Why it’s a bad idea to let past exposure of virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) headsets and experiences guide decisions on current potential and opportunities.

It was early 2016 and Snobal was just over two years old. There was lots of interest in virtual reality (VR) in the market. Facebook’s $2B acqusition of Oculus was just over two years old. Back then questions from business on VR or augmented reality (AR) tended to always focus on the issue of “what is VR”. Talk of the business potential, the transformational capability, the potential ROI and the threats to existing business models was on the distant horizon.

Our meeting was with a large publicly funded organisation. They were interested in learning more how VR could better assist them communicate their unique offering to the public. It was a classic case of using VR for customer engagement. The application was brillant. The potential disuption to an existing business model massive. The opportunity to be world leading there for the taking. But we knew the argument was lost when two decision makers turned up for the meeting, one with their 15year old daughter in tow. We were told the Yr 9 student was there to help them “assess the technology” and opportunity.

Then at the very start of the meeting, sitting at the top of the table the key decision maker declared:

” I tried VR once. I didnt like it.”

It was something you couldn’t argue with. Just to be polite. Except you were itching to.

Hearing this felt somewhat akin to 15yrs ago saying to someone working in web development – “I tried the Internet once. I didnt like it”. It would lead you to ask the person what was the website they visited? “Because not all websites or web experiences are the same you know? Some online experiences are transactional, others are for connecting with likeminded people, still others are educational and other online experiences are for entertainment!”.

Virtual by default

VR technology and headsets have matured since 2016. A lot. Back in 2016 it was tethered territory. Content was mostly gaming and consumer related and game developers and 3D artists were trying to figure out how to make and optimise VR experiences so that they didn’t trigger uncomfortable user sensory experiences.

It’s now 2021. The landscape is vastly different. Throw in a global pandemic that has literally given “virtual by default, not by afterthought” phrase a whole new meaning.

Now we have lightweight, all in one wireless headsets with a vastly reduced price tag from 2015. And the number of companies working in or providing XR software solutions is growing rapidly.

The global VR market size was USD $3.10B and is projected to reach USD 57.55B by 2027 exhibiting a CAGR of 44.3% during the forecast period.

VR and AR is transforming what it means to work remotely and virtually.

Salesforce  announced recently that its employees would have the option to work remotely full time ongoing. Canadian multinational e-commerce company Shopify declared mid last year that it is a “digital by default company”. Twitter, based in San Francisco, told employees in May 2020 that they could work from home indefinitely. Research company Nielsen is reported to have plans to convert its New York City offices into meeting and hotdesk spaces for employees who continue to work from home.

As companies make the move to permanent remote working arrangements or instigating hybrid models this will and is changing the landscape, business models and opportunities on how these companies collaborate, communicate and engage with each other.

For example if some of your major clients/customers announced they were instigating permanent remote working arrangements for their staff have you considered how this might impact how your employees communicate and collaborate with your client/customer, not to mention how your employees will continue effectively to undertake sales, business development and client/customer relations?

At Snobal we’re now seeing VR been applied across employee and customer engagement, workplace learning and education across both soft skills and technical skills, not to mention built environment design testing. All solutions are powered by our XR engine, Snobal Cloud.

One of the interesting paradoxes in working with customers whose last experience of XR was in 2015 or 2016 is challenging preconceptions. As Louise Liu, Head of Operations and Delivery at PwC UK writes in The Telegraph [sign up walled] this week:

“Don’t let past experiences and outdated perceptions of VR technology shape your thinking.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

In case you missed it

Adaptive learning: Having different strategies to administer lessons can benefit students and maximize learning potential. This includes attention to newer technologies such as VR. Read more.

Event: How higher education can adapt to pandemic challenges. An event hosted by SAP looking at trends and challenges within Higher Education and how targeted investments in technology including VR can help. Read more.

JVC to Launch XR Headset for Enterprise Next Month: JVC is set to launch its so-called HMD-VS1W in late March with a listing as an “open price” product. The headset uses a proprietary mirror display to achieve a 120-degree FOV. Learn more.

200M Snapchat users use AR daily in Q4 2020: Snapchat has the highest percentage of overall user base that have engaged with AR. As Snap Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman commented “Consumers are in need of new ways to experience products and brands need to reach consumers where they are; at home”. Read more.

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