6 amazing uses for virtual reality in business

VR is the big hit of 2015 so far. Samsung, HTC, and Google are in the game. Here's how it could work in the business world.

012915 samsung gear vr virtual reality
Credit: Qantas

What if virtual reality is actually becoming a reality in 2015?

Apart from the fact that VR seems to be one of those buzzwords that has existed since the 90s, the technology has finally caught up to the times. Devices like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard make VR work without the typical sense of nausea.

The content is still under development (I still haven’t seen even one first-person shooter that is actually made to work on a VR headset) but is a good example of a business opportunity that new companies could pounce on early before it goes mainstream.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a bit ever since I tried the Gear VR goggles for several days in a row. While the market is still emerging slowly, I can think of a few interesting scenarios in IT where virtual reality could really become a hit.

1. Preview a new office building

Back in my IT days, I once moved a department into a brand new office building. We didn’t really know how it would pan out because it was hard to envision things like proximity to the break room or if having the team scattered around one floor made any sense. VR could help office planners to see what it would be like to be in a new office. They could even sit in a virtual cubicle, stand up and walk over to a break room, or have a meeting and see how far you have to "walk" virtually.

2. Attend tech conferences

I’d love to go to CES from the comfort of my own office and never have to visit Las Vegas again. With VR, I could envision being able to have a meeting and even “see” a new product and test it out. It would be more productive for me because I could have more meetings each day, avoid all travel, and even quickly jump out of a meeting that wasn’t quite right for me. I'd still get most of the benefits of seeing new products.

3. Interview candidates

I could see HR departments jumping all over VR. Once the tech matures a bit more and becomes more widespread, imagine being able to interview people “face to face” in a virtual conference room. Large companies like HP or IBM could even set up remote offices, similar to what they do with teleconferencing today, for candidates to visit and use an Oculus Rift for the interview. One reason this could work is that the interviewer benefits from seeing how someone reacts to questions or what they are saying through their body language, but those things come through just fine through a live VR meeting.

4. All hands meetings

At time, it can be difficult to hold an “all hands” meeting, especially when people work from home, head out on business trips, or are not around that day. VR could make it easier to get everyone in the same conference room (even if it is only meant for ten) at the same time. You could be on a business trip in Australia and still have VR goggles handy to tap into the meeting. Only those who are sick would get a pass.

5. Complex training sessions

Training sessions could be recorded easily enough so that a new hire or someone in a new role could get up to speed quickly. The more vivid nature of virtual reality -- being able to look around the room, interact with objects, and meet other people virtually -- could even lead to people being better trained. Plus, the trainer could record sessions once for anyone to experience. Or, as a live seminar, it would add some new appeal.

6. Confrontations

Workplace confrontations usually take on two forms. One is in person where you can address an issue in a way that leads to better understanding. The other is through email. The boss confronts you without having to actually show her face. A VR meeting would still mean the confrontation takes place between two people, but takes away some of the bullish behavior that can happen in person and some of the coldness that occurs by email or other digital means.

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