A Business Perspective on VR: The Con's
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
As much as I wish it was, VR for Business is not all unicorns and rainbows. There are significant headwinds slowing down the adoption of VR for Business (btw, if you want unicorns and rainbows, go here: Pro's of VR for Business). In this post I lay out the top challenges below but ultimately, I believe it's going to be the big Tech companies who shape what VR looks like in the business world and will determine when it becomes mainstream.
The big Tech companies and world events, that is.
The global pandemic is a great example of how a world event can intervene and change everything about how and when a technology is adopted. In the case of VR, the pandemic has accelerated the case for effective ways of doing business from afar.
The main downside of VR for Business, if it can be called a downside, is that Virtual Reality will never be as effective as "Real Reality" for meetings. In other words, there is no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face. In my view this isn't really a downside but rather a recognition that direct human contact is fundamental and irreplaceable. Once you acknowledge that fact, then you can build a sales campaign strategy which leverages all modes of meeting: face-to-face, VR, video conference, phone, text and email. As is often the case with new, industry-changing technologies, VR is saddled with the perception that it's a panacea for all types of meetings. It simply isn't. But it does have an important place and carries the potential to be a competitive advantage to those who know how to use it.
A big downside of VR right now is that the most comprehensive VR experiences require the clunkiest and heaviest gear. Fully immersive VR requires a heavy headset that is literally a computer strapped onto your face. Not only does it look odd, it gets uncomfortable after a while. Clearly, headsets will have to evolve dramatically for widespread VR for Business adoption.
Pricing and costs of VR for Business technology and software vary widely with unpredictable future changes. As an example, the cost of acquiring a headset today varies from $300USD to $1400USD for relatively similar levels of quality. VR for Business software is anywhere from $0USD to $400USD/year, again for similar levels of quality. The future cost of any given set of hardware or software is currently difficult to predict, making the adoption of VR for Business a risky proposition for core business processes.
Much of the technology is proprietary. Another way of saying it is there are not many standards defining how Virtual Reality hardware and software should share architecture, data and metadata across different manufacturer platforms. For there to be widespread adoption of VR for Business there must be agreed on standards for the underlying architectures. The current situation is similar to the the early Internet before TCP/IP became the standard networking protocol (anybody remember XNS, SNA, Appletalk, or Banyon and Vines? Nope.).
The standards work is ongoing in organizations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), but there is a ways to go before common VR standards are agreed upon.
There is a perception that VR is primarily the domain of gamers, kids, and non-work activities. As a result, VR for Business doesn't enter into the business calculus of most executives today. Strong marketing by companies with good VR for Business offerings and a focus on remote workers who stand to gain the most from effective use of VR for Business, will shift the "gamer" perception over time.
Another roadblock to widespread adoption is that many, if not most, VR for Business applications have a confusing set of configuration steps. While this isn't a barrier to more technically minded people, it represents a significant roadblock for someone who is simply a user of the technology.
Lastly, all of the major technology companies have recognized the future VR will play in their businesses and are actively positioning themselves to be significant players in VR. Some are pushing for VR adoption as fast as they can, such as Meta, who has bet their entire future on VR. Others who are further behind on VR innovation, such as Microsoft, are working quickly to catch up, as evidenced by their recent massive $69B purchase of game maker Activision (the company's statement referenced VR as a key element in the purchase), seem to be attempting to stake out their VR for Business territory by marketing their sub-par AltSpace VR application to businesses.
Apple and Google are of course in the mix to varying degrees with planned VR hardware and software releases in the near future. In my view, all of this jockeying for position is likely to slow down the adoption of VR for Business overall as these major players will do everything they can to slow each other down in favor of their own offerings.
So.......it's not all unicorns and rainbows, but truthfully, it never is. VR for Business is moving ahead just like any other revolutionary technology: innovation followed by standardization, alongside the rough and tumble competition for corporate and consumer attention. And we get to watch it all happen.