backing eventually legitimized their cause and paved the way for a new generation of VR technology. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion — offering the stamp of validation necessary to reestablish VR as valuable technology in both the consumer and industry sectors. The Oculus success story has snowballed into a growing VR market that’s producing better technology at a more affordable price, ultimately benefiting consumers and industry leaders alike.
The consumer success of VR technology has resulted in a new generation of products that has breathed new life into industry adoption.
In light of refined technology and widespread social acceptability, industry leaders are adopting VR into daily workflows. From military training to architecture to ergonomic interior design, VR is aiding more industries than ever. Decision makers who were once put off by sticker shock and underdeveloped technology are now integrating VR technology in new and exciting ways.
A common and invaluable industrial application for VR is augmenting the computer-aided design process. Thanks to emerging technology, products designed in a CAD program can now be quickly and easily brought into a virtual reality environment. Old VR technology required up to six months of development to create a virtual reality environment of this nature. This accessibility greatly streamlines CAD integration and has lead to greater efficiency in engineering processes, design and manufacturing. In essence, nearly any industry that creates a physical product can now benefit from VR integration into CAD.
Engineering and design are not the only professional sectors benefiting from the resurgence of VR technology. For example, marketing departments are leveraging the power of VR to reach audiences in new ways. Consumer experiences are evolving to a new level of interactivity thanks to companies that now reach consumers through VR. Marketing departments are recognizing VR as a messaging tool that can be delivered on common platforms such as smartphones, computer screens and household VR HMDs.
What’s Next for VR?
Today, VR has value in nearly every field. Previously, companies would invest in a single HMD for engineers or designers but today, there are practical reasons to incorporate VR technology and advanced visualization systems in many corporate environments.
The availability of powerful virtual reality content creation and software tools and ease of use have transformed what was once a promising, but ultimately disappointing, prospect into an optimized user-end experience. VR technology is no longer fettered by complexity, and its practicality has finally caught up to its ultimate corporate potential: allowing companies to extend the limits of creativity. With a prosperous consumer VR market that continues to influence the corporate world, there is no limit in sight.
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