At the last MWC in Barcelona, Mark Zuckerberg, speaking to an audience
made up entirely of people wearing virtual reality headsets, explained the
interest that a social media web site like Facebook has in virtual reality.
Virtual reality has existed for around 15 years. Major players in the
automobile and aerospace sectors such as Renault, Peugeot, Airbus and NASA have
rapidly adopted it for the design of new machines. They have the means to
invest several millions of euros into the development of 3D simulators -
immersive machines that consist of walls made of screens. This is what we call
a "CAVE" ("Cave Automatic Virtual Environment").
The recent commercialisation of high-functioning virtual reality headsets such
as those developed by HTC or Oculus Rift, which set consumers back between 600 and
900 euros, put virtual reality within the reach of small businesses. Of course,
these headsets have been developed with public use in mind, in particular for
video game purposes, but they can also be of use to a number of professionals.
In which ways does virtual reality help us imagine designs?
Immediately, engineers in technical offices, architects and designers all come
to mind. Rather than being glued to their screens and their keyboards they can
visualize a life-size model, walk around it, bend down to examine it, change
special elements and test new ideas. With a headset and an Internet connection
they are able to interact with colleagues from across the whole world so they
can work on projects together.
Workplace training is a constant challenge - can it help here?
The other major area of
use is training. GRTgaz plans to use it to train maintenance technicians who
work on different parts of the grid. Its Engie branch only has one physical
school. With virtual reality, technicians will be able to carry out their
different repair tasks from any classroom and commit errors without fear of any
Virtual reality will enable them to simulate rare occurrences or specific
conditions (working at night time, working in the rain). This is a much more
motivating training device for trainees than a PowerPoint presentation.
Is it also being used for sales and marketing?
Another potential use of
virtual reality is in marketing. Rather than making consumers who will test products
come to a test supermarket, Procter & Gamble gave them headsets. This
enables them to view a virtual shelf-display and designate on it what they
think is the best type of packaging in their opinion. Coca-Cola, for example,
recently adopted cardboard packaging.
And with health too?
Regarding health, virtual reality can help to treat phobias. On board a plane
or on the edge of a cliff, the patient can relive a traumatising experience in
order to eventually overcome it. Virtual reality can also help in the fight
against musculoskeletal disorders, enabling us to test, for example, how user
friendly work stations are in an assembly line.
Are we all going to regularly don virtual reality headsets as part of
our jobs? Whether it be to design or simulate a new product, to train people in
the use of a certain type of technology or to present a project from a distance,
there are limitless possibilities for the use of virtual reality. In Nexity's new age real estate agency, clients can take a 360° "trip" around
the properties that interest them.
In this new agency, with 3D technology, people who plan to buy an "off-plan"
property will be able to better imagine themselves into their future property,
or even start planning its layout from the floor to the ceiling by choosing
colours and materials.
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