Five Surprising Uses of Virtual Reality in Business
Which industries have and will incorporate virtual reality into their strategic plans?
Virtual reality has the potential to offer significant advantages for professionals working in a host of different industries. This technology is bringing change, facilitating growth and progress industries – from manufacturing to automotive, logistics, retail, hospitality and more – to better plan for the future, access and see real-time data and hardware anywhere in the world, and collaborate on new designs, to name a few applications. In totality, estimates place the worth of the VR industry at $28.3 billion by 2020.
As far back as 2012, reports illustrated how manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Ford were using VR for visual prototyping, manufacturing, virtual assembly, testing and training. Ford’s VR testing center is well-documented for helping the company reduce costs, as employees – for example – were able to spot issues that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, and able to try out new ideas. Employing VR can also make it easier for corporate offices to visualize and roll out new brand standards for dealerships, then upload complete, VR-ready 360-degree imagery to confirm new standards have been met. Using this new technology for these purposes can further reduce costs by more effectively using time, reducing travel and lending itself to increased communication across departments and stakeholders.
Virtual reality will make production planning easier, as professionals will be able to visualize the production line before it is built. Manufacturing equipment maker Gabler presents one use case. The company has used VR to accelerate manufacturing line planning, reducing development time by 15 percent – and Gable also uses VR to enable specialists to conduct remote equipment maintenance, saving time and money. As to be expected, most applications of VR in manufacturing are about cost-prevention, with space planning and foresight of challenges, such as fire hazards and other safety concerns.
There is massive potential for virtual reality in logistics and shipping. With data visualization for inventory systems, people will be able to see exactly where products are located within a warehouse and how they are moving. SAP has been exploring this for some time, and has demonstrated the use of 3D modeling, VR and heat maps for asset tracking in a warehouse environment, which makes it easy to see bottlenecks, locate and track specific packages in real-time (Source). Information can be as detailed as the user may desire, including, for example when a package arrives, what’s inside, where it’s going, when it needs to ship, etc. Data integrations with inventory systems, purchasing, supply chain and logistics, will help professionals effectively understand and manage warehouse facilities with supply chain visualization.
OIL + GAS
There are a number of applications for VR in energy, particularly in fossil fuel operations through geovisualization, training and remote equipment and systems monitoring, particularly because oil and gas operating locations are often remote and sometimes dangerous. Virtual reality is already making it possible for anyone, including executives and engineers alike, to “travel” to the location and get an up-close, data-rich experience of current and future states, including the ability to experience sub-surface earth models. Exxon Mobil has been using virtual reality extensively for training and creating plant scenarios, such as emergency response that can be first experiences in a controlled environment. According to Murali Ventakesh from North America Downstream Oil & Gas Company, the value that VR can bring to oil field services include “increasing productivity and lower costs by better planning operations and maintenance procedures, and promote safety, lower risk of mistakes and eliminate disruption of work with virtual training.”
Virtual reality gambling is big – $520 million by 2021, big. But there’s also potential for casino operations to tap into VR for space planning (moving machines and tables around in the virtual world), as well as a similar application to the logistics scenario where bottlenecks and other issues can be viewed in a virtual world through 3D models and heat maps. Casinos are constantly shifting the floor to improve the customer experience, and virtual reality makes space planning extremely simple; changes can be made on-the-fly and reviewed in the virtual space. We’ve seen a similar use case through our work with convention centers, able to use VR and 3D models to quickly lay out and visualize event spaces for internal use and to share with clients.
These are but a few of the potential applications for virtual reality in business – the opportunities will only continue to expand exponentially.