From marketing to education to tourism, professionals across every sector are beginning to recognize the value of Virtual Reality. Each industry enjoys unique benefits for integrating VR technology: onboarding new employees in realistic workplace scenarios, closing distance with classmates and coworkers remotely, inspiring your next jetsetting vacation with lifelike VR travel experiences, and creating meaningful branded experiences for consumers are among the many ways VR is transforming several industries across the globe.
Here’s a list of benefits VR offers to five industries, and how the major players in those industries are using VR to get an edge over the competition.
Once you're past the interview stage, employee onboarding is the most challenging part of the hiring process. Bringing a new employee up to speed is costly, time-consuming, and resource intensive: on average, employers spend up to $4000 onboarding a single new employee.
Normally, employers training a new employee are faced with a dilemma. Employers can either onboard a new employee as fast as possible, or they can provide a slower, more comprehensive onboarding process. Faster onboarding means a new employee can get to work sooner, but may lack the complete training they need to immediately succeed in their position; slower onboarding ensures the employee is fully trained, but the company loses out on some valuable productivity during the lengthier onboarding process.
VR-based professional training offers a best-of-both-worlds solution here. When a new employee is trained in VR, they complete their training faster than usual while also receiving a rigorous, well-rounded orientation. Glimpse subsidiary Brightline Interactive created an onboarding simulation for new employees at a chemical refinery plant, accelerating the onboarding process and allowing new employees to be trained before the plant had even been built. Not only was the training process itself faster, but because new employees could be trained while their workplace was still under construction, the facility was fully staffed and operational from day one.
Plenty of companies are already incorporating VR into their training programs: Bank of America launched its VR training programs across 4,300 locations last year, and Accenture ordered a record-breaking 60,000 VR headsets intended for onboarding 125,000 new employees this past October. When Boeing adopted VR into their employee training programs, employers saw a 75% reduction in training time using VR.
As a side note, Boeing incorporated AR elements into their training process as well, increasing the speed and accuracy of task completion by 33%. But we'll leave the benefits of AR-based training for another day.
Given the major shift toward remote learning over the past two years, education is one of the fastest growing adopters of VR technology. The major drawback of Zoom-based remote learning is obvious: students can browse the web, play games, or otherwise distract themselves while “in class.” Not to mention, students over the past two years have missed out on the crucial socialization which classroom learning provides. VR recreates the classroom learning experience more realistically and more intuitively than video conferencing platforms like Zoom, providing a higher level of social interaction between students during the times in their lives when they need it most. VR-based learning has also been proven to vastly increase student attention and engagement as well as increase test scores by up to 30%.
There are plenty of educators taking advantage of VR technology today. Take the University of Connecticut for example, where professors worked with Glimpse subsidiary Adept XR to create a blended VR learning environment for students. Students learned, collaborated, and eventually presented their semester-long final projects in VR to a virtual classroom full of their fellow students. Well before VR integration, the “Entrepreneurial Journey” course already emphasized adopting new technologies in innovative ways, so VR was a perfect fit in response to the sudden shift to distanced learning.
Therapy is an ever-evolving practice. New methods and innovative technologies are constantly being tested and adopted across a wide range of therapeutic settings, and VR is no exception. There are many elements of VR which are inherently well-suited for therapy, the first of which is virtual avatars. Therapy can be a sensitive process which breaches difficult topics, and that vulnerability can create discomfort in one-on-one sessions and (especially) in group therapy. Virtual avatars create a sense of distance and safety for users, enabling them to comfortably share more intimate details of their lives with their therapist and support groups.
Another benefit of VR-based therapy is the ability to conduct remote sessions more effectively than traditional video conferencing platforms. Much like remote learning in VR, therapy sessions in VR do a better job recreating the experience of an in-person session. This allows therapists to provide equally effective therapy for those who may be immunocompromised or otherwise unable to visit in-person.
