A survey revealed that 56% of C-suite executives admitted to implementing AR technology, and 35% more companies would do so in the coming years. The next stage in the evolution of a company is becoming a virtual reality company – one that uses, produces or distributes AR technology.
- Virtual reality allows users to interact with a virtual environment through technology like headsets, speakers, gloves, and more
- Companies are using VR to improve buyer confidence, promote virtual tourism prototype products and create immersive training programs
- Lowe’s, Stage11 and NextVR are companies revolutionizing the VR space.
“I make it so that you are in the story, you speak to the shadows, and the shadows reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it.” _ Pygmalion’s Spectacles, Stanley Weinbaum (1935)
In 2022, Weinbaum’s idea of an immersive movie experience is much closer to fact than fiction. Computers can generate 3D simulations that users can explore and interact with in a way that feels real. This is the essence of virtual reality (VR) today.
What separates augmented reality from virtual reality?
Unlike augmented reality (AR), where users interact with a 3D simulation of a product projected onto a real-world situation, in VR users interact with a fully virtual environment. They use sophisticated wearable technology like VR headsets and gloves to engage in a fully-immersive experience that transports users to an alternative dimension set apart from the physical world.
AR, in contrast, retains the humanness of the experience. The user can touch and interact with 3D simulations through any device without relying on sophisticated technology. All they need is an Internet connection.
About 56% of C-suite executives in mid and high-level tech enterprises have already implemented AR or VR technology in some form. Businesses that are investing in VR technology in particular are looking to build fully immersive experiences for their customers. The goal is to create innovative and engaging buyer journeys.
For a company, this means a substantial investment in VR technology and the development of virtual environments – not to mention paying for operating systems, buying virtual real estate, and more. Together these costs add up to between USD $25,000 to USD $400,000 depending on the technologies used, yet businesses routinely make these investments. That’s because when users interact with virtual environments, companies collect granular customer intent data, which helps them generate novel insights and develop new and effective consumer conversion strategies.
Unlike their competition, organizations investing in AR are looking to add another layer of engagement to their existing buyer journeys. This often means developing a dedicated AR app to allow customer interactions with product simulations. More recently, companies have started using WebAR to integrate 3D simulations of products directly onto their website. Many have partnered with companies like Enhance to make this process easier.
How are companies using VR?
The most popular ways in which companies use VR technology are as follows.
- Improving customer confidence when buying high-value products: Customers prolong purchase decisions when buying high-value items for one of two reasons – either because they need help understanding how the product works or because they cannot try the product. With VR tech, sales reps can provide potential buyers with fully-immersive customer experiences that answer all product-related questions. This boosts buyer confidence and improves conversions.
- Promoting virtual tourism: Travel companies are using VR technology to simulate lifelike travel experiences for customers who don’t have the funds to travel for real. In 2021, the Global virtual tourism market was worth well over USD $5 billion. That figure is expected to go up to USD $24.1 billion by 2027 with the advancement of VR technology.
- Training programs: VR is being used to train professionals that perform jobs in stressful environments, for example fighter pilots and law enforcement, and also to help surgeons perform complex medical procedures.
- Prototyping and design: VR technology allows floor operators to check every process before the start of production or manufacturing. This way, they can test for reliability in advance, thereby avoiding unnecessary tooling and platforming costs. Companies like BMW have held engineering reviews using VR tech since 2017.
The right time to invest in VR technologies is now, given the market share of AR and VR is expected to grow to USD $454.73 billion by 2030. Businesses that don’t know how to get started can look at industry-leading virtual reality companies to find out how.
Lowe’s, Stage11, NextVR: Companies leading the VR revolution
Lowe's, a home improvement provider, has been at the forefront of the VR revolution in retail. The company first dabbled with the Holoroom as early as 2017, allowing users to design their spaces with Lowe's products using Oculus HMD goggles. The virtual reality company also used VR tech to train its employees. Such efforts increased employee confidence by over 127%.
Although the Holoroom Test Drive is still available at selected Lowe's stores, the company has shifted gears by setting foot into the metaverse. As the first home improvement retailer in this new online space, Lowe's now has an extensive collection of assets buyers can use for free. The company aims to understand buyer behavior through these efforts and capitalize on opportunities as they present.
Stage11 is a company which has altered how artists interact with their fans in the digital world. It uses VR and gaming technology to create immersive experiences for creators and fans.
The platform aims to help artists create unique digital experiences and unlock new revenue streams through gaming, VR, and virtual collectibles. Stage11 employs cinematic principles, blockchain and gaming technologies to achieve this. It also received $5.77 million in funding to reimagine music for the metaverse in 2022.
Finally, NextVR, is a video capture solution that records, shares, and displays VR content on the Internet.
While many of the company's clients are in the sports industry, the platform also allows users to experience concerts, stand-up comedy, and other live events. Initially, it used Oculus VR technology to deliver these experiences, but recently, NextVR was acquired by Apple. Following the acquisition, Apple is expected to create an AR and VR technology device for the video streaming company.