The applications of AR/VR in the workplace

By Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst of Futurum Research

Sponsored by Dell

Anything is possible in virtual reality (VR). Just as Niantic, Inc. brought Pokémon to life for users in the real world, a business can now bring to life ideations that were previously unattainable. The potential for business applications with augmented reality (AR) and VR technologies is limitless, especially as engineers continue to improve AR/VR design and usability. In all my years as a tech analyst/junkie, I’ve never been more excited about the potential of technology than I am now about AR and VR in the workplace.

Achieve a Smart, Modern Workplace

Data from the Dell Future Workforce Global study shows that millennials expect to work in a smart office in the near or immediate future. Today’s workers don’t think the workplace is smart or digitally connected enough and believe this inhibits productivity, collaboration, and efficiency. While only 47 percent of the baby boomer generation reported they were willing to use AR/VR in their professional lives, 77 percent of millennials state they are willing to use these products in the workplace. Even more professionals in developing countries are willing to use AR/VR products–87 percent, to be exact.

When it comes to workplace productivity, 52 percent of millennials believe augmented and virtual reality applications would increase productivity, compared to only 35 percent of baby boomer professionals. Brazil reported the highest belief in AR/VR improving productivity in the workplace at 74 percent, followed by China at 69 percent. On the flip side, India expressed the greatest concern that AR and VR would reduce workplace productivity (22 percent).

Global businesses may have mixed feelings about this technology, but one thing is certain – businesses are seeing returns on workplace AR and VR investments. Market leaders across a variety of industries are seeing positive ROIs from using AR and VR tools to:

  • Make hands-free data more accessible to employees
  • Design immersive training and educational experiences
  • Improve teamwork and collaboration (between both in-house and remote workers)
  • Reward employees for completing tasks using gamification
  • Visualize repair and construction in VR jobs ahead of time
  • Build and test new products virtually
  • Give consumers virtual test drives and trial runs

 
Virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality applications have the power to improve business on both the company’s end and the user’s end. There is no cap on the creative ways brands can benefit from AR and VR – from dynamic real-time collaborations on projects to consumers touring virtual retail outlets from the comfort of their homes.

Explore Current Virtual Reality Innovations

As AR and VR come into their own with technological advances, every industry is coming up with exciting ways to integrate virtual reality using both smartphones and VR headsets. Health care, construction, automotive, aerospace, real estate, entertainment, tourism, and retail industries are all beginning to use AR and VR to transform the workplace. Here’s an overview of some of my favorite ways businesses use AR and VR to improve the workplace and the consumer experience:

  • Give real estate tours. Real estate companies can cut transportation costs, the inconvenience of travel, and time-consuming open houses by giving prospective buyers a virtual tour of a property instead. Prospects can explore a home or commercial property from the comfort of a real estate office, touring as many properties as they want in a matter of minutes. They can take their time and revisit favorite sites without time constraints. Plus, more than one prospect can enjoy a private property tour at the same time.
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  • Design without limitations. The construction industry is using VR to aid in the design and building phases, creating three-dimensional mockups of what the property will look like and get a feel for the building before the construction company ever breaks ground. VR can eliminate the need for intricate, expensive, and time-consuming physical models.
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  • Take a virtual drive around the block. Don’t want to wait to test-drive the 2017 Ford GT? Thanks to savvy car dealerships, you may not have to. Many dealerships are using VR to allow customers to test drive vehicles before they even hit the market. VR and AR enable many trial-related applications in the auto industry and beyond. VR lets businesses give consumers a more hands-on testing experience in less time without wasting resources.
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  • Organize your data. In a data-driven business sphere, organization is key. Invest in a mixed-reality (MR) room in which employees can manipulate data with their hands on a touch screen interface. If you can’t afford an entire MR room, AR/VR headsets will work as well to populate charts and images to manipulate data. Integrating AR and VR with company data can improve collaboration, eliminate wasted time, and immerse employees in the information – not to mention you can cut paper and printing costs from your budget.
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  • Fundraise with VR. I’ve talked about Amnesty International’s use of a VR campaign to boost fundraising before, but I’m mentioning it again because its innovative strategy. Amnesty used a VR pilot to show people real images of a bombing in Syria, connecting people to an issue happening thousands of miles away. This garnered a strong emotional response from passerby, leading to an increase in donations.
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  • Learn new surgeries without the risk. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) began using virtual reality with the Oculus Rift headsets in 2015 to teach sensitive new surgeries. UCLA uses VR in its surgical theater with a device called SNAP, using a VR environment based on real brain scans. Students can enter a virtual brain and take operative steps without risking lives or wasting surgical time. VR enables surgeons to practice these surgeries and improve their precision.
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  • Change lives. Surgery isn’t the only health care application for VR. This industry is capitalizing on virtual tech for a host of other uses, including fear exposure therapy, physical rehabilitation for stroke and paralysis patients, posttraumatic stress disorder treatment, and pain management. One of my favorite examples of VR in health care is when Expedia and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital teamed up to send terminally ill children on VR adventures of a lifetime. VR is literally changing lives.
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AR and VR have the power to streamline the workplace, optimize education and training, and connect people to what matters. From engineering and design to gaming and entertainment, augmented and virtual realities are taking the business world by storm. My advice is to learn as much as you can about AR and VR in your industry, and invest in these technologies ahead of your competition.