Virtual Reality (VR), computer-generated environments that you can see and interact with, is fast becoming simply reality.
The technology has been around for decades, but has largely remained exclusive to video games and carnival attractions.
Cloud computing and more powerful mobile devices are changing this, taking VR mainstream, bridging the gap between our imaginations and what’s technically possible, bringing the virtual to life. Imagination is the key, because VR, and what it could become, is a platform unlike any we have seen before.
“Imagine an environment where you can’t determine the differences between the virtual and the real environment because things are so integrated” says Dilan Rajasingham, Executive Manager Technology Innovation, Enterprise Services, at Commonwealth Bank.
This holds vast potential for businesses and is best exemplified by property developer Thirdi Group, an exciting young business the Commonwealth Bank is helping to achieve their business goals through advice and support.
The company has to deal with multiple stakeholders every time they approach a new project — planning officials, designers, builders and customers among them. The traditional method of demonstrating what a new development will look like, and its impact on neighbours, is through drawings and models. VR offers a much more powerful way to explain things.
Using VR, Thirdi can build virtual models of their developments. Potential buyers and others can take a virtual tour of Thirdi’s upcoming developments via an app, walking through kitchens and lounge rooms yet to be built, take in the view from different floors, and even make potential modifications and changes to finishes.
VR allows the developer to simulate the shadows cast by new buildings, and how light will change as the sun moves through the day, bringing what used to be a 2D map to life.
“We are at that perfect stage where the planets have aligned. The phones are strong enough, the internet is fast enough and the software is good enough that we can combine all that to deliver an experience that is no longer clunky or cartoony,” says Luke Berry, Sales and Marketing Director at Thirdi Group.
Thirdi created a VR platform for the real estate space called ARTi, and app developers are already building new functions on top of it. Thirdi is planning to release integrations with property platforms like RealEstate.com, and to cater to more senses, like touch.
Beyond real estate, there are other uses for virtual reality, many of them yet to be imagined. While flight simulators are a long-standing example, current experiments range from NFL teams using it to scout and safely train players, to medical schools training surgeons, social networks creating virtual spaces to hang out and even virtual gyms.
Virtual Reality and its prevalent cousin Augmented reality has attracted over $650 million of mainly early stage investment in 2015 alone, and it’s expected to keep growing.
The Commonwealth Bank is also experimenting with VR in several forms — notably creating virtual spaces to train recruits, for workers to collaborate and even a new medium of interacting with computers such as changing the way trading data is consumed.
“I can use it for engineering, I can design things using it, I can train myself as a surgeon using it, I can predict what people are going to do using it. I would describe [VR] as a set of capabilities waiting to be exploited,” says Rajasingham.
The possibility that VR could become a new way of interacting with computers also poses great potential. Rather than computer monitors, keyboards and mice, which create a divide between you and what you are working on, virtual reality could make computers more immersive.
Wearing a VR headset you can become completely visually immersed in your computer, and using special peripherals such as gloves, you can interact directly with it. But there is so much more to it than that.
Rajasingham says VR could lead to a world where you can do your job on a beach or mountain top, yet interact with international colleagues, build your next skill and replay, practice and correct errors.
“Imagine a world where you can conceptualise a new product, sell it and determine how it would affect customers, your supply chain and staff. Imagine a world where a crisis could be gamed out, a recovery plan formulated, and even where you could experience an ancient civilisation to learn prior art.”
All this can happen in this magical world without needing to build a physical thing, yet we interact within it without realising the difference – it becomes a form of reality.
The only thing limiting the use of VR is our imagination.
This post is part of the Innovation Insights series, sponsored by CommBank. At CommBank we believe innovation starts by asking questions. Discover new ways to keep your business moving. Start today at commbank.com.au/canbusiness.
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