The cover story of the August, 2015 cover of TIME headlined ‘The Surprising Joy of Virtual Reality… And why it’s about to change the world.’ The Twitterverse response was not kind, spawning a genre of memes that included flying pizzas and the occasional T-Rex.
Fast-forward to 2017, and stripping back the hype, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to real-world, functional applications of virtual reality. With VR positioned to be a $120 billion dollar industry by 2020, let’s have a look at what has emerged in the last 24 months as applications to deliver true and significant value across organisations.
- Sustained Behaviour Change – With over 5000 American pedestrians dying each year and another 200,000 being treated annually in emergency departments following a pedestrian injury, distracted behaviour by pedestrians has been called out as a key factor in contributing to the deaths and injuries. Research undertaken in 2016 exposed students at the University of Alabama to a virtual reality experience highlighting the need for situational awareness to ensure safety on the streets. When exposed to the virtual reality experience, 83% stated ‘yes’ when asked if participating in the VR environment made them think more carefully about crossing the street. In follow up over 2 weeks and 5 months, 87% responded ‘yes’ to the same question, along with 65% stating that they have changed their behaviour since participating in the VR environment.
- Training and Education with Scale – Over 13,000 surgical students in over 100 countries participated in a live stream of a tumour removal by a British oncology surgeon. With VR cameras strategically placed, he can now allow trainee physicians to position themselves anywhere and view the operation from all angles. Dr. Ahmed’s next move? Through haptics, have participants experience the tactile sensation with a VR glove.
- 3D Smart Data – Mechdyne, a US based technology firm, translates data into a 3D form that viewers that interact with, see trends, and, most critically, unanticipated relationships within the data. These accelerate opportunities to drive efficiencies, improve and strengthen customer relationships, and quickly improve processes based on new insights from these newly uncovered interrelationships of data.
- Scene of the Crime – Still in its early stages of development, the team at the University of Zurich successfully used VR to recreate a shooting, which was endorsed by police officers as being accurate. With jurors being asked to deliver a verdict on the innocence or guilt of the accused, can you imagine a crime scene that can be viewed from the perspective of the perpetrator, the victim, witnesses, or even close-up or from 3 metres above the scene? Or even being able to move people and objects in slow motion, pause, stop or rewind to get an accurate perspective of the event?
- See Yourself to Save – Retirement and superannuation is a distant reality for many young Australians. In fact, the majority of young Australians have absolutely no idea how much money they have in their super, and it could cost them big in the long term. In a study undertaken by Stanford, they were able to replicate an aging, future self for 20-somethings. They observed that a deep, visceral connection was created with the future self in virtual reality. As a result, they reported that those who had seen themselves in the virtual mirror put twice as much into a savings account as those who had not had the virtual experience.
With virtual reality still in its infancy, emerging use cases are delivering real value across organisations. It’s time to move VR from just a gimmick, and begin to truly unlock the game-changing applications.