With the main focus of the current wave of Virtual Reality being games and entertainment, it’s easy to forget that VR was originally created for more practical reasons. After surveying over 2,000 startups all around the world, we at the Venture Reality Fund are seeing that many startups are not only exploring serious uses for VR but already are making a huge impact on businesses. With the upcoming release of Microsoft’s low cost and high quality Windows Holographic VR HMDs, we thought it was a good time to take a closer look at VR for work. We looked at the variety of use cases and isolated 6 major categories where VR makes a fundamental improvement over non-VR:
3D is being used for everything from designing cars to saving lives. It makes sense that 3D objects are meant to be seen in true 3D and not in 2D, and with a 6 DOF tracked HMD we finally have the first true 3D display. The FORD F.I.V.E. lab uses VR to speed up their design process, testing digital CAD designs virtually and resolving issues long before a physical prototype. Also, being able to collaborate in a shared virtual environment and apply simulations really speeds up testing and design iteration. Companies like Insite VR and Iris VR are proving how useful 3D visualization can be in architecture as well.
In the case of medical surgery, the 3D images on the 2D screen didn’t give enough detail but by viewing in VR the surgeon was able to develop an operating plan and perform a successful procedure on what was previously thought inoperable.
If 3D visualization works so well for discreet objects, what about for more abstract information? Data scientists have been using 3D graphs to better understand complex data sets for a while, but when filtered through a 2D screen, again, much of the data gets lost. Typically, they are only able to compare up to 5 dimensions of data at a time. Virtualitics has found that in working with complex data in VR, users can interpret the data across 10 dimensions intuitively and collaboratively. This not only speeds up the discovery of insights, but also allows for new insights which might have been previously undiscovered. Using VR also makes it easier to communicate insights to non-data scientists, allowing data science to be more approachable for everyone.
Simulation for Training – Hard Skills
The biggest use of VR originally was to train fighter pilots since using VR simulations was just was effective as actual flight time but was safer, more convenient, and far more cost-effective. In the same way, for industries with similar constraints and demands for technical or hard skills, training VR is taking off. Experiential learning in VR is proven to be more effective in speed of learning and retention. Workers are more likely to participate and complete training in VR and the trainer gets more complete performance analytics and skills assessment when using VR. Some of the top companies in this space are Serious Labs doing industrial VR training for heavy machinery, Osso VR for orthopedic surgery, and Strivr for sports training.
Simulation for Training – Soft Skills
Lately, there has been a focus on soft skills such as people skills, socials skills, and communication skills and how they are just as important for success as hard skills. And just like for hard skills training, VR simulation has proven to be more immersive and impactful, leading to real results. Variable Labs has been working with some of the largest corporations for employee compliance training and development in VR. Mursion worked with Best Western and showed that their virtual avatar-based customer service training outperformed traditional methods and significantly increased customer satisfaction scores at sites trained using their system.
A common theme across the other use cases is how VR enables digital collaboration in new and intuitive ways. The tools we currently use like Skype or advanced teleconference systems are great for communication but fall short when it comes to collaboration. This is where the shared presence of social VR really shines and allows people to not only look at 3D objects or data, but cooperatively manipulate it as well. There currently isn’t a leader in enterprise collaboration in VR, but there are many startups eyeing the throne.
Currently, there are very few 3D artists and designers because creating 3D models with a 2D display and 2D interface is very complex and unintuitive. With VR HMDs we finally have the perfect 3D display, and with the 1:1 tracked gesture controllers like the Vive controllers or the Oculus touch controllers, we finally have the perfect 3D interface as well. Applications like Google Tilt Brush, Oculus Medium and Quill are opening up 3D art to a whole new audience while startups like Mindshow and Limitless are doing the same for 3D animation. Very soon people will be designing in 3D just as desktop computers have all of us designing in 2D.
Just the beginning but already a great start
VR is already transforming the way we work. It provides increased efficiency and productivity for a variety of use cases and addresses problems in new and novel ways. It not only makes certain type of work more accessible, but can also enable new types of work as well. We are only at the beginning and we can’t wait to see where we go from here.
– Tipatat Chennavasin, General Partner, The VR Fund