Everyone seems to be writing about virtual reality these days and I am glad for it. However, some articles do more justice to VR than others. I recently read this article on Forbes: The One Reason Why Many Millennials Would Use Virtual Reality Products At Work. The article leads in with the wish for “smart offices” (like smart cities, smart cars, and everything else “smart”), runs down a few stats on why Millennials are dissatisfied with old school technology at work (who wouldn’t be?), and jumps into a few ways virtual reality increases productivity. While I agree that virtual reality can increase productivity, I doubt it’s a big enough problem for companies to invest in a whole new technology. I think the author would have done better to focus on the business value of VR and not what a random selection of Millennials think.
CEOs already know their companies are in the midst of the digital age. They are looking ahead to what technology to use from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity. They are doing this not because Millennials think it’s is cool, but because ignoring that tech and the people who understand it poses a threat to the success of the company. Millennials may “see the value of VR at work” but companies are already implementing these digital strategies and developing their employee’s skills.
Virtual reality is one more digital tool that CEOs may use to keep the technological edge. Here are three ways VR provides business value to the enterprise.
The Real Business Value of VR
VR enables digital transformation
Virtual reality provides business value to companies because it enables digital transformation. Digital transformation is the concept of using technology in organizational change processes within the business. These change processes are put into effect with an emphasis on creativity, competition, and interaction with customers.
I have been working in the VR industry since 2016. In that time, I have seen it move past the “wow factor”. It is at a point where VCs are investing in virtual reality companies that provide a product or service, not just for the technology itself. Companies recognize virtual reality as a transformational technology. They are starting to apply it in a variety of areas in the organization.
For instance, companies like Ford and Nissan use VR in prototyping and testing new cars. Using virtual reality, engineers, designers, and researchers can evaluate a car from the material used to craftsmanship and ergonomics before a prototype is ever built. Ford built an immersive vehicle environment lab (FIVE) which has “improved production timing and reduced costings” because Ford designers and engineers are able to work together on a vehicle from different locations around the world. Because of the benefits of working in virtual reality first, “the use of FIVE has doubled every year since 2013.”
VR and continuous learning
In human resources, virtual reality provides a whole new world for corporate training and continuous learning. Combining artificial intelligence in the virtual world, employees can make their way through a variety of simulations they may encounter in the real world with data and analytics to report on how they do in each situation.
According to the 2018 Annual Global CEO Survey, CEOs are hiring talent with “broadly relevant digital skills and collaborative, creative, and efficient work styles.” They want to ensure continuous learning for all of their employees, not just those of a particular generation. Using virtual reality for training reduces employee churn and provides a variety of development paths for employees to add skills.
VR replaces outdated telepresence technology
On the service side, businesses are looking at VR to replace outdated telepresence technologies. VR reduces the number of people required to travel to a site because it can simulate any environment, from the office to the field. Let’s say you want to see how a mine is reacting to real-life forces. Humans can safely stand in the virtual mine while it reacts in the same way via sensors in real-life. The data captured can then be used to recreate the events virtually for training purposes. A real-life example of this is MineLife VR from LlamaZOO. They create mining sites in virtual reality to bring the on the ground experience to non-technical stakeholders, creating a flat communication structure across organizational silos.
For many companies, virtual reality is becoming a critical component to their digital transformation. Virtual reality’s ability to simulate different environments, provide “real world” experiences, in-person communication, and backend analytics make it a core competency for companies to improve communication, market expertise, customer service, and product quality.