At present, many businesses are keen on harnessing the opportunities created by virtual reality (VR) technologies which free the mind from the physical world and enable its users to see places that only exist in the digital world. This is because, in the digital world the rules are entirely different, travel between destinations takes place in the blink of an eye, objects can be conjured into being just by describing them and damages can be undone by merely pressing a button.
All of these points make virtual reality an excellent tool for businesses. Processes which can be carried out in the physical world, ranging from customer service, marketing HR, manufacturing, production and others can also be simulated in VR. Before taking a look at how various enterprises are harnessing the power of virtual reality today, it is vital to explore the various types of virtual reality.
Types of virtual reality
The various types of virtual reality as stated by Brill (1993; 1994b) include the following:
- Immersive First-Person: This type of virtual reality offers a first-person experience. A treadmill interface is made available through the use of some applications, making the user feel like he or she is walking through a virtual space. There is a BOOM viewer from Fake Space Labs that is suspended in front of the viewer’s face to replace the head-mounted display which can be quite heavy and too tiring to wear. The user is thus placed in the image; the created images are equipped with specific features such as tactile perception and at times aural perception to make them seem more realistic. Researchers are also trying to find a way to integrate olfactory perception as well. This type of technology is present in children’s video games such as the interface of Nintendo games.
- Through the window: Another name for this system is “desktop VR.” The system is a 3-D architectural design where the user views the world in 3-D through what could be called ‘the window’ of the computer and navigates through space with the mouse. This design makes it possible to experience VR on an IBM computer as well as on a Macintosh. This system also offers a first-person experience just like the immersive virtual reality. There are many examples of “through the window.” Many fields are already incorporating this type of VR. In the field of dance, for example, Lifeforms, a computer program, allows choreographers to create special human animations. The program supports all the processes involved in the dancing process and, as a result of that, the choreographers can create dances virtually on the computer.
- Augmented Reality: This is another type of immersive virtual reality, however, this time the layers of computer-generated images are superimposed over the real world to enhance the user-experience. An example of this technology can be found in the field of Aviation where controls are highlighted. There is a similar case in the medical field where surgery can be performed through an augmented reality by superimposing a video to help the doctor see the operation site more clearly.
- Mirror world: Unlike the earlier ones, this type of virtual reality offers a third-person experience. Here, the user is not immersed in the created world but stands outside of it to interact with the objects and characters inside of it. The system uses a video camera as an input device; users can view their superimposed images on a large video monitor, then, with the aid of a digitizer, the user’s images are processed to highlight their features, such as positions, movements and so on.
- Chamber World: This is a small virtual reality projection theatre which is controlled by computers that provide users with free movements in a virtual world for better immersion. The images are viewed as a 3-D projection on the wall through a head-mounted display. An example of this technology is the CAVE, which was developed by the University of Illinois Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Another example is the Extended Virtual Environment (EVE), which was developed at the German Nuclear Research Center in collaboration with the German Institute of Applied Informatics.
How enterprises are harnessing the power of VR
- Manufacturing and Production Industry: In manufacturing and production driven-businesses, VR allows the mechanisms of the process to be simulated and tested. This implies that performance and reliability of equipment can be examined under any condition in a safe, quick and cost-effective way. Also, millions can be saved by reducing the need to build full-scale prototype equipment.
- Marketing: Virtual Reality is also a marketing and branding tool that offers every business the opportunity to change how it engages its customers or interacts with them. In addition to that, it opens up new ways of showcasing products and services. VR can also be a unique source of information on a customer’s behaviors because a business engages a customer in a virtual world, a lot of data becomes available on how they act and interact.
- Training in virtual worlds: Many industries now train their junior staffs in the virtual world. One advantage of doing this is that mistakes can easily be reset. For instance, in the healthcare sector, surgeons are using VR to train
makinglife-or-death choices while carrying out complicated operations on children. The simulation creates a 3D representation of real nurses and doctors that the trainees will work with so they see familiar faces when they get into the actual reality theatre.
Finally, Virtual Reality technologies offer enormous opportunities to the enterprise. Some of the benefits of using VR technologies in the enterprise include better customer engagement, higher productivity, and an increase in sales.