Virtual Reality in the Workplace

Exploring Virtual Reality in the Workplace.

Growth of Virtual Reality in the Workplace

According to the Goldman Sachs Research Group, virtual reality and augmented reality is the next big thing in personal computing, communications, and technology in general. They believe that this rapidly-growing market is the next-generation computing platform, and project that it will be worth $80 billion by 2025—an unbelievable figure when you consider that the desktop PC market is worth approximately the same amount.

Virtual and augmented reality technology has been under development for over a decade, and finally, the tech is starting to catch up to what previously had only been imagined, showing that this technology is set to revolutionise the tech just as significantly as any previous computing innovation has done.

Where is VR being Used?

Companies at the forefront of this technological breakthrough—both in terms of development and of end-use—are using virtual reality and augmented reality in some surprising ways, with the focus typically being on improving worker skills and services, and improving the customer experience.

One company that is putting VR technology to good use is pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which is using the tech in a wide range of ways to benefit the company and its customers. For instance:

  • GSK India trialled the use of VR in sales training sessions, using VR headsets to train users by casting them as players in 3D “games” with unique storylines, in which the users themselves played a role.
  • The company built the world’s first “migraine simulator”, to help non-sufferers understand what it feels like to have a migraine.
  • In its “Shopper Science Lab” GSK is using VR to study shopping habits and how they’re influenced by product placement inside supermarkets.
  • Lloyds Register is using VR in its health and safety training, having created a health and safety simulator 

The potential uses for VR in health and medicine are immense. Already, the use of VR technology is being pioneered to help train surgeons, preparing them to perform surgery on real people, and making those training surgeries much safer.

VR has the potential for use in a wide range of industries, as well as in the public sector. For instance, the use of VR in real estate could allow home-buyers to tour potential properties without having to travel anywhere—potentially viewing dozens of properties in a single day, making it much easier and faster to make home-buying decisions.

And in schools, virtual reality could allow children to visit countries abroad, learning about other countries and cultures in living colour, without the expense of travel.

Barriers to Introducing VR

VR could have a highly positive impact on the workplace, but still, there are two main barriers to widespread implementation of this kind of technology.

Barrier to Introducing VR – # 1 Cost

The expense of this new technology is a significant barrier off course. Currently only a few organisations can even afford to use it on a consistent basis. Small and medium sized businesses can employ VR to great effect at trade shows and exhibitions, using this high-tech method of showcasing products to generate some buzz around their brand. However, few if any businesses of this size can afford to integrate VR into the workplace. Of course, like any technology, the price will come down over the next few years, as economies of scale make VR and AR devices more affordable. Eventually more companies—as well as consumers themselves—will be able to start taking advantage of VR on a more regular basis.

Barrier to Introducing VR – # 2 Perception

Another possible barrier to implementing VR is simply that the perception of how useful this technology could be is highly variable.

According to one study, around two-thirds of workers are open to using virtual or augmented reality in the workplace, and that figure climbs to 77% for millennial workers. In many industries the advantages of using this kind of tech are potentially immense. Of course, in some industries it may take a considerable amount of imagination to envisage a use for this kind of technology, but there’s no doubt that VR could revolutionise the workplace.

Not everyone sees it this way, however. For instance, only 35% of baby boomer professionals believe that VR could increase workplace productivity, compared to 52% of millennials.

When it comes to VR, for some people the proof of the pudding might be in the eating; for others the existence of the pudding is all the proof they need. So, as with most new technologies, it’ll be left to the early adopters to prove to everyone else just what VR can do.

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