02/07/2017

5 Innovative Examples of Virtual Reality for Traditional Businesses

By Sarah Shuda
Posted in Technology

Virtual reality is becoming more mainstream with every passing year. Let's look at how businesses and organizations have been embracing this new technology to provide better user experiences.

1. Tourism

Tourism destinations around the world have begun to embrace virtual reality for its ability to communicate with potential visitors on a deep emotional level.

Say you are browsing shore excursions for your next cruise. You've heard a hot air balloon ride could be a spectacular experience but you worry about how you might feel being up so high in the air. Virtual reality can provide a realistic feel for an experience to aid in the decision making process. VR gives more buying power to the people and can make it easier for businesses to sell experiences.

Matoke Tours worked with VR Gorilla to provide VR simulations of some of their tours (see example below).

Tourism Australia was granted 40 million dollars by their government for the Experience Australia in 360º campaign. They developed an app to be used with a Google Cardboard Viewer to provide immersive views of different parts of Australia as well as specific experiences like swimming with seals (below).

2. Virtual Shopping

I love to shop online. It saves me the agony of having to find my way around a store, avoid waiting in line and driving to and from multiple stores if I can't find what I need. 

But online shopping still leaves a lot to be desired. You can't pick up an item and see how it feels in 360º. You can't get a sense for the size of a product

We've certainly come a long way with ecommerce, but VR technology is starting to fill in the gaps.

ebay, in partnership with MYER, has been experimenting with virtual reality to provide a hybrid shopping experience – combining brick and mortar shopping with the benefits of online shopping. The technology is also being combined with artificial intelligence to learn what products you are interested in based on your selections. Having too many choices can be crippling in the decision making process (and this applies to a whole slew of industries). If businesses can determine what a customer will be interested in they can narrow the choices and the time spent on shopping altogether. A win for both sides.

3. Mental Health

Mental health is a growing problem around the world. For many who have experienced a trauma in their lives, there are not too many options available for treatment that doesn't include a prescription. Virtual reality offers another option that is getting real results.

Daniel Freeman (University of Oxford) has been running experiments using virtual reality to treat patients suffering from paranoia and anxiety. 30 patients took part in the study. 7 took part in a virtual journey on an underground train. The results were impressive. 50% of those participating were no longer experiencing severe paranoia. When tested out in the real world, the results remained consistent.

PTSD is another crippling disorder many people suffer with and never come to terms with. Virtual reality can assist those with PTSD by serving up simulated experiences that trigger symptoms in a safe environment. Then doctors are able to teach them ways to deal with the emotions that arise from virtual experiences.

VR therapy has already been added to over fifty hospitals across the U.S. Some other applications for VR therapy include treating the fear of flying, heights and claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed/tight spaces).

Virtual reality can be used for less severe mental health applications as well. Meditation can have a powerful impact on our everyday lives. For many, finding a quiet, peaceful place to meditate can be a challenge. You can now turn to virtual reality to find a serene place to calm your mind, like in the below example.

4. Real Estate & Construction

Start VR has turned to virtual reality to give their customers a true-to-life experience when purchasing real estate. They have created Edge 28 to help buyers visualize what floorplans will look like before they are even constructed. This gives more power and confidence to the consumer, in turn making it easier for property developers to make a sale (see example below).

This same technology could be used in more traditional real estate markets too. Imagine exploring properties without having to visit multiple locations. You simply put on the VR headset and start exploring!

5. Education

Field trips don't have to mean a barrage of red tape and permission slips for teachers. Google Expeditions is paving the way for students to explore places they might never see in a lifetime right from the classroom. Imagine learning about the ocean's magnificent creatures and then be able to scuba dive right next to them.

I don't think these virtual experiences will be replacing traditional field trips now or at any point in the future, but they can certainly broaden the horizons for students all around the world. We might even start to see kids who have a tough time sitting in a classroom all day feel more engaged in learning by utilizing VR.

How are you using virtual reality in your business?

Share your experiences and applications with me on Twitter.

Sarah Shuda

Meet Sarah Shuda

Designer. Writer. Wife. Enjoys blueberry coffee, pinot noir, traveling & bicycling.

Twitter @sarahshuda