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Ever since Facebook bought Oculus back in 2014, virtual reality (VR) has been on the minds of everyone who tries to keep up with the latest business technology trends.

Although VR technology has existed in one form or another for many years, it’s just now becoming commercially viable, and that has huge implications for businesses in every industry.

Even among early-adopters, VR is widely seen as the sole property of gaming or entertainment, but that’s simply not the case anymore.

As technology progresses, virtual and augmented reality could fundamentally change the way humans do business with each other—and not just in the far-distant future, either …

Here are some of the ways VR technology is changing the way the world does business:

Corporate Training

In industries with steep learning curves, VR provides an outstanding opportunity for immersive training. Employees can perform high-risk tasks over and over again in the virtual world without any real consequences.

Many medical schools worldwide are already using VR technology, both to broadcast live surgeries to students, and also to perform realistic practice operations.

With continuing work-based education becoming an increased focus for businesses worldwide, VR technology provides an opportunity to invest in employees in a revolutionary, highly effective manner, improving workforce productivity in the process.

Sales and Marketing

Every day, marketers all over the world struggle with a very real problem—how do you get people to pay for a product or service they’ve never tried before?

VR technology makes free trials and product tests possible nearly anywhere, effectively solving this dilemma.

Prospective homeowners can tour houses before they’re even built. Car enthusiasts can test-drive Audi R-8’s from their living room sofas. Airline executives can tour Airbus prototypes without ever setting foot in a hangar.

VR is also broadening the horizons of marketing research.

What if you could hold virtual focus groups in your company’s factory, or in the grocery store aisle where your products are sold? Businesses are performing more accurate, in-depth qualitative research than ever before as a result of innovative VR practices.

Human Resources

With VR technology, distance is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

A candidate in Singapore can join an office tour or group interview in Chicago. A freelancer in Kolkata can sit down and discuss specific project details with his client in Manchester.

The immersive experience provided by VR is infinitely more powerful and productive than email or even phone calls ever could be. As such, VR is changing the way companies interact with the world around them.

It’s changing the modern idea of what comprises an “office,” too.

The idea of “working from anywhere” used to be the sole province of freelancers and journalists, but VR technology is extending that lifestyle to even the most desk-bound employees.

Companies that regularly employ remote employees or consultants are increasing productivity and communication by integrating VR into their HR systems.

Modeling and Design

Long before marketers begin using VR technology to sell products, designers and engineers should be using it to model them.

Lockheed Martin, an early adopter of industrial VR, uses what they call the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory to virtually create and test spacecraft before building physical prototypes.

Ford says that its engineers save as much as $8 million every year by testing elements of new cars virtually before prototyping them. Virtual engineering and design aren’t just for Tony Stark anymore—they’re becoming widespread among forward-thinking companies.

While the initial cost of creating virtual design programs may put off some prospective buyers, the fact remains that it’s cheaper to create things virtually than it is to build them physically.

For this reason alone, it’s very reasonable to assume that the future of industrial design lies in VR.

Media

Much has already been written about the potential of VR in the fields of media and communications. In fact, most gaming and entertainment companies are already heavily invested in VR development.

But what about branded media?

VR is changing the way businesses interact with consumers, too. Think about it for a moment—what if you could enter an advertisement and walk around in it?

Talk about interactive messaging …

Immersive branding experiences with VR are promising to become a hugely lucrative experiment. Many industry leaders and ad specialists are predicting that VR will be the future of modern advertising.

So, whether you’re already on the bandwagon or not, don’t sleep on VR …

It’s for real.