Virtual Reality (VR) is changing the way how we interact with computer content. It is really a unique technology that enables us to step through the screen we are used to looking at. VR has been out there for decades however for the first time in our lifetimes VR has become qualitative good and cheap enough for businesses to start using it. In this article, I will dive into how you can start using virtual reality within your business.
How to persuade your colleagues to start looking into VR
The first step in using new technology is to persuade your colleagues of the importance of the new technology. You do that by solving a problem in the business by using VR. However, you also need your colleagues to take VR seriously. Luckily respectable companies like Gartner make it a bit easier for you to do that.
Gartner has an overview of the strategic technology trends 2017 and mentions VR as the top digital technology trend of this year. They recommend organizations to use virtual reality for ‘training scenarios and remote experiences’. Next to these identified added values, the business cases around VR can be endless once you start thinking outside of the box!
If you look at the Gartner Hype Cycle of 2016 we see that virtual reality is on ‘the slope of enlightenment’. This means that ‘more instances of how the technology can benefit the business start to crystallize and become more widely understood’ . In practice, this means that companies are willing to fund pilots to prove that the usage of VR can be of added value for the business.
The hype cycle above is from the previous year. At Warp VR we believe that the dot will move to the ‘plateau of productivity’. In the previous year, we have done many pilots that have transformed into large training assignments. Together with our innovative clients, we have proved that our VR technology can improve the effectiveness of training (trainees learn protocol 30% quicker) and can reduce training costs.
HMD or mobile VR - choose a VR headset for your pilot
In a previous article, I wrote a bit of advice about how to get started with virtual reality from a consumer perspective. The reasons to choose a certain headset for businesses can be a bit different. But in short, you need to choose between Head Mount Displays (HMDs) or Mobile VR headsets.
Things to take into account when making this choice are mobility, scalability, interactivity, and costs. I have created an overview to give some insights in order to make a choice:
When starting a pilot you might just use one VR headset. However, it is good to already think about what to do when your pilot is a success and you want to roll it out within your organization or towards your customer base.
A client of ours, the Dutch fire department, was planning to go with one HMD setup throughout the country. However, their goal is to raise countrywide awareness of how to prevent a fire and what to do in the case it still occurs. Therefore we advised them to go for mobileVR. We created a VR app that enables them to distribute their application within the whole of the Netherlands and they even bought 30.000+ VR headsets to hand-out to everyone who comes to their mobile office.
This illustrates how making the choice of VR headset from the beginning can affect the entire outcome of a project. So choose wisely!
VR content in 3D or in 360˚ video/photo
The above choice can still be affected by something else. Although I do not want to talk too much about technology when talking about the usage of VR, it is necessary if it comes to creating a business case. Deciding if you are going to use 3D or 360˚ video/photo can massively effect the budget needed to create VR content.
Nowadays we are accustomed to 3D without maybe realizing it. Did you know that a brochure of the IKEA is for 80% rendered by a computer? A lot of time and computing power is needed to create that perfect image of a kitchen. Multiple 3D artists can work for months on just making one kitchen. The advantage of 3D is that once it has been made the kitchen can be (relatively) easily be made in different colors and with different setups. However, take into account that custom 3D can be very expensive. Just to give you a ballpark figure, it can easily cost more than a million euros to create a realistic representation of an industrial facility.
Once the 3D model has been created it can be viewed in virtual reality. You can, for example, view a factory before it has been built. Large 3D models can only be viewed with a HMD headset with a strong game-computer. So this means that you cannot use MobileVR if it comes to 3D. A workaround is that you can make a pre-made 360 photo or video rendering within the 3D model that can be viewed on a phone. Or you can start optimizing the 3D model for mobile, but this can quadruple the costs of the model.
360˚ video & photo
The complete opposite of 3D would be to create a kitchen by making a 360˚ video or photo. There are numerous devices on the market to create these 360˚ videos & photos. These devices range from a couple of hundred euro’s to a couple of thousands (depending on how high-end it needs to be). Once you have made a video/photo with such a device it can instantly be shared through numerous platforms.
A 360˚ video / photo can be viewed on any VR device, so both HMDs and MobileVR devices. Furthermore, it will be as realistic as real life. One of the limiting factors of photo & video is that you cannot walk around through the model. A workaround is to make 360 photo & video interactive. This is something we provide with our training platform at Warp VR. This enables us to create the industrial facility content for an immersive VR within a day.
Key take-away 3D vs 360˚ video/photo
The key takeaway is that 3D can be expensive to make & can take a lot of time. Do note that after making a3D model it still needs to be made interactive. A perk is that the options for adding interactivity to 3D objects are much more available then MobileVR (e.g. you can walk around, pick-up objects).
360˚ video/photo is something that can be made relatively very quickly, is highly realistic and is directly usable for MobileVR. The costs are therefore a fraction compared to 3D models.
I hope the above gave you some pointers on what to think about when starting utilizing VR within your business. To sum up, these would be the steps to take:
- Think up of a business case around using the benefits of VR and make sure you have a proper budget to do so.
- Convince your organization that VR can impact the productivity of the organization.
- Start a pilot to prove the business case.
- Really make a good choice of what kind of VR technology to use for the pilot.
- If the pilot is successful start a large scale project
Once you have a VR business case, your colleagues onboard and a budget it will be time to start a pilot. This pilot will allow you to gain experience with VR in an early stage and will give you a competitive advantage compared to your conservative competitors.
Good luck with your first pilot!
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