Through my 20 plus years of technology experience, tech predictions have been a hit or miss—mostly a miss—however, the innovations that are fabricated every year still leave me in awe. When it comes to virtual reality (VR), I don’t think I’m exactly making predictions, but instead commenting on the trend of VR integration into everyday people and businesses in healthcare, re-skilling and communications.
Technology Progress and Everything Else Must Keep Up
Try to remember when the only time you could listen to music on the go was with the Sony Walkman, a bulky box that played cassette tapes. That changed with the innovation of digital music players then; now with music streaming services like Spotify is the conventional way to listen to almost every song ever made from the comforts of any device that can use apps.
In the same way as to how music evolved, I believe this is happening on a massive scale in almost every facet of our lives with VR. The release of the Oculus Quest 2 has proven that there is an increasing demand for VR experiences, with five times as many people pre-ordering the Quest 2 than the original Quest and surpassing the original Quest’s monthly user base in less than seven weeks. According to BIS Research, the cumulative augmented reality and VR technology is valued at $12.15 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $78.45 billion by 2025, but as I stated earlier, predictions are mostly a miss; however, there is no denying the trend to businesses and consumers adopting VR technology.
Market Driving Opportunities
COVID-19 is a large contributor to many businesses worldwide adopting remote working/learning technologies—these technologies are now an essential business need. I have seen the critical need for better designed VR applications to address the pain points across many different industries.
I am confident that VR integration in healthcare will be just as ubiquitous as listening to music with Spotify on your phone. VR creates standardized realistic scenarios and patient interactions without putting the flesh-and-blood of real people at risk. Soon we’ll be seeing VR integrated into
the training of healthcare workers at a pace never before. There are already numerous positive outcomes outlined in this study ranging from increasing skill and information retention to decreasing training costs. I can also see the applications of VR to be a critical tool for skill training medical professionals in diagnosing illnesses, customized patient care, personal protective equipment training and much more than I can list off.
As technology in the VR space is rapidly advancing and growing exponentially in demand, I have no doubts that the medical field will adopt VR to be the standard practice tool.
As a serial entrepreneur, I have hired many people across a variety of different roles. There are many companies—including my own— that have faced staff lacking soft skills. Studies have indicated that 59% of hiring managers and 89% of executives report difficulty recruiting candidates with sufficient soft skills such as communications, teamwork and leadership. Unlike conventional e-learning, VR provides the opportunity for immersive learning and practice experiences for various real-life scenarios. Walmart is already using VR technology to train retail staff on different soft skills, including empathy, customer service skills and navigating busy shop environment days such as Black Friday. A 2020 PwC study outlines the potential cost reduction for VR compared to traditional soft skill training, and users also finished their VR training four times faster than in-person training and one and a half times faster than e-learning only programs.
I believe that leveraging VR practice simulations’ scalability and reliability will be a game-changer for most types of professional training. The cost reduction and standardization of training workers is the hot value proposition that companies will rapidly deploy very soon.
I did have some doubts about the adoption of VR social technologies as I don’t think physical interactions can be simply replaced. However, COVID has truly changed how people interact with their friends/family, even within businesses. An application such as VR Chat has hit record users of 24,000 in November, driven in part by the launch of the Quest 2. I also see that the VR technology business has grown, the software Spatial which gives users the ability to enter a virtual workplace—essentially a VR version of Zoom—has reported a 1000% increase in usage back around May 2020.
Although COVID restrictions will be temporary, I believe that it has permanently changed social interactions personally and in the workplace. Remote work will be standard practice, and distanced digital social interactions have found life more than ever before. I can visualize a business world that remains remote, and VR technology fills the gap in the distance with colleagues and clients.
These thoughts are just the areas that I believe are obvious, there are many more applications and possibilities for VR. As I stated above, predictions are mostly a miss, but from my tech experience, I can see that VR is not a fad or a trend like HitClips—I hope someone can remember that little device. There are billions of new dollars flooding VR technologies every year, and studies verifying its efficacy. VR is more than just gaming, and I see it being a regular piece of technology in every business and home in the future. As the pandemic gets sorted out in the next year or so, I can still confidently say that virtual reality will be our everyday reality.