Investigating the Transformative Potential of Virtual Reality for Enterprise

by Jeff Wiener on February 26, 2016

Every once in awhile I get the chance to reflect on the growth of the business phone system industry over the past 25 years, and quite frankly, most of the time I’m blown away by just how far things have come. Gone are the days when workers were chained to their office desktop sets, now replaced by the capability to operate an almost fully autonomous remote work force. In fact, given that employees can work as effectively outside the office as in it, I would say we’re getting extremely close to the day where physical office space becomes completely obsolete, and if there’s one technology that can help make such a futuristic vision a reality, it will undoubtedly be virtual reality.

Now the interesting thing about VR technology is that it has existed, in theory at least, since I got into this business, but for the last two decades or so it has been little more than a buzzword, a promise of things to come, and a futuristic vision of the transformative potential of such communication technology.

But at long last it looks like VR tech is finally here, and while such technology is still in its infancy, we are already seeing the possible applications in the consumer market, particularly for gaming and social networking. But beyond that, virtual reality has huge transformative potential for the business world as well, changing the way we connect with customers, with each other, and the way we deliver products and services to the world.

To date much of the talk surrounding the potential of VR technology has appealed to emotions. That is, companies like Facebook, Google, and others are attempting to paint pictures of the applications of VR in ways that make us feel good about them. Think about the joys of your family and friends as VR lets them get immersed in your child’s first steps, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered recently, attempting to tug at our heart strings.

But emotional responses, even to what many consider the “next platform,” has little value for the enterprise industry, which begs the question, is there anything of value in VR for businesses? In short, absolutely. While the business applications of VR may not quite be as revolutionary as the changes it promises in the consumer market, consider that with such technology we will be able to usher in the completely digitized office. Things like physical proximity, physical space, effectively all considerations related to the brick and mortar operations of most businesses have the potential to be turned completely on their heads.

As it stands, immersive video and mobile technologies have effectively created the modern remote worker, where productivity and collaboration can be achieved without the need for all your employees to be in the same physical space. But there are limits to such technology, particularly when such things involve brainstorming or training around specific products.

Now consider that all those employees now occupy the same digital space, without having to occupy the same physical space, and in that digital space your team is able to fully interact with each other, with clients, with products or new ideas or anything really.

Beyond that, imagine the changes made to employee or client training (something critical to my business in particular), as now hands-on, interactive training sessions can happen anywhere, at any time, again without everyone needing to occupy the same physical space.

Imagine meeting with prospective clients, showing them the products and/or services you have available, letting them get a hands-on experience with your company from anywhere in the world, but doing so while not having to actually be physically present.

Truly I’ve only started to scratch the surface, but our imaginations are the only limits to what will be possible in such a fully interactive, collaborative, completely remote 3D digital environment. While many might think that VR is nothing but a fad, I happen to think it has the potential to be a considerable transformative power for business communications, finally ushering in the immersive digital experience we’ve been promised for the last several decades.

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