In 2020, Gartner predicted a decade-long shift in how people interact with technology, shifting from devices we use separately to a multi-device experience that engages the senses.
This shift is toward what Gartner describes as the multiexperience: Multiple devices and technologies working together to engage multiple senses and transport users to multiple locations to deliver information (full research available to clients).
Many businesses have quickly adopted a digital-first mindset and are turning toward emerging technologies to fill in the gaps including extended reality (XR) technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).
Full dive VR refers to an experience that is so realistic that the simulation achieved through the use of wearables, such as headsets, haptics gloves, and bodysuits, teleports you to a different realm, disconnecting you from physical reality. This type of multisensory experience would engage all of the senses and make it difficult to tell the difference between the simulated VR environment and the physical world around you.
Presently, XR experiences, including AR and VR, engage only a few of the senses, limited to sight and hearing. Full dive VR will not be possible until creators, programmers, and engineers can build technology that also engages other senses, such as touch and smell, to deepen the immersive experience.
Although full VR is a possibility for the future, technology is not advanced enough yet. Some AR/AR professionals say this type of VR experience will be possible in five years, while others say it will take a decade or more. The truth is that no one really knows how long it will take to achieve this type of experience.
However, VR technology that is currently available presents many opportunities for businesses that are looking to prioritize a people-first business model and the ability to operate from anywhere.
As the VR experience becomes more affordable, more businesses are using it to train their employees on company procedures as well as developing the soft skills necessary for roles such as customer service and public speaking.
For example, according to Harvard Business Review, Walmart uses VR-training to teach more than a million employees how to use “The Pickup Tower,” an automated vending machine customers use to pick up orders. During the training, employees receive immediate feedback if they make a mistake. Not only does every employee get hands-on experience, but using virtual reality technology also cuts down training time from eight hours to just 15 minutes.
Walmart is also using VR technology for de-escalation training, as part of its beKIND model. In the VR simulations, employees are presented with uncomfortable scenarios. These simulations help employees practice being calm and empathetic when dealing with disgruntled customers. After employees respond to the situation, they get immediate feedback and see whether their response was effective or escalatory.
Using VR in this way has saved the company money while providing employees with an immersive learning experience. As more companies turn to remote work, VR and immersive technology might be the solution they need to give employees hands-on experience, but virtually.
According to GetApp’s Productivity in the Remote Workplace survey, employees typically enjoy working remotely. While productivity remains a top concern for business leaders, 59% of employees report performing just as well as before or even better when working from home.
Many offices have already reopened or are planning to reopen soon, but 61% of employees prefer to continue working from home.
Remote work might be here to stay as businesses and employees find the right balance between in-office and remote work. As VR gets more advanced, however, businesses will be able to keep their teams working together cohesively even when not physically in the same space.
According to Oculus for Business in HBR, VR can offer a more holistic immersive experience for remote workers than web conferencing software. For example, a virtual environment can reduce travel time for employees and put employees in the same “room,” even if they’re in different geographic locations.
VR technology is continuously advancing. The visuals are getting more realistic, eye tracking and motion tracking are improving, and the VR headset is becoming both more accessible and sophisticated, setting the stage for eventual full dive VR experiences.
As it continues to advance, VR will be one of the many technologies that businesses adopt to provide an immersive experience for both customers and employees.
The future of work holds many possibilities, and we’re here to help you prepare for the challenges and changes of tomorrow. Here are some additional resources to help you get started with VR training and remote collaboration platforms.
*GetApp’s Productivity and the Remote Workplace Survey was conducted in July 2020 among 384 individual contributors in small U.S. businesses (two to 500 employees) who were working remotely at least part-time because of the pandemic. The goal of this study was to better understand how newly remote employees managed their work and maintained productivity.
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