Before he retired, my father was an actuary, a numbers man who did the math that underpinned pension plans for large companies. He worked in an era in which spreadsheets actually were giant pieces of gridlined paper that would spread all over our dining room table when he brought work home on the weekend. When I was a kid, it was a huge treat to get to visit his office in the city, not only because it was all fancy and formal in a Mad Men kind of way, but also because that was where all of the cool new machines were.
In my father’s office, my sister and I could play with the giant photocopier, experiment with the phonebook-sized desktop calculator, press the electronic button that raised and lowered the blinds, and try to avoid the after-hours laser beam security tripwire by the reception desk. Later, after PCs arrived in the early 80s, we could watch Dad move his calculations from those huge physical spreadsheets into the magic auto-calc universe of Lotus 1-2-3, which he loaded onto his PC with floppy disks whenever he booted up. Every single one of these technologies was cutting edge and came to the corporate workplace first – there was truly nothing at home back then that even remotely resembled a personal photocopier or a laser beam tripwire.
Fast forward thirty years, and the dynamic has completely flipped. Corporate employees today regularly bemoan how old and slow their office tech is (“My laptop is two years old!”) while their teenagers lounge around with the latest smartphone, a device that has more computing power than the first Apollo mission. At home, I’ve got a thermostat that learns from and predicts my behavior and a doorbell that sends me video of whoever is on my front step no matter where I am in the world. In comparison with this consumer technology bonanza, is there anything cool and technologically-edge in the workplace anymore, anything that would impress my kids as being something that we don’t already have at home?
Well, there is this one new category: Virtual and Augmented Reality, VR and AR.
VR & AR thriving in the educational and corporate space
If you’re only casually paying attention to the VR/AR space, you might hear that it’s predicted to be used a lot for gaming, but that it hasn’t . . . quite . . . taken off yet. But if you look in the fields of enterprise and education, that’s where a huge groundswell of activity is happening. It turns out that the use of VR and AR is steadily increasing in the areas of remote corporate collaboration, training, and empathetic communication. Some examples of this include:
- Home design companies are using VR to help customers envision final remodeling results.
- Educational companies are using VR to teach everything from anatomy to battlefield tactics.
- Hospitals are using AR to overlay X-ray images onto patient bodies to help doctors understand exactly what’s happening beneath the skin.
- Professional athletic teams are using VR to replay key events from live games and learn how they could have scored that goal after all.
- KFC is using VR to teach its chefs how to fry the perfect chicken.
- Insurance adjusters are learning how to identify and price damage in virtual homes before encountering the real world.
- Airplane pilots are practicing various emergency scenarios in VR at a per-hour cost far lower than the cost of a full flight simulator.
- Military forces are finding that soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will open up to virtual therapist in VR more readily than to an actual human one.
- And we at Nokia are exploring the integration of AR into our field force and AirFrame data center management, as seen in this concept video here:
I fully believe that yes, VR and AR gaming and other applications will eventually come into consumer homes, just as I now have a small photocopier in my home workspace that was unimaginable back in my father’s day. But first, both Virtual and Augmented Reality are going to develop and thrive in the corporