For a long time, virtual reality (VR) was the preserve of a specific niche of gamers. More and more though industries are taking notice of the technology despite having little in common on the surface. This article outlines just a handful of the most exciting areas from across the spectrum of VR’s uses.
Film & TV
The most similar industries to gaming that VR is making its way into are film and TV. Since the birth of the commercial film industry, studios and production companies have been searching for new ways to make their projects more engaging, exciting, and enticing. Now, with VR, film studios can transform the viewing experience.
This takes two main forms. The first is simply immersion: being surrounded by the story you are being shown. So for instance, in the midst of a gritty battle you can catch every detail of every duel. This is the application which is most obviously similar to VR gaming: it is the conventional experience boosted a level.
The experience is being taken further, which makes up the second form of the film industry’s use of VR: the transformation of entertainment from passive to participatory. Imagine instead of simply viewing a scene in a film, rather than being a fly on the wall you are an observer truly within the world: sat in the coffee shop watching star-crossed lovers meet or present at the table for a shadowy meeting in a dark, smoky room. This may not simply change the surface level of the viewing experience, but the underlying idea of what it is to be a viewer.
In the past few years, VR has acted as an emerging solution to the challenges facing traditional retailers. While its use was escalated by necessity, many retailers have recognised it as a valuable strategy. VR has opened the door to a whole world of possibilities for ecommerce.
Previously, the options for potential buyers have been to physically interact with a product or decide using the limited information a website can communicate. But with VR, shoppers can see the product looks as if it is there in front of them without needing to leave the house.
The changes extend beyond the shop you are in too. The metaverse has huge potential to forge a future in which we shop on completely digital highstreets. Unlike ‘real’ highstreets, there is no limit on who can set up shop where: there are no entry costs, nor expenses like rent, nor practical issues like distance. Now anyone can sell anything to anyone, anywhere, while still maintaining almost all the benefits of conventional shopping.
Buyers are recognising that virtual marketplaces offer the prospect of wider choice, easier access, and, most importantly, cheaper products. The role they play in commerce is only going to grow as the technology becomes more available to the majority of shoppers.
VR has the potential to be truly game-changing throughout the lifetime of a property, from the earliest stages of development, through sales and renovation, up until it comes time to demolish and redevelop a site.
Architects are excited about VR’s potential for digital modelling of sites and properties. In a similar vein to retail, VR allows them to engage with the subjects of their work without facing the time lost and various overhead costs – they can overlay building plans, marketing materials, and other 2D collateral into 3D models. They can get a depth of insight which even exceeds that they can get from being physically present – with tools like thermal imaging and heads-up analytics aiding construction.
VR also enables estate agents to showcase properties (even unfinished ones) to buyers in a realistic way, complete with virtual exposure to the location and neighbourhood – all without the bother of trekking around a city. They could even show a property in California in minute detail to a customer in London.
VR will give engineers a way to get hands-on with their early-stage product designs, especially when those designs exist only within a software program.
Engineers can visualize how small tweaks and changes to one part of a design could affect an overall layout, without having to expend large amounts of time and money for every small alteration which may come to nothing. Not only does this save on costs, but it allows greater creativity, as some experimental adjustments are just not feasible in real life. Engineers would be able to make virtually any change to a product possible with their software, and then see the results from any perspective and in great detail.
Similarly, engineers on the manufacturing side can determine how to assemble designs more easily. They could see the image from all angles and understand exactly how a every feature of a product fits together and can be most efficiently built. This can potentially even be done to a higher standard than in person, due to the increased access to information offered by VR.