The ways in which Virtual Reality can be applied to the market are many and large technology companies such as Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Sony, HTC and Facebook believe in this technology and have already deepened all the existing opportunities in the professional and corporate field. In this article we will focus specifically on Virtual Reality and the various applications that can be transversely useful to the private sector.
A market destined to grow
Although it is only in recent years that AR / VR have been made somewhat popular, thanks to further progress and to the commercialization of more accessible models, it is in any case technologies already with a few decades of life behind them. The main difference is that while Virtual Reality tries to trick our brains into believing that we are in a different environment, Augmented Reality shows us more information superimposed on the “real” world.
Virtual and augmented reality will grow in the next few years at an exponential rate. A study by the consulting firm ABI Research states that the annual growth rate of VR will be 106% over the next five years, and it is estimated that by 2020, 43 million virtual reality devices will be sold worldwide, many of which intended for commercial use.
Therefore, SMEs are asked to assess whether this technology can, in the meantime, be part of their activity, then go into greater detail with what purpose, with what role and what will it contribute to their final product or service.
We need to know that there are three specific virtual reality simulation devices that today cover almost the entire market: PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and although many other new competitors are expected to enter, these devices have a huge advantage competitive. However, there are also other types of devices that take advantage of the great potential of modern smartphones, which work as adapters and allow users to enjoy a virtual immersive experience.
VR applications for companies and professionals
If we look at the sectors of activity, virtual reality expands across all sectors and will do so with greater strength in the coming years. Sectors such as engineering, healthcare, retail, video games, events, entertainment, and training are just some of the areas with tremendous virtual reality app development capabilities.
VR and marketing
SMEs are looking for new strategies every day to reach new customers or keep current ones. From this point of view, the search for innovative, creative or viral marketing actions is one of the main objectives to achieve, with a budget of a small or medium-sized company, a great diffusion. Fortunately, the information and communication age offers us tools with which we can reach many potential customers with a relatively low investment. In this sense, marketing departments have a great ally if they bet on Virtual Reality. The so-called “digital natives” or “generation Z” today base their purchasing decisions on many more elements than before and one of these is the possibility of living a previous experience with the product, something that will help them decide whether to buy or not.
SMEs and large companies have already started marketing actions that allow to simulate the test of a mobile device, a car or a piece of clothing through virtual reality. Undoubtedly, this strategy is a very important added value for brands and has a very high return on investment.
Other applications of this technology in the commercial field are, for example, the ability to teach or demonstrate products even before they have been produced, through digital showrooms or even by comparing different products in the same place in a virtual way. Sectors such as furniture, ceramics or construction, already make extensive use of the possibilities that this tool can offer.
VR for professional training
As a transversal perspective to all professional sectors, training will certainly be one of the great spaces in which virtual reality will be able to broaden its range of action. SMEs and large companies, have the opportunity to launch training plans for their employees using Virtual Reality devices.
In addition to investing in this technology – which by its nature makes it possible to transmit knowledge and also interact with it – the cost of employee training for companies is considerably reduced. The employee may be trained in heavy or dangerous machinery or know the occupational hazards of certain facilities, without addressing the risks associated with their management during the training period.
For example, NASA has simulated the International Space Station both to train its resources and to carry out its investigations.
VR and digital health
But it is in the field of health that virtual reality probably finds its most exciting application. In fact, there are projects for the creation of operating theater simulators in VR where specialists or interns can intervene and learn as if they were in a real situation.
But not only. The ability to see the inside of the human body in virtual reality is not only useful for doctors but also for patients. VR allows patients to travel virtually within a 360° reconstruction of their anatomy and pathology. The result: better understanding of the treatment and consequent greater patient satisfaction.
The unique ability of VR to transport you somewhere else can be used to create powerful simulations of scenarios where psychological difficulties occur. For example, a therapist can help his patient overcome some phobias by recreating a crowded shopping mall, a wide open terrace on the 100th floor of a building or situations that are impractical or impossible to recreate – flying, for example – can be summoned with a mouse click.
VR has also been used to curb memory loss, to gather data for dementia research, or simply to minimize the anxiety or pain of venous withdrawal in children.
The therapeutic capabilities of Virtual Reality are not limited, however, only to psychological problems, but have also proven to work for the management of pain and physical treatment. A study by the University of Washington in Seattle and the UW Harborview Burn Center showed that full immersion in VR for those undergoing physical therapy after a skin transplantation acted as a distraction and subsequently reduced levels of pain for patients. VR for physical therapy has also been shown to be effective in accelerating recovery times, allowing the patient to perform daily exercises in a virtual environment and to maintain high morale during a long period of rehabilitation.
An internal project to prevent anxiety and promote mindfulness
Airbag Studio is collaborating with the University School of Architecture and Design (Saad Unicam) in the development of a thesis project aimed at preventing anxiety disorders and promoting mindfulness, i.e. the transition from a state of suffering to a subjective perception of well-being, thanks to the profound knowledge of one’s own mental states.
The project aims to investigate the potential of virtual reality, starting from the concepts of “presence” and “isolation” – widely analyzed by the international scientific community – to better understand the mechanisms of a patient’s cognitive and emotional processes during the generation phases of the imaginal thinking, in particular stressful condition. However, the main goal remains to facilitate the acceptance and practice of relaxation techniques, certainly not to replace a therapy suggested by the doctor.
The App of the project welcomes the user in an environment where he can start a training to learn proper breathing, keep track of stress episodes and also a section dedicated to self-assessment of the panic attack, an exercise that promotes ‘objectivity of judgment of one’s own mental states.
In conclusion, we believe that this sector requires companies to adapt quickly to this technology, which will mean a profound change both within companies (in the way marketing and sales processes are organized) but also bringing new opportunities for business before unthinkable.