Virtual reality (VR) is transforming how organizations operate. Once considered a niche technology for gaming and entertainment, VR is now delivering real business value across industries. Companies are using VR to train employees, collaborate remotely, visualize data, and more. In this article, we'll explore the top virtual reality applications for business and provide examples of organizations seeing results.
VR utilizes specialized headsets and software to generate realistic 3D environments and simulations. By immersing users in a digital world, VR creates unique experiences that wouldn't be possible otherwise. For businesses, the benefits of VR include:
- Enhanced training and skills development - VR allows employees to practice skills and procedures in an immersive, risk-free environment. Training time and costs can be reduced significantly.
- Improved remote collaboration - VR can make online meetings and workshops feel more natural and engaging, with remote colleagues represented as avatars in a virtual space.
- Advanced data visualization - Complex datasets can be brought to life in innovative ways using VR, revealing insights that are hard to see in traditional 2D data visualizations.
- Increased customer engagement - VR is a novel way for brands to connect with consumers in an interactive, memorable fashion at public events and retail spaces.
- Safer operations - VR simulations help identify hazards and problems prior to introducing new processes and technology in the real world.
As VR technology improves and becomes more affordable, adoption is accelerating across sectors like engineering, healthcare, architecture, manufacturing, marketing, and beyond. Let's look at some specific business applications of virtual reality and how pioneering companies are using it today.
Training Employees with VR
Training is perhaps the most common business use case for virtual reality today. By simulating risky or expensive scenarios, VR allows employees to practice critical skills without real-world consequences. The immersive format also boosts knowledge retention compared to classroom or e-learning.
Walmart, the world's largest private employer, has deployed VR training across 200 centers and trained over 1 million employees. In modules ranging from compliance to customer service, VR creates real-life situations like frantic holiday shoppers or spills in aisle 6 so associates can prepare for any challenge.
UPS is using VR to train newly hired drivers on inspecting vehicles, navigating routes, and more. Simulating road situations from the driver's perspective builds skills and confidence before beginners get behind the wheel. The logistics giant estimates VR training cuts costs by $1,000 per driver while accelerating training time.
At Farmers Insurance, VR simulations allow claims adjusters to investigate fender benders and home damage in a virtual environment. Adjuster trainees learn from hands-on experience in a safe, repeatable setting. Farmers reports VR training improves productivity and accelerates adjusters' speed to proficiency by up to 50%.
Collaborating Remotely in VR
Virtual reality is also changing how teams collaborate when working remotely. VR workplace tools create shared virtual office spaces where remote participants are represented as avatars or 3D video feeds. This level of immersion and presence fosters better engagement than traditional video conferencing.
Automaker Ford has been an early adopter of VR for collaboration using a solution called Gravity Sketch. Designers across multiple locations can come together in a virtual space to draw, share, and modify 3D vehicle prototypes in real-time. This enables more creative sessions with less need to travel or ship physical prototypes.
Startup TechViz also offers a VR collaboration platform combining 3D design data, avatars, spatial audio, and hand tracking for natural interactions. Engineering teams at Airbus, Netflix, and Sanofi use TechViz to review 3D CAD models together, brainstorm in virtual whiteboarding, and gesture or annotate on holograms.
For team-building activities, California-based Galvanize uses VR for things like multiplayer puzzles and games. Their VRcorporate events strengthen relationships between remote staff in a fun, memorable way. Participants report feeling more connected with their coworkers afterwards.
Visualizing Insights in VR
Virtual reality provides a unique medium for viewing and interacting with large, complex datasets. VR data visualization lets users explore information spatially, revealing hidden patterns and relationships.
At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epidemiologists analyze COVID data in VR to see relationships between infection rates, human behavior, and environmental factors. The immersive experience provides deeper understanding compared to conventional charts and maps.
Architectural and engineering firm Gensler creates VR models of construction sites to help managers visualize progress and identify issues. Walking through the life-size model in VR enables an immediate understanding of build status that would otherwise require piecing together multiple 2D drawings and plans.
For financial data, NASDAQ offers a VR workspace that portrays stocks, markets, and algos as spatial elements like constellations. Analysts can examine trading information from new angles to gain actionable insights.
Engaging Consumers with VR
Many brands use virtual reality as part of experiential marketing campaigns to wow consumers. Interactive VR experiences at public events, trade shows, and retail stores attract attention and bring products to life.
Automakers like Audi, Volvo, and BMW have created VR test drives allowing customers to get behind the wheel of new car models without leaving the dealership. Riders experience realistic driving simulations, road conditions, and performance metrics which inform purchase decisions.
Tourism boards create VR tours to inspire travelers to visit sights and attractions. Museums like The British Museum and Smithsonian also offer VR expeditions into their galleries for remote visitors. Brands including Disney, Marriott, and Stella Artois have produced VR movies and adventures to capture consumer mindshare.
Pepsi built an interactive VR supermarket display where shoppers could play augmented reality soccer with Lionel Messi. Visa and Toys ‘R’ Us have also created memorable VR shopping experiences. Brands report VR attracts media coverage and social sharing that amplifies marketing spend.
Optimizing Operations with VR
For improving safety and streamlining processes, companies use VR to simulate workflow scenarios and rapidly prototype designs. Walking through simulations helps managers reduce risks and identify optimizations before implementing changes.
Oil and gas producers use VR simulations of rigs and platforms to spot hazards and minimize danger for workers before operations commence. Energy giant BP reports VR safety reviews have prevented multiple potential accidents.
Logistics providers like DHL can test warehouse layouts in VR to identify bottlenecks. VR prototyping finds the optimal facility design and storage locations to maximize throughput. DHL can also model parcel sorting and robotic automation processes virtually before deployment.
Hospitals have built full-scale VR operating rooms to give surgeons practice space for new techniques. Surgeons can perfect new approaches by repeating challenging procedures in an immersive environment prior to the OR.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Examples across industries show virtual reality delivers significant business value today. As the technology advances and adoption increases, VR applications will continue growing. While the upfront investment can be significant, benefits like accelerated training, optimized designs, and increased consumer engagement often outweigh the costs.
For many organizations, VR is transitioning from an intriguing experiment to an essential tool for portions of the business. However, success requires executive buy-in along with a clear use case and implementation plan. Those new to VR should identify a pilot project addressing a pain point, then scale from there once value is proven.To discuss virtual reality applications for your business, contact the experts at DevPals for a consultation. Our team stays on top of the latest VR advances and best practices to create maximum impact. Reach out today to get started.