Most people think virtual reality is for teenage gamers who have plenty of time to burn. Though virtual reality was originally introduced as a means to enhance the video game-playing experience, it is poised to shape the rest of our world in all sorts of amazing ways.
VR is changing the way doctors and medical students perform surgeries. It is helping veterans of war better manage their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). VR is even poised to change the way we conduct work in the office.
VR's Use in the Office
Fast forward a decade or so and Skype will be old-fashioned. VR will play a major role in how office work is performed and the manner in which meetings are conducted. Imagine arriving at your office and slapping on a pair of lightweight VR glasses. You are now in a VR meeting room. To your right is Bob, the regional manager in Reno. To your left is Edward, the company's Chief Financial Officer working from the Dallas headquarters. Directly across from you is Heloise, a project manager from your company's office in Paris. Each of these colleagues is in a different physical location yet they are all present at the meeting thanks to virtual reality.
This virtual meeting will feel exactly like a real meeting as it takes place in a virtual replication of an actual conference room. You interact with Elizabeth, Edward and Bob just like you would if they were in the same physical space as you.
VR will also allow for the viewing of notes each meeting participant jots down on a shared whiteboard. Such easy and open access will do wonders for collaboration. VR will even make it possible to create 3D sketches smack dab in the middle of the virtual meeting room. These creations can be rotated, stretched and altered in other ways in real-time. The up-and-coming VR company Leap Motion and several other businesses are hard at work developing such technology. It should be available at some point in the 2020s.
VR for Employee Training
Imagine a situation in which several new hires are added but must learn the idiosyncrasies of their new positions from a specialist who is located in an office across the country. VR will eliminate this challenge. Employees of the future will be taught by specialized trainers in far-away places. There won't be a need for long distance travel or comparably inefficient Skype sessions when one can don a virtual reality headset and interact with an experienced specialist in real-time.
A Full Virtual Office?
Some futurists believe VR will spread to the point that it empowers people to work in a completely virtual manner without stepping foot in a conventional office. It is certainly possible that virtual reality programmers and employers will go as far a building VR offices within VR buildings. The ubiquity of VR in the context of work will ultimately hinge on its communicative quality. If the technology allows colleagues to interface with one another in a virtual realm without the limitations of avatars, its potential is unlimited.
Photo-realism will eventually be necessary for people to be fully on board. Photo-realistic VR would let people view facial expressions and observe other behavioral details in real-time. These subtle actions and social cues are quite important in the context of work.
Stay tuned. Virtual reality will soon make its presence felt in offices across the world. It has the potential to change the way in which we work. This dynamic technology might even eliminate the traditional office as we know it.