The close, face-to-face nature of VR is especially well-suited for exposure therapy. Exposure therapy describes the practice of introducing a person to their phobia with the goal of desensitizing them, and it’s been shown to be extra effective when applied in VR. Last year, a therapist at the Veteran Affairs began using VR to treat PTSD in combat veterans by running them through scenarios that recreate the environments which traumatized them in the first place. The simulations allow veterans to revisit these sites of trauma under the supervision of a healthcare professional, allowing them to reconcile the past feeling of danger with their present sense of safety. Daniel Freeman, an Oxford University professor of psychiatry who offers VR therapy across England, went so far as to say that "If you overcome something in VR, you overcome it in real life."
Outbound marketing – the classic marketing strategy of billboards and pop-up ads, also known as "interruption marketing" – is on its last legs. The failure for outbound marketing to generate results over the past few years is tied to many factors, one of which being that over 25% of Americans have an adblocker installed on their browser today. Brands are now forced to consider new ways to reach out to new and existing customers, to build brand loyalty, and to generate traffic to both their brick-and-mortar locations and their ecommerce sites.
One of the answers to outbound marketing's shortcomings is known as "experiential marketing." Branded experiences, in which customers participate in an activity which communicates brand identity, are a popular way for brands to start incorporating VR tech into their advertising campaigns. One such example was created by our very own subsidiary company, Adept XR, in collaboration with Goodway Technologies, an industrial cleaning manufacturer. Goodway worked with Adept to develop a VR experience which simulated the cleaning process with their industrial cleaners, providing scores and creating a leaderboard by awarding points based on how well users performed. This not only gamified the advertising experience, engaging clients and customers more deeply than traditional advertising, but proved more effective than traditional advertising by allowing Goodway to collect customer contact info in the process. Not to mention, the VR experience served as a cost-effective alternative to the cumbersome physical installation it replaced.
The travel and hospitality industry is a clear frontrunner for VR adoption. Getting potential travelers interested in a destination and leading them to booking a stay at your hotel requires bridging the imagination gap beyond basic promo photography. VR tourism is highly effective at generating interest in hotels: customers are 130% more likely to book a stay if there’s a virtual tour of the space, and visitors spend 5-10x more time on websites with virtual tours.
Hotels and travel agencies have taken advantage of VR technology by providing 360° tours of suites and hotel grounds as well as general 360° promo videos for a given destination. There are plenty of VR tours published within the past few months for luxury resorts in Thailand, Menorca, and Egypt, to name a few. These are recent additions to the wide library of VR tours recreating travel experiences across the world: the Oculus store has an entire store section dedicated to “ Travel the World” programs with over 100 globe-trotting VR experiences available. With hotels, travel companies, and networks like National Geographic ramping up their use of VR, the travel and hospitality industry is well on its way to becoming a leader in VR adoption.
It’s clear that VR has a wide range of potential applications across several industries. And we’ve only explored five industries thus far; we plan to publish more pieces like this that explore VR use cases in other industries in the future. But the real question is, why now? Why are brands suddenly ramping up their usage of VR tech in 2022? After all, the Oculus Rift – the first major consumer-grade VR headset – debuted a full decade ago in 2012. While VR still has some flashiness today, it’s a pretty well-known technology at this point. So why are so many industries beginning to adopt VR today?
The answer lies in availability and accessibility. The Oculus Quest 2, the industry standard headset at the moment, is far more affordable than any of its predecessors at $299 per headset. That affordable price point is a major reason why a company like Accenture can order 60,000 of them in one go. Beyond affordability, VR technology has publicly established itself enough to where consumers today are itching for VR content. 80% of consumers enjoy VR branded experiences and over half of all consumers would prefer to buy from brands using VR over those without VR. As a result, over 75% of business leaders across several industries are planning to incorporate VR or AR into their advertising strategies by 2023. As more and more industry leaders realize the potential VR holds for their particular sector, we can expect to see greater rates of VR adoption across nearly every industry.
Cameron is the Content Writer/Editor at The Glimpse Group. As a former academic researcher in the humanities, he blends his outside perspective as a relative newcomer to tech with Glimpse's industry-leading expertise to demystify the world of VR, AR, and the metaverse.