Modern technology delivers about a dozen gimmicky boondoggles for every legitimate game-changer. You may already have written off virtual reality (VR) as another of these short-lived, hype-inflated fads. But you’d be wrong.
The truth is, VR has almost numberless applications – and some of them might see VR coming to a workplace near you sooner than most of us expected.
Our vices and hobbies tend to help steer the development – and even the death – of certain types of technology. So far, it’s been video games that have been most successful at hitting the ground running with VR. But that’s about to change.
How VR Is Revolutionizing A Workplace Near You
Think about it. What are video games but complex simulations of fictional environments and characters? What about all the other things in this world and beyond that are worth simulating in a controlled environment?
Video gamers and, therefore, millennials may have laid early claim to VR technology, but human productivity has been waiting breathlessly for a tool like VR for much longer than the gaming industry. These four ways illustrate how.
- Unifying Geographically Diverse Workplaces
The business world has been changing for a long while now, spurred on by advancements in computers and other technologies that have made it possible for us to spread out geographically and get work done from nearly everywhere.
Of course, we’re not really meant to live in isolation, being the social creatures we are. That’s why so much money and resources have been poured into telepresence and high-tech conference technologies – we can feel like we’re in a room together even when we physically can’t be. VR is going to take this to the next level.
Conferencing with your coworkers on a monitor or projector, with all of the attendant headaches that implies, isn’t long for this world. VR will let us hold virtual meetings anywhere in the world while participants sit at their desks entire continents away. At last, technology might fulfill its promise of bringing us closer together.
- Creating Safe And Controlled Testing And Training Environments
One of the fundamental purposes of technology in general is to deliver human beings from bodily harm. Virtual reality is looking to deliver on that promise in a bold new way.
Why? Because when it comes to testing and training employees, time and resources are frequently in short supply – and some of the techniques being employed by these untrained hands can sometimes be dangerous. VR is going to help eliminate risk from training and testing by creating safe, predictable and well-equipped environments in which to learn new skills.
Consider one example from the medical field, where physicians-in-training must often share lab resources and even cadavers as they train for their futures as doctors. Virtual reality is already helping us to improve our training resources and techniques – for everybody from surgeons and astronauts to automotive manufacturers – by making sure we can test new methods, build new prototypes and test our knowledge without subjecting ourselves to unnecessary risk.
Think of the benefits of “test-driving” a new construction method in virtual reality before attempting a risky assembly in the real world, and you’ll begin to see the opportunities here.
- Reimagining The ‘Second-Screen’ Experience
The “second screen” phenomenon is changing the way we recreate as well as get work done. You’ve probably fiddled with your smartphone while watching television or used double monitors at work to get more done in a typical day. Depending on the task at hand, this can either enhance your enjoyment of a particular activity or, for work purposes, help keep your complicated tasks laid out cleanly so nothing goes missing.
Now, apply the second-screen technique to VR. Think of the space that could be freed up in our home offices and business campuses if we use virtual reality to organize documents and other resources in our peripheral vision for easy reference or retrieval. It could even display real-time changes to critical data as we work on our projects – kind of like the way heads-up displays in automobiles tastefully overlay speed and tire pressure onto the inside of the windshields of high-end cars.
It sounds eerily far-future, like something out of science fiction, this idea of populating our field of vision with virtual bookmarks and icons, but welcome to the 21st century – where magic is practically commonplace.
- Acquiring Top Talent
So far, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how VR is helping us do our jobs more effectively. But can it help us get hired in the first place?
As it turns out, the answer is “yes” – talent acquisition is another emerging application for virtual reality in the workplace. VR now lets prospective hires inhabit the workplaces and environments their new job requires. It lets them experience their possible future hands-on and in a deeply immersive way so they can make a fully informed decision about pursuing that particular position or field of work. If the day-to-day experience isn’t for them, now they can know it before taking the plunge.
Additionally, VR lets employers take stock of their candidates’ skill sets, including where they excel and where they might need further guidance. For both parties, VR is changing what the new hire onboarding experience is like and could help us cut down on folks applying for jobs they’re either not interested in or not skilled enough to execute.
Rose-Tinted VR Goggles
Since 2012, the number of active VR companies has grown by an astounding 250%. That’s a lot of interest – and a lot of money. If you want another clue about how seriously we should be taking virtual reality, think about how much Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg paid to acquire VR pioneer Oculus – and about how much outrage followed.
Zuckerberg snapped up Oculus because he clearly sees the potential for VR. And the world got furious about him buying it because they came to the same conclusion and perhaps wished a more trustworthy company had cornered and acquired the early market leader, instead. The rollout and swift commercialization of VR so far prove that the new stewards of the world economy, millennials, are open to new techniques and technologies that older generations could scarcely dream of.
The point is, everybody has their eyes on VR – it’ll even be baked right into your next smartphone. We just need to remember it’s about much more than fun and games. It could represent the very future of productivity.