Virtual reality has been a topic historically reserved for two places: science fiction and the arcade. However, in recent years technology has advanced so much that virtual reality is now a reality. As a business, how could virtual reality possibly benefit an office?
The truth is that there are many answers to that question. It may sound surprising, but virtual reality is expected to make an impact on the enterprise in a huge way. There have already been several attempts at creating a smart headset capable of augmenting reality, and some of them have failed to take off. But the recent announcement of Microsoft's HoloLens and the continued excitement around Oculus Rift have pushed the idea of enterprise virtual reality into greater acceptance.
Smartglasses not likely to play a role - yet
Google Glass was going to totally redefine the idea of the wearable device - until people started wearing it. Glass received a significant amount of negative attention, being seen as intrusive into the lives of both the wearer and those surrounding them. This was not Google's intention. In fact, the design of Glass was an attempt at maximizing functionality while reducing physical impact. The device ultimately aimed too high in this ambition and had to be shelved by Google indefinitely. According to InformationWeek contributor Thomas Claburn, this will likely be what happens to Sony's SmartEyeglass Developer Edition, as well.
This is not to say that items like Glass won't be practical in the future. Wearable technology is expected to be successful, but the world might not be ready for something that is worn with the frequency that Glass was. Another headset - HoloLens - has attracted positive attention for being something that is worn only when it needs to be used.
HoloLens will help promote enterprise virtual reality
Until recently, the only taste of a serious consumer VR headset that the general public had came in the form of Oculus Rift. This device gained a significant amount of hype thanks to its purchase by Facebook - which has already started working on virtual reality apps, according to ITProPortal contributor Sead Fadilpašić. Oculus Rift is built with an opaque front, which means users will be completely immersed in the experience.
HoloLens is something different entirely. According to No Jitter contributor Gary Audin, HoloLens is an entire computer contained in a headset. The clear lenses permit for the spaces around users to be augmented - a concept that has limitless possibilities.
Imagine being an architect and having the ability to manipulate and build 3D models by hand. Or maybe a conference has to occur between colleagues in two different parts of the country. HoloLens could permit wearers to join their peers in a virtual conference room.
"There will be a wide range of applications that will enter the business and education communities as well," Audin wrote. "In this latter case, the justifications will focus on training, physical security surveillance, technician support, video conferencing, medical diagnoses and surgery, archeology, urban design, construction, product design - the list is endless."
From fiction to future
Virtual reality in the office may sound silly, but it's very much on its way to being realized. While it may not fit someone's preconceived notions about what virtual reality is capable of, there are going to be countless organizations that are interested in finding out how it could revolutionize their workflows. This is why all enterprises should at least start considering the ways in which tools like HoloLens can help drive productivity. Whether these devices are obtained by the businesses themselves or are adopted first by consumers, there is little doubt as to if they'll enter the workplace.
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