Virtual and augmented reality are set to disrupt the digital workplace. It will not happen immediately, but it's expected to happen in the medium-term, with many observers suggesting it will take between three and five years before the full impact is felt. That said, a number of industries are already starting to use the technology to enhance productivity and make better use of content.
Proponents predict VR meetings will replace video conferencing in the near future for cutting edge firms with remote staff. Some companies with a high dependency on remote staff are already using video as the key driver to scale their report operations. Virtual reality will take that a step further. Instead of looking at people on a screen, users will be able to "sit" at the table with office-based employees using VR.
However, we are still in the early stages of software development and best practices are still being developed. One tip Heide Abelli, SVP of content product management for Nashua, NH.-based Skillsoft previously shared with CMSWire was the importance of creating high quality content made specifically for VR and AR. The entertainment industry is having the most success with this, specifically in the video game sector.
Quality VR training content has been developed for industry sectors such as retail, real estate, the military and healthcare, and in most cases, it focuses on highly specific use cases. Here are six of those areas.
1. Human-Machine Interfaces
Rather than replacing humans with machines, augmented reality provides a new way to enhance how machines and humans work together. Augmented reality can improve design speeds and reduce the amount of time it takes for a product to get to market by erasing the need for a physical prototype.
It also improves safety and compliance efforts. For example, it can be used with headsets, or to enhance phones or tablets. It can equip employees with advanced features like X-ray vision, heat-sensing abilities, and faster access to experts, according to Adnan Raja, vice president for marketing at Orlando, Fla.-based Atlantic.Net, a web hosting solution.
“A perfect example of how to use augmented reality comes from nurses who use it to locate veins faster and more effectively,” he said. He cites the example of AccuVein's augmented reality tool, which allows nurses or doctors to use a handheld device, which scans the patient's body and makes the vein visible. This greatly improves accuracy and decreases the likelihood of having to stick a patient multiple times.
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2. Improved Communications
Nigel Davies is founder and CEO of Brighton, England-based digital workplace development specialist Claromentis. He said the real impact of VR and AR technology is how it solves one of the greatest drawbacks of a digital workplace: presence.
“Messaging is fine but it lacks the real connection you can get from speaking to someone in person. Virtual reality can give genuine presence to remote workers by giving them physical representation in meetings with their peers,” he said. “VR and AR are known to create immersive experiences that can beat any video call. It can be the final piece of the puzzle to create a truly digital workplace with happy and engaged employees.”
3. Safety Training
VR has even gained ground on the factory floor, according to Tom Wilkerson, founder of online and VR forklift training firm CertifyMe.net. He said VR makes it possible to offer hands-on experience without any risk to worker's safety or equipment, which leads to savings in time and money spent on in-person education, repairs, insurance claims and liabilities. “While VR may seem like a costly initial expense, it can help you grow your business and reduce unwanted costs down the road,” he said.
Unlike conventional training, VR offers an active experience that allows the user to manipulate the environment in front of them and perform certain activities. When learning a new task involves too much risk, such as in equipment operation, VR can provide the hands-on training students need minus the inherent dangers.
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4. 3-D Design
Overland Partners, an architecture firm based in San Antonio, is now using AR and VR on a daily basis as part of their design process. According to a statement from the company, designers can create very quick models and view them in VR to understand the scale of a space and make early changes. “We can take our very detailed model that we use to create working drawings, view it immediately in VR allowing us to review material changes, how sunlight moves through the space, and the overall feel of a space,” the statement explained.
Design reviews now frequently take place in VR, with the lead designer in the VR headset and the rest of the team watching what they are viewing on the monitor. They are able to be in the virtual space while reviewing what is in the working drawings.
5. Enhanced Manufacturing
Splunk chief technology officer, Tim Tully, said gaming has been the most popular area for mainstream AR and VR experiences to date, but this is going to change fast. IoT, manufacturing and supply chain management are logical areas for AR to impact both the user experience and the outcomes immediately. A warehouse floor manager or mechanical technician can scan a QR code or NFC tag that plugs them into health-monitoring dashboards and overlays real-time gauges on-top of real world objects. Technicians can work off real-time health and performance statistics ensuring optimum functionality and efficiency while minimizing machine downtime.
“This approach is happening today — the University of Connecticut uses AR within its aquaponics lab, where plants and stations are labeled with QR codes,” he said.
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6. Virtual Travel
For Taylor Short, a senior content analyst with Austin, Texas-based Software Advice, VR is only starting its life. He said VR is making its way into the mainstream. The world’s largest electronics companies are pushing VR as a must-have capability on your iPhone, desktop computer or PlayStation 4. When everyone has an affordable and powerful VR headset in five years, brands will follow the consumers.
He cites hospitality companies as an example. Hotels have a great opportunity to show off guest rooms, lobbies or outdoor amenities with VR. Marriott was one of the first to use VR headsets to transport brides to the London streets or a breezy Hawaiian beach honeymoon, to encourage bookings so they can experience the real thing.
Augmented reality has already seen phenomenal (though short-lived) success in Pokémon Go. The game encouraged players to get outdoors and capture monsters that were overlaid on the real world when viewed through a smartphone camera, hit peak popularity during the summer of 2016.
Several hotels launched campaigns to drive Pokémon hunters to their properties, which helped increase sales of food and drinks, as well as direct bookings. AR could also be used in hotel apps to offer an enhanced view of the property by highlighting the spa or bar or local attractions as the guest explores the area.
Adoption of both AR and VR capabilities or devices is growing. And as adoption grows, we can be sure to see more industries and verticals explore how to use this technology to deliver the best experiences to their customers and their employees.