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What is Virtual Reality?

Posted by Mark Hemmer on 10/12/18 10:00 AM

WhatisVR

What is virtual reality? 

We've written plenty about it, so it might seem strange that we're going back to the basics. But, sometimes, being reminded of the basics of a newer technology can help you think through unique applications for your business. Before you start to implement and then maximize the potential of VR in your business, it's important to know exactly what you're working with. 

Please excuse the following 'high schooler meeting a word count for a term paper' maneuver: Webster's Dictionary defines 'Virtual Reality' as 'an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one's actions partially determine what happens in the environment.' Helpful!

In all seriousness, knowing the most technical definition of a concept can be instructive. Now that you know what VR is, literally, let's cover what VR is for businesses and the general public. Virtual Reality is ultimately more defined by its use cases than its technical definition. Here a few deeper definitions of VR that start with its application:

Virtual Reality is a Marketing Tool

Placing users into a virtual environment is a great way to grab their attention. If your experience uses both a viewer and headphones, you're fully immersing users in a new world. That presents a rare opportunity in today's world: undivided attention. If, as a business owner, you have a new product or service you'd like to demonstrate, VR is a fantastic approach. People skip commercials. People block pop-up ads. People ignore interruptions. Those aren't options within an experience. Giving potential customers an experience that commands their senses and engages them fully ensures that your marketing message lands. 

Virtual Reality is a Training Tool 

Virtual reality can engage employees in the same way that it engages potential customers. If you've ever attempted to run -- or even attended -- a meeting (read: everybody), you understand the premium placed on undivided attention. Between people checking email and compulsively staring at smartphones, it can be difficult to get even a sliver of full-on focus. Proper employee training requires attention. For industries that need safety training, that attention can be a matter of life of death. VR can be the difference-maker, serving as a tool for engaging facility tours, learning games, and service procedures. The immersive nature of VR helps training stick. 

Virtual Reality is an Entertainment Medium

For the general public, VR is first and foremost an entertainment medium. There are, of course, business interests in entertainment also. However, if you're not in the entertainment industry, it can be easy to write off VR as a gimmick for selling more video games or movie tickets. Hopefully the two paragraphs above put that notion to rest. VR is a compelling entertainment medium, but business leaders should be able to see past that application and understand the greater potential that VR offers. Is it awesome to "become" Batman in a video game versus "playing as" him? Of course! But the capabilities of VR are bigger than a cowl. 

What is virtual reality? In addition to its technical definition, virtual reality is a marketing tool, a training tool, and an entertainment medium (for now). If your business needs an advantage in marketing, training, or entertainment, it's time to move past definitions and onto implementing your first VR experience. 

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