June 14, 2016
For the very first time since their launch, VR headset sales are trickling in – and the figures are even more mind-blowing than expected. HTC Vive’s Shen Ye tweeted that 15,000 devices were sold in under 10 minutes; in India this month, a reported 30,000 Loop Virtual Reality headsets were sold by smartphone manufacturer OnePlus in a record-breaking 5 seconds. Figures for the rockstar of virtual reality headsets, Oculus Rift, are much more under wraps, but research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that this year alone sales of VR will generate up to $895 million worldwide.
Since the likes of HTC, Samsung and Alphabet with Google Cardboard have been able to offer the public affordable and mass-produced VR products, the hype has not abated and with good reason: this is the first launch of game-changing digital technology for mass consumption since the smartphone. So after much tinkering and testing, VR is finally here – and not only for “the people”. Businesses, institutions and services are all active markets for VR to be enjoyed in. Here are 4 ways in which significant changes are already afoot.
A New Chance for Remote Working
Almost every video game company on the planet has already laid claim to a couple headsets to explore the game playing possibilities for future titles – not to mention spawning a whole generation of VR startups. But what about businesses that have little to no experience with VR?
The virtual world is actually enjoying an increasing presence in ordinary offices across the globe, heralding a major shift in the ways that employees do their jobs and interact with co-workers. Although a recent Forbes study indicates that an overwhelmingly 84 percent of businesses still opt for face-to-face interaction over virtual communication, the “good virtual reality” provided by VR is officially giving remote working another chance.
Tech writer Christopher Mims of WSJ explained: “I have experienced the future of remote working, and it feels a lot like teleportation. [Thanks to VR] I was there – where collaboration needed to happen.”
Brand-New Consumer Experiences
A feeling of the new potential brought by VR was confirmed by analyst Rob Enderele when he declared that “placing people in virtual environments that are familiar, friendly, and safe could get them to a level of engagement that is far beyond what is possible now.” It hasn’t taken big brands very long to jump on the bandwagon – in May this year, eBay launched a virtual department store in Australia where customers can select items simply by staring at them and deal-finding service. The magnetism of VR shopping doesn’t look to be a fad – it is being viewed by businesses as an entirely new platform of potential to build brand awareness, consumer loyalty and offer the most immersive commercial experiences yet.
Developments in Education and Medicine
Business and entertainment aside, the medical field is proving to be just as receptive to VR’s benefits, particularly in the new training opportunities on offer. The pedagogical efficiency offered by surgical VR simulators has been demonstrated in various studies, including in one randomized trial with 16 trainee surgeons who had received VR training for a laparoscopic procedure: they were faster, made fewer errors and showed better economy of motion compared with those who had not received such training.
VR is giving the profession more opportunity than ever before – in April, the world watched the first intensive surgical procedure streamed live in virtual reality and the ability to don a headset to connect with others in a virtual world is not only proving a successful means of psychotherapy in allowing patients to deal with anxiety by revisiting virtually reconstructed traumas from their past, but an extremely practical means of offering help and advice to patients in hard-to-reach areas of the world.
It truly seems like the instincts of the digital giants were right: the heavy investment in creating mass-accessible virtual technology has captured the imagination of millions and inflamed digital forums across the world. Far from being the clanky, unwieldy box hats of the past, VR headsets are now sexy, streamlined and above all, cheap. They are slipping in effortlessly to an increasingly automated and interconnected world, and are literally transforming the way we live our daily lives, plugging us into a fresh and magnetizing dimension of experience.
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