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Virtual reality becomes invaluable to B2B and the enterprise

By Marcus Lambert

It has been widely reported that 2016 will be the year that virtual reality takes over the world. Contrary to popular belief, there is much more to this 21st-century phenomenon than geeks and gamers. Only this week [15.05.2016] The Financial Times predicted China’s growing investment in VR is set to conquer the business world. Understanding how VR will work in the enterprise or B2B space to deliver real value and tangible benefits is where the real excitement lies.

Recently, the scale of possibility was perfectly illustrated by the New Zealand Government’s partnering with Samsung to explore the use of virtual reality as a B2B marketing tool. VR allows them to show buyers the world over all that New Zealand has to offer.

For example, exporting produce across the world involves an incredible amount of trust and goodwill. Imagine taking a buyer for a virtual tour of New Zealand’s agricultural landscapes, before visiting a vineyard and pouring them a glass to taste. It’s easy to see how immersive experiences could open up a wealth of opportunities for the country.

Anyone that has attended a music concert recently will have already noticed how audience members are streaming the entire show from their smartphone. Apps like Periscope allow users from all over the globe to tune into a live feed and see the world through your eyes.

Recent reports show NextVR teaming up with Live Nation to broadcast concerts in virtual reality. This will enable music fans to enjoy fully immersive concerts, with their favourite artists, without leaving the comfort of their home. The deal also allows artists to increase revenue streams, and provides ticketing agencies with a whole new route to profit.

The B2B space is littered with expensive ‘innovative’ technologies. So, it should be of little surprise that many businesses are weary and cautious, and adopt a ‘try before you buy’ ethos. VR simplifies this process. The virtual transportation of customers to anywhere that can be seen – or imagined, has the potential to offer game-changing business value.

Healthcare and medicine are another area where VR is making incredible advances. In particular, the use of VR in the training of medical students is producing tantalising results. The CEO of Miami’s Children’s Health System Dr. Narendra Kini reported that a year after training, those who learned using VR tools retained 80 percent of their teachings, compared with just 20 percent that followed more traditional methods.

A wealth of start-ups is now exploring the future relationship of healthcare and VR. April saw the first-ever 360-degree video surgery allowing anyone with a virtual-reality headset to tune into a live operation via smartphone. But medical training VR products feel like only the beginning of this relationship between the healthcare industry and VR technology.

Returning to reality, one of the most stressful and exciting moments, experienced by business owners, comes with moving and fitting out a new office. VR could change all this, allowing owners to get up close and personal with properties on their virtual wish list, while at their desk.

Virtual reality is already starting to transform the world of enterprise. Across classrooms, much in need of a 21st-century upgrade, experiential learning is proving to be incredibly effective at enhancing the learning process. Meanwhile, LectureVR already allows students to sit in a virtual room and witness Albert Einstein talk about the theory of relativity – or many other historically reenacted lectures.

The use of VR in enterprise or b2b is very much in its infancy, and mainstream business use is some way off yet. However, we are witnessing pioneers from all industries leading the way; while many more continue to watch with growing interest.

Thanks to the falling costs of production, what was once seen as pie-in-the-sky thinking, is now much more an affordable reality, for even the most modest of budgets. B2B marketers can already create 360-degree conferences allowing them to gather attendees in one virtual location, and actually save on the infamous expenses so often attached to conferences. How long now before the value of this technology is truly recognised in the B2B space?

The time has arrived to adopt a future mind-set that goes far beyond traditional marketing and the old way of doing things. The prospects created by both VR and AR (augmented reality) make the digital future incredibly exciting. Opening up worlds of creative collaboration and immersive experiences that clearly illustrate VR is much more than a flash in the pan.

There will always be naysayers – fearful of change and unable to see the tangible benefits that technology can deliver. But it’s refreshing to see solutions, backed up with results based on hard evidence, that are solving real problems. VR is building trust across the global community and tearing down geographical barriers, so maybe we should start to place more trust in the realities of technology.

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