There were times when naysayers believed there was no use for PCs or smartphones in business.
It wasn’t too long ago those same beliefs were spoken about virtual reality.
But now, the time is ripe for virtual reality (and its tech cousin, augmented reality). This is due to a collision in the marketplace: Technology improvements intersecting with lower price tags.
Adding to it is the fact that virtual reality components are being integrated into everyday smartphones.
After more than 20 years of false starts with virtual technologies, businesses are finally embracing them. This includes Converse, IKEA, Marriott, the NFL, the University of Louisville, and Volvo.
Better Technology, Better Price
Today, entities other than the ultra-deep-pocketed now have a chance to experiment and benefit from these technologies.
So much so that Digi-Capital estimates that the virtual/augmented reality market will hit $120 billion by 2020.
Eric Abbruzzese, a virtual reality follower and research analyst with ABI Research, predicts “meaningful price drops in 2017 and 2018 such that middle sized companies can use” the immersive technologies.
Meanwhile, a current rash of high-quality consumer systems could impact virtual reality’s uptake in business.
Facebook’s $600 Oculus Rift virtual reality system, for example, shipped in March for gamers and social applications. The $800 HTC Vive became available in early April. And the $400 Sony PlayStation virtual reality system is slated to ship in October.
Widespread acceptance, however, will hinge largely on the quality of the experiences, according to Abbruzzese. The current flood of product deliveries “is going to prove or disprove the validity of the market as a whole,” based on how realistic they are, he asserts.
The Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Jets use immersive reality training to gain additional practice time without worrying about torn ACLs or concussions.
In 2015, Sports Illustrated named virtual reality “innovation of the year” in part for these life-like training applications.
Virtual technologies are well suited to situations where people need to hone their skills without risking life and limb.
Imagine maneuvering in life-threatening military situations. Or operating an oil rig in a tumultuous sea. Even learning to perfect a tricky surgical operation.
Despite its current progress, the immersive, interactive simulated reality market still has kinks to iron out.
The initial investment for virtual reality training will be the largest expense. But once you have the core components, you can reuse them. This means that the follow up costs little to none.
Putting a Price Tag on Virtual Reality
Business-to-consumer apps that work with low-cost, commodity elements are relatively easy to price out. But it’s challenging to get a very specific understanding of just what an internal deployment might cost because of the variable prices in systems and components.
One analyst puts a stake in the ground with an approximate cost of outfitting 15 employees on an oil rig with virtual reality (VR):
- User device (head-mounted display or other): $1500 per employee: $22,500 (one-time cost)
- VR software: Ranges from about $200 per month ($2400 per year) total for Android to $4000 per device (one-time outlay) for high-end controller software: Up to $60,000 (one time)
- Maintenance: $50 to $100 per device per month: Up to $18,000 per year First year total cost: $105,000 for 15 employees Second year total cost: $78,000 for 15 employees