The VR movement may have blown off course with slow adoption rates and mixed reviews, but as it has dispersed from the mainstream, it is now positively blossoming in some unexpected sectors.

We explore the flourishing markets and how VR is changing the way people learn and develop skills.

Virtual and Mixed Reality has had its fair share of controversy since the Oculus DK1 burst onto the immersive tech scene in 2012. Despite the initial excitement about VR around the time of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift in 2014, the VR market has experienced sluggish adoption rates throughout 2016/17, increasing only by 0.03 in July this year, followed by no growth in August.  A factor in this slower than expected growth could be safety concerns for younger users, supported by Samsung and PlayStation who have advised that their products are only suitable for ages 12-13 upwards. This slowing in rapid growth is the result of apprehensions about safety coupled with how the initial shine has worn off VR, with AI and Machine Learning now taking exhausting new discoveries.

However, the IDC (International Data Corporation) envisages a brighter future, predicting the overall VR market to grow from $5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $162 billion in 2020.

 

Thriving Markets

Many industries are seeing the benefits of a maturing virtual reality market, especially within gaming; PlayStation VR, owns a 24% market share of the whole VR market. Situational immersion, or digital journalism, has also been successfully adopted by The New York Times who have committed to releasing a daily 360 news story, and The Guardian who have launched their own VR app, with the purpose of immersing their audience in stories from war-torn Aleppo, to the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week. Amongst these newsworthy, engaging adoptions of the technology, some quieter, innovative organisations have discovered that virtual reality is a very real and practical tool for learning, training and development across multiple sectors and disciplines.

 

Discovery and Learning

Virtual reality has the unique advantage of being able to simulate dangerous or risky situations within a controlled environment. Within the military, VR training is being used to simulate hostile environments without putting the soldier at risk or incurring the high cost of physical locations. It is expected to bring costs of military training down significantly as the VR battlefield has no chance of causing harm to the soldier and provides vast VR environments, reducing costs of travel and physical setups. The military are also using VR for another, important task; recruitment. The University of California at Los Angeles has created a video in partnership with the Department of Military Science called ‘Leaders made here.’ The video gives aspiring candidates a chance to live life as an Army cadet for one day. The British Army have also used the Oculus Rift to recreate a battlefield environment to give potential recruits a taste of life in the army.

 

Workplace Training

In addition to careers training, is also changing the way we learn on the job. GE is using VR to train nuclear engineers to operate in high-risk environments. This unique method of training is often used to acclimatise people into unfamiliar environments which is proven to reduce on the job training and prevent accidents. Similarly, surgeons can practice difficult procedures at no risk to patients using VR and haptics, mechanics can repair an expensive vehicle and people in all sorts of management roles can hone situational judgement and strategic decisions under pressure.
Virtual, augmented and mixed reality specialists, FundamentalVR, worked with The Royal London Hospital, to conduct the first brain surgery recorded in virtual reality. The team used both 360-degree cameras in the operating theatre and GoPros strapped to the heads of the surgeons to capture the remarkable procedure. The firm has developed a VR system that allows people to conduct virtual surgeries and uses haptic feedback to replicate the physical response to what surgeons ‘feel’ during procedures.

 

Immersive Training & Development

Here at Contented Brothers, we are exploring the use of VR to enable an immersive method for training and development. Over 60% of people are visual learners, therefore virtual reality provides a hyper-real environment that most users feel engaged and empowered by. With interactive elements to encourage engagement within a fictional, yet realistic decision-making process. Elements such as eye tracking and physiological monitoring can be applied to the VR experience to help understand how people learn, why they make mistakes and how to solve problems particularly when under pressure or stress.

The medical industry is an early adopter of VR, using versions of the technology as therapy for Phantom Limb Syndrome, using a combination of VR and haptics, and Post Traumatic Stress disorder by providing safe environments for patients to cope with their conditions. VR is also proven to be an effective tool for treating cognitive behaviour therapy for patients with phobias such as flying, public speaking, or heights.

 

With these truly innovative, life-altering uses of VR, we feel that the movement away from, headline-snatching uses or businesses misunderstanding the true value of VR to appeal to meeting their ‘innovation’ targets is a positive change for the VR market. For now, these quiet settlers can flourish, developing rich experiences to change behaviours and develop valuable experiences.