The death of VR has been heralded so often that this technology is starting to take on feline qualities with regard to the number of lives it seems to have.
It’s a great click-bait headline that some journalists and commentators like to roll out on a fairly regular basis. In jumping to this conclusion they have invariably focused on consumer adoption of virtual reality, as it’s an easier fit with the “VR is dead” theme than researching further across the sector.
A Shift Towards Enterprise
When it comes to consumer adoption of virtual reality, it fits neatly into Amara’s Law which states “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Pre-lockdown you couldn’t attend a conference without a speaker boldly posing the question, “What’s the killer app for VR?”See Also: How Virtual Reality Data Visualization Sets a New Standard for Big Data
Whilst the great and good of technology commentary were focusing on consumer VR, the enterprise sector was quietly adopting the technology at a much more consistent rate.
About a year ago a lot of the commentary started to mention enterprise VR more often than consumer VR, there was a slow realization that the cost of headsets and lack of content was less of an issue for enterprise. With some large enterprises using virtual reality training for health and safety, the savings by avoiding serious accidents can be huge, quickly outweighing the cost of headsets or content creation.
Some Sectors Embracing VR Quicker Than Others
So, which sectors are driving the adoption of enterprise virtual reality? Well, health and safety procedures cover a number of verticals, so you’re seeing adoption in sectors from FMCG, manufacturing, and energy right through to healthcare.
Without the internal buy-in to adopting new technology, it is almost impossible to get traction beyond an initial innovation focus. So who are some of the internal champions fuelling the VR adoption? At Nestle, for example, you have Richard Hess, at BP Anthony DelBarto, and Walter Davis at Aggreko.
Health and safety training is also a key focus in the armed forces, with a recent example being virtual reality cargo loading training by the US Air Force. Working with Sketchbox, they created a training scenario for C-5 transport aircraft operatives using the Oculus Quest 2, with some quite phenomenal results:
- Total training time reduced by 25%;
- Student throughput increased by 3.3X;
- $100k hard cost savings per student;
- 1000lbs of fuel saved per student.
However, what the results currently lack is more performance-focused outcomes: are there fewer errors, do trainees retain the knowledge better and therefore need less training? When you are able to combine performance results with cost savings you have a very powerful argument in favor of the use of VR for training.
Virtual Reality Has a Role to Play in Soft Skills Too
Health and safety training is an obvious fit for VR training, but other areas which are less obvious, such as soft skills training, are also starting to see increased adoption.
As companies struggle to retain and upskill employees, along with trying to deal with a transformative shift to remote working, they are increasingly looking to technology to solve some of these challenges.
Companies like Talespin, BodySwaps, and Make Real are focused on using VR for soft skills training, ranging from diversity and inclusion to leadership skills. I was initially skeptical of using virtual reality for soft skills training, largely because it is so much harder to measure, but my view has shifted over the past year.
Ways of measurement have improved substantially, and will only continue to improve with the use of biometrics and eye-tracking, enabling soft skills VR training to be measured in a much more tangible way.See Also: VR: The Technological Game Changer in Professional Training
So, to all those out there who are keen to proclaim the “death of VR”, I would advise you to take a broader look across both consumer and enterprise. Indeed, as headsets become cheaper, more content is available and the benefits of 5G kick-in, we may even have to consider using “VR is alive and well” for both consumer and enterprise.