For many, the future of virtual reality is of little concern — in work-related tasks at least — as most still tend (and prefer) to work in the real world.
Problem solving and hands-on technical ability can't be replicated in a virtual environment quite yet. If the network goes down, putting on a virtual reality (VR) headset and operating in a virtual world is unlikely to gain anything other than a few horse laughs from bewildered colleagues.
If the future of virtual technology permeating your traditional workplace is viable at all, an accurate simulation of the environment is needed. And you'll need moolah.
Keep in mind, the idea of virtual work doesn't compensate for the fact that fixing the problem in the virtual world does nothing for people in the real world. But there's a solution: Companies could translate actions in VR to a robotic counterpart in the workplace. This robot, which for sheer "coolness" and geek cred would look and function like any of the models from Cyberdyne Systems (the company from "Terminator"), but without the hostility and self-awareness.
And there you have it, the future of virtual reality for IT professionals must include a robotic doppelganger for each user. If, as Mark Zuckerberg predicted at a recent Samsung event in Barcelona, "One day soon, all of us will have the power to broadcast live," this would eliminate the requirement to even go to work. We could fix problems remotely, from our smartphone or other device, allowing the robot to carry out manual tasks and communicate with network users. "I'll be back" or "turn it off and on again," it would say. Who could possibly argue? This scenario could only improve relationships between support and other departments.
Unfortunately, while VR headsets are now readily available to all, the functionality and practical applications are squarely aimed at consumers, focusing on entertainment such as video games and social media apps. Recorded 360-degree videos or photos are shared with friends and family, creating an immersive experience that makes them feel as if they were there. Obviously, even though VR is essentially in its infancy, several industries actively use VR for prototyping, flight or combat simulations, filmmaking, and more.
VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift, Gear VR by Samsung, Sony PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive could create an augmented reality suitable for IT professionals too. To learn more about how professionals are using these new tools, check out this article.
The question is, what does the future of virtual reality hold for an average company? PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that one in three U.S. manufacturers are using or are planning to use VR and augmented reality (AR) technology in the next three years.
Like any technology, though, early adopters are only limited by their creativity. One obvious area is the production of virtual company tours, which could then be used to attract new employees. Companies could show a typical working day for any employee role, where managerial brilliance or lack thereof is presented to interviewees.
Can't attend another boring meeting because your gerbil has laryngitis? Not a problem, thanks to VR. Meetings will now have a dedicated employee, wearing the obligatory ridiculous headset, to record the event and share with those unable to go. View it at home, witness the HR manager choking on an Oreo, see requests for a higher ops budget denied and skip the boring bits unrelated to your role. All as if you were actually present. Just think of the time saved.
Onboarding is made easier using VR technology, too. For security awareness training, sysadmins could create VR presentations to demonstrate how easy it is to ignore embedded links and attachments in email. This kind of virtual reality training may very well be more effective than existing methods.
Regardless of the industry or company size, it's likely that companies will identify VR applications to specifically automate existing processes. But like any new technology with the potential to become a "new computing platform," risk is involved and restrictions are sure to be implemented when monetized.
Take rock concerts, for example. If money can be made from selling the VR experience, will concertgoers be allowed to record the event? Doubtful. In the case of virtual company tours and training, security may be a concern. Perhaps the technology will make it even easier to perform social engineering tasks or to get eyes on the inner workings of company security systems.
Whatever the outcome, the future of virtual reality is approaching and companies considering adoption need to weigh the pros and cons of doing so.
An Irishman based in Hong Kong, Michael O’Dwyer is a business & technology journalist, independent consultant and writer who specializes in writing for enterprise, small business and IT audiences. With 20+ years of experience in everything from IT and electronic component-level failure analysis to process improvement and supply chains (and an in-depth knowledge of Klingon,) Michael is a sought-after writer whose quality sources, deep research and quirky sense of humor ensures he’s welcome in high-profile publications such as The Street and Fortune 100 IT portals.
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