Virtual reality is still known as a futuristic technology involving holograms and other formerly fanciful notions. But those technologies are not only already available – they’re disrupting the way we perform everyday tasks like meetings and interviews.
The truth is that VR encompasses more than many of us realize, and it offers us the opportunity to safely explore worlds – both real and imagined – that we couldn’t before.
What does this mean for you? Keep reading to learn how virtual reality will change your life.
The Basic Building Blocks of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is a simulation of a real experience generated by a computer. These simulations aren’t just high-tech films: they’re designed to be fully immersive. A VR experience allows you to go deep sea diving or jump out of a plane without leaving your living room.
Most virtual reality experiences take place through a head-mounted display and headphones. The display blocks out all outside light while the headphones block out sound so that you can fully forget where you are.
There are four key elements of a VR experience – these elements separate it from other entertainment.
- Virtual worlds
- Full immersion
The virtual world is not a film but a three-dimensional environment that programs the user into it. Once inside, you’ll be able to interact with other characters or players as well as the world itself. These worlds are simulations, but the code attempts to mimic what you’d experience if you were in that environment in the real world.
Full immersion is another key element. A virtual world isn’t believable if you can see your living room through your peripheral vision. The headsets are an important part of achieving this because they block out light and surround your eye line so that your central, side and peripheral vision are immersed in the world.
But full immersion goes further than sight. It requires you to not only think you’re in another world but to feel you are as well. You shouldn’t have any doubts about the perception that you’re moving around a non-physical world.
To achieve this, designers need to focus on two types of immersion: mental and physical immersion.
Mental immersion evokes a deep mental state of engagement that doesn’t give you the space to question where you are. You know objectively that you exist in our world, but what matters when you wear the headset is the virtual world created for you.
Physical immersion allows you to engage with the environment. Mental immersion can be achieved somewhat by films. When a plotline grips you, you forget you’re not in the movie: it’s why you feel scared or anxious or sad for the characters. But it doesn’t allow for full immersion. By focusing on physical immersion and forcing the user to engage with the environment through their physical movements, designers better encourage the suspension of disbelief.
Interactivity ties into physical immersion. By interactivity, we don’t just mean the use of joysticks or controllers to manipulate the world: the virtual responds back to your actions in a way that mimics the real world. By issuing a series of responses, you’re able to engage in the world fully. It benefits the process of full immersion and allows for things like virtual reality games.
Haptics is sensory feedback involving touch. The feedback is a form of communication that takes place by allowing you to feel what’s happening.
The communication technique isn’t exclusive to VR – it’s already used in plenty of devices. For example, you can turn on a vibrating keyboard function on your touchscreen phone to give you feedback every time you hit a key.
Other examples include vibrations emitted by a controller when you drive over rumble strips in a driving video game.
It imitates what you’d feel if you were really in the car.
Ultimately, haptics provides a way to control and interact with the computer that makes the interaction feel more real for the users.
What Does Virtual Reality Mean for Me?
So much of the discussion of virtual reality focuses exclusively on the ‘fun’ bits of the technology, like video games, rather than on the benefits of virtual reality.
One of the most interesting benefits of the technology will be for businesses where VR could take over several integral divisions of companies. It can be used for sales, training, recruitment, or generally throughout the office.
Do you work in one of these sectors? Here’s how your job could become easier (and even more fun):
Virtual reality can transform sales and make closing deals significantly easier, particularly when selling experiential products.
The British travel agency Thomas Cook is the perfect example of how VR explode your closing rate.
Thomas Cook uses VR stations in one of its largest stores to allow customers to get a taste of the experience they’re interested in. One product – a helicopter tour of New York City – is available in a small taster VR experience. Since installing the product, the store saw a 190% increase in revenue for real helicopter tours in Manhattan.
Because once customers have a more tangible experience of a product, they’re more likely to want more – and they’ll pay for it.
Virtual reality training has the potential to completely change the field by making training more effective, safer, and cheaper all at the same time.
Nowhere is VR a bigger player in training than in medicine. Medical schools use simulators and robotic surgeries as a way to teaching surgeons in safe, efficient ways while minimizing risk. New surgeons can practice techniques to become masters before they even step foot in the OR. What’s more, new techniques can be developed with minimal risk and fully-assessed before moving onto patient trials.
The benefits enjoyed by the medical community aren’t exclusive to high-risk operations. Anyone can enjoy the opportunities afforded by virtual reality training. These benefits include:
- Safe scenarios
- Controlled areas
- Offers remote training for cost savings
- Minimizes/removes risk
- Offers realistic scenario
- Simplifies difficult scenarios
- Available for various learning styles
- Improves results with increased recall and retention
Fun doesn’t seem like an important benefit but finding training that people enjoy is half the battle to keeping your workforce’s skills up-to-date. If the training is fun and innovative, workers learn more and are more likely to be willing to sign up for more training.
Plus, with the cost savings and remote options, you’ll be able to facilitate that training.
It’s a win-win-win.
Recruiting costs vary by position, industry, and region. But one thing remains true: it costs serious cash to hire a new employee.
That means you better find the right person or else be stuck with the bill a second time within a short period.
Virtual reality is also changing recruitment by offering ways to improve the process. Gone are the days of endless interviews and the same Taleo application process provided over and over again. In fact, it works out both for recruiters and job seekers by providing unique insights that were impossible before.
One way VR is changing recruitment is through gamification. If the position is skills-based, a VR scenario gives candidates the chance to show off their skills in a realistic scenario without even bringing them into the office. The British automobile manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover created an app to screen applicants’ knowledge on electric cars. If they pass, they’re sent into a code-breaking game to challenge software skills.
High scores move to the front of the queue, and both applicants and recruiters have a better idea of what to look forward to in an interview.
VR also offers the opportunity to show candidates around remotely. Show them their work area, your office, or even sell your neighborhood using VR. It’s a way to attract desirable candidates who aren’t sure about relocating.
L’Oreal & VR Recruitment
Think VR recruiting is still a world away? Think again.
Every year, L’Oreal UK & Ireland receives 18,000 applications for its graduate assessment scheme. With literally tens of thousands of identical CVs to screen, the company spends a lot of money on hiring temporary graduate workers.
The VR experience looks at several points not available from candidates’ resumes including:
- Decision-making skills
- Character qualities
- Propensity for risk-taking
- Reaction to L’Oreal culture through virtual meetings
L’Oreal won’t just save money on screening candidates – they’ll make sure they choose the best fit the first time.
Other Professional Uses
How often do you attend meetings that could have been an email? VR could reduce that number significantly – kind of.
Virtual reality video conferencing could replace those video conference calls that no one hates, but everyone puts up with anyway.
VR conferences could allow you to participate in meetings wherever you are while also enjoying enhanced access to the tools you need at the same time. Need some stats but aren’t at your desk? They’re ready and waiting for your in your meeting world.
How Will VR Change Your World?
Virtual reality is set to change the way we work and play – and the applications are endless.
From robotic surgeries to recruitment tests to thrill-seeking video games, there are so many ways that virtual reality can bring us closer to our tasks with less risk and expense.
Have you seen VR change one of your functions at home or work? Share your stories in the comments below.