Throughout history, technology has “rewired” our brains and changed how we perceive the world. Since the printing press enabled a new world of readers more than 400 years ago, the way we create and deliver content has been constantly evolving.
The reason? Technology. In the past 100 years, communication technologies like the telephone, radio, movies, television, and most importantly, the internet, have become part of our daily lives.
How have these technologies rewired our brains? As we adopt and integrate each one into our lives, we develop a new relational and transformative experience that alters the way we communicate and perceive the world. The telephone made communication instantaneous, making physical distances less burdensome. The radio became the new storyteller, providing a novel way for people to get both information and entertainment. Movies combined sound with moving pictures, opening up a new world of storytelling. And television brought movies, news, and entertainment directly into the home.
The next disruptive communications breakthrough, the internet, has revolutionized the way we interact: We email. We tweet. We Facebook. We Google. We YouTube. We Snapchat. We Instagram. We find companionship. We conduct commerce. We debate. We become our own content producers.
Another consequence of evolving communications technology is a reduced attention span. We scan more, read less, and gravitate to more visual content. As a result, visually based immersive platforms appeal to our desire for “snackable,” easily digested content.
The allure of immersive
With each new technology, our immersive experiences deepen. Merriam-Webster defines immersive as “something that provides, involves, or is characterized by deep absorption or immersion in something.” Radio, telephone, movies, TV, and the internet do just that, albeit in differing degrees.
As content creators, we look to up-and-coming technology that will give us the next most impactful user experience. One of the most recent emerging technologies is virtual reality (VR), which uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. VR puts users “inside” an experience, immersing them in a three-dimensional user experience (UX) where can interact with simulated 3D worlds. It creates an artificial environment that gives the illusion of reality.
VR is more than just gaming
Virtual reality was first embraced by the gaming community but has since expanded into other areas. While cost and other factors may limit widespread consumer accessibility in the shorter term, adoption will continue to increase.
Let’s look at some of the current VR applications that are being developed and deployed:
Virtual 360-degree tours
- Tourism: Entice travelers by taking them on virtual trips down the Amazon, around the Grand Canyon, or through the canals of Venice
- Showrooms: Let customers check out furniture, motorboats, or cars before they buy
- Real estate: Inspect homes, apartments, or office spaces virtually before seeing them in person
- In-home assembly: Learn how to assemble furniture, telescopes, and other items to minimize “build-it-yourself” frustration
- Fix it: Learn how to make repairs and fix appliances at home
- Medical: Observe surgeries and other medical procedures
- Safety: Apply immersive experiences in real-life situations where safety is essential
- First responders, police, and firefighters: Train police and firefighters to handle a variety of dangerous situations
- Movies, TV, amusement parks, and arcades are using VR to offer a more compelling experience that goes beyond 3D glasses
- College and professional sports teams are using VR for training and game analysis
Approaching the promise of VR
VR is a nascent technology, and what companies do with it requires a clear purpose. Start by asking the right questions: Why, what, where, and for whom? Answering these questions can help you identify the areas where VR can best be used.
- Virtual HR tours for recruitment: Let applicants tour campuses, offices, and social gatherings. Show employees at work and at play, and showcase your organization’s diversity and energy.
- Create customer stories: “Walk” customers around facilities, showing employees at work using the Internet of Things, machine learning, cloud-based software, and other technology.
- Field services: Teams can integrate VR applications so that experts can see what technicians in the field are seeing, even if they are half a world apart.
- New ways to understand data: “See” data analysis in innovative ways as they are manipulated in a 3D space.
- Optimize product engineering, design, manufacturing, and operations: Help manufacturers understand how their processes are performing as they spot problems and areas that need improvement.
- Virtual events: Enable customers or employees who can’t attend an event to take part by live-streaming content straight to social feeds. This makes it easier to reach a broader audience in real time.
- Enhance live events and experiences: Use VR for storytelling and customer testimonials. On the showroom floor, demonstrate the newest VR applications. Live concerts can also be enhanced by providing customer attendees with a VR experience.
These scenarios are just the beginning of what’s to come. As we move into the future, one thing is clear: VR will lead the way as it alters the way people engage and consume content of all types. Customers’ ability to connect in more personal ways brings organizations more options than ever to use a future-thinking approach to the intelligent enterprise and beyond.
“10 Ambitious Predictions for How VR/AR Will Shape Our World,” Venture Beat, June 2, 2018.
“5 Trends in Virtual Reality for Events,” Event Manager Blog, June 8, 2018.