People have been speculating about the potential reach and impact of virtual reality for the best part of fifty years – what might it change, how could society develop, how would the way we live our lives be affected? Although the most significant inroads into its use in daily life have been concentrated on the video game industry, there are those who believe that the biggest change will be felt in business.
There are several areas where virtual reality could be incorporated into the daily operations of a business, but the technology is probably several years away from becoming widely available for the market, and new uses might yet be devised for it.
What is probable, though, is that once it is successfully integrated into the workplace, it will be picked up seamlessly by millennial employees who are comfortable and interested in using technological advances in their work and may be more capable of changing the way they work and using this technology to its full potential than, perhaps, their Generation X predecessors might be.
Virtual reality has already been used to an extent in training exercises, because it is an effective way of allowing people to learn to perform tasks without the potential consequences of making a mistake. For instance, pilots use simulators when training, medical students practise procedures using virtual reality and the armed forces use it to simulate combat conditions for recruits.
However, there’s no reason why businesses couldn’t develop their own virtual reality simulations to train new employees or assess their skills prior to hiring them – however, one roadblock might be the fact that the content would need to be customised for each individual company based on their industry and goals.
Another way that virtual reality could become appealing in the office is in the potential use of it to create an immersive way to give presentations or sales pitches. This would require all participants, whether they’re onsite or in their own offices, being able to access the equipment and technology needed to sync themselves for the duration of the presentation.
As a means of providing a full idea of a concept, though, it could be unparalleled and allow stakeholders not in the office to see the idea.
Following on from the idea of certain stakeholders not being in the room for a presentation, virtual reality could be used in a similar way to Skype, but going further and allowing meeting attendees to feel as though they’re actually sitting in the same room and around the same table, even if none of them are actually present.
This will help with basic communication because non-verbal body language and other signifiers can’t be picked up on in a telephone or email conversation. It will also mean that companies no longer have to delay important meetings or decisions because certain members can’t be present, thus improving efficiency and enabling the company to always move forward.
Given the changing strengths of a new generation of employees and the development of faster, more advanced technology, it makes perfect sense for virtual reality to have an impact on the workplace. However, although we can make all the predictions we want, it is difficult to estimate just how much of an impact it will have until we begin using it.