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The effects of virtual reality on the tech industry

Iain Leaman
01/05/18
US magazine Forbes estimates that the virtual reality market will be worth US$30 billion by 2020, and certainly tech giants such as Google and Facebook have invested in virtual reality content. But right now, virtual reality has yet to play a huge part in everyday life and work; we still primarily associate it with strapping on a massive pair of glasses and pretending to ride a water slide. 

So where is VR going to be big? Well, we’re already seeing virtual reality marketing. Car manufacturers – notably Audi – are offering customers the chance to experience driving their vehicle before purchasing, in a safer environment than the traditional road test. Estate agents are able to show buyers around houses remotely. Of course, marketers need to make sure that VR doesn’t become a gimmick – how many people actually bought a 3D TV? – and forms a core part of future campaigns. It’s also worth remembering that virtual reality is often a solo experience, and if it is to be adopted widely among consumers, then perhaps thought needs to be given to making its use a shared activity.

Virtual reality is becoming increasingly important in medicine, with VR headsets assisting those undergoing physical therapy (by turning exercise into a VR game), helping amputees with pain management (patients control a VR version of the missing limb) and post-brain-injury rehab (recreating everyday tasks for patients to re-learn). It’s also becoming increasingly prevalent in medical training, giving students the chance to practice operations and learn new techniques.

In the tech industry, we’ll see VR assist with remote working and meetings. If you can create a virtual office, you can work together without expensive or polluting travel factors. In the office, we may see an end to the “two screens on the desk” practice. VR headsets could position documents in our peripheral vision, or let us know about real-time changes to key data. Training and testing can take place in virtual environments, which can not only save costs when teaching staff new skills, but also give students the chance to practise their knowledge before going into a real-world situation. However, the tech industry will need to consider testing of virtual reality products; because the user experience is crucial, automated testing may not work as effectively as testing by an actual human.

Consumers will also be able to benefit from VR, which may have an effect on IT helpdesks. For example, if you can point a user to a virtual-reality walkthrough of a troubleshooting exercise, they can deal with their problem by themselves and may not require one-to-one personal assistance. 

Read our related blog: Top tech skills in high demand for 2018
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