A Business Perspective on VR: The Experience
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
So the the first question about Virtual Reality (VR) is what's the experience like? Does it feel real, or is it just a bunch of cartoon people doing meaningless things? And more to the point: does VR enable a business person to work more effectively, more efficiently, or more completely than they do today? To understand the answer to that question, we need to first understand the experience of VR.
If you've never put on a VR headset the experience is, to put it gently, all-encompassing. Even after you've spent quite a bit of time in the VR world the experience remains powerful.
At the time of this writing, the leading VR headsets are the Oculus Quest 2 headsets. To be sure, they are large and clunky, with two hand controllers that look like someone split an Xbox controller in half and put circles on both halves. The headset is heavy on the front of your face and doesn't quite seem to fit no matter what you do. After a while, using the controllers gets easier, although they always look and feel a little odd to me.
But the minute you step into the VR world all of that clunkiness vanishes from your mind. "Overwhelming." "Amazing." "Comprehensive". "All-encompassing". These are all words that immediately come to mind. Even more descriptive are peoples' reactions on stepping into the VR world for the first time.
A typical reaction is this: "Wow!!!......Wow........wow.......wo........" and as their voice trails off they simply stare around unable to even speak. I find that if I don't say something they keep staring around for 10 or 15 minutes. Makes me smile. One executive summed it up perfectly when we brought him into a VR workroom for the first time. I started pointing out some of the features and he stopped me. He said, "Give me a minute.....this is a lot to process." Totally captured it. He did need a minute. Everybody does. It's a really powerful experience.
In my view there are three main things that make the experience so powerful. First, you ENTER the VR application. In other words, you can get up and literally walk around in it. You interact with the application in a way that's completely different and far more realistic than how you've interacted with applications on your laptop or phone. In fact, you forget it's an application. You can reach out and touch things. You have to be careful you don't bump into (virtual) things when you're moving around. You are immersed. You become part of the application in ways that are similar to you being part of the physical world. The second thing is the "spatial" audio, or audio that sounds natural in direction, tone, and volume. In our case we are working with business VR apps so there are a lot of conference table settings. When someone is sitting next to you at a conference table and speaking, it is totally natural and as if they were sitting next to you and talking in the real world. What you hear is that person's real voice in high quality audio. The third thing is the avatars. Avatars in VR have the ability to point, gesture, smile, blink their eyes, turn around, and move to different places in a room. They do all those things at the time you do them and the way that you do, so there's a good bit of your "personality" that comes through your avatar. One interesting note about about avatars. When someone makes their own avatar for a business setting they generally select features, hair styles, eyes, etc...that represent them in the real world. When you first see their avatar it's quite shocking how close to real life their avatar is. I remember the first time my business partner and I connected in a VR workroom. I said "Vince!! That totally looks like you!!!" He said the same to me. And we've both observed that people who make their own business avatars look very much like the real person. It's crazy how realistic avatars can be.
So there is no question the experience of VR is compelling - powerfully so. And a business minded person will immediately begin thinking how to leverage VR in a way that increases productivity and gives a competitive advantage. I believe there are several significant business advantages to be had by incorporating VR into a company's processes, and that's the topic of a future blog.
Meantime, if you've not yet stepped into the VR world, I strongly encourage you to do it. There's no telling where the change in perspective will take you in your career.
P.S. If you need someone to help you take that first step, give me a shout. I love to introduce people to the world of VR for Business. :-)