Far from being something confined to the world of games or being something that has potential for the future, virtual reality is being used now in important and beneficial ways.
Help With Understanding Autism and Dementia.
Autism is thought to affect more than 1% of the population which equates to over 700,000 peocheple in the UK alone. Its prevalence and its regular appearances in the media spotlight mean that 99% of people in the UK have heard of autism. The complicated and multi-faceted nature of the condition however means that very few of us know what autism actually is, and a lack of knowledge about the effects of the condition means that people with autism are frequently treated poorly in public situations e.g. in shops and restaurants.
Virtual reality has been used to help spread awareness and understanding of the nature of the condition in the form of a VR film made by the National Autistic Society. The film was made using Samsung Gear headsets to show a journey around shopping centres through the eyes of an autistic person.
VR has been employed in a similar way in by Alzheimer's Research UK who have made a VR film intended to help people to understand how simple tasks can become huge challenges to Dementia sufferers.
Sales / Retail.
Virtual Reality has also been used to give customers virtual walks / tours and experiences that can help boost sales. For example, estate agents offer potential customers walks around properties while shopping centres and fashion stores offer virtual tours using VR headsets.
Furniture retailer IKEA has also made an app (using the HTC Vive) to enable virtual tours of and virtual experiences in its kitchens.
Medical Training and Treatment.
VR has also proved its worth in providing vital medical training in the form of virtual surgery experiences at Royal London Hospital back in April this year. In a VR operation for example a surgeon was able to deliver a virtual surgery experience to Some 5,000 people in 14 countries. This led to the formation of a start-up that will use VR to reduce the cost of training doctors.
VR has also been used to help treat patients with post-traumatic stress phobias.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Virtual reality tours and experiences can help potential customers to really engage with, discover more about, and really understand products and marketing messages. VR can help potential customers to really picture themselves with products and therefore feel the need and desire for them which could of course lead to sales. They can also help people to gain an understanding of complicated things, or to visualise future situations which can help with the marketing communications process in a unique way. VR can also be applied to at least some aspect of all industries which means that it is very flexible, and it could prove to be a very effective tool in reaching the technically proficient, ‘try before they buy’ Generation-Z customers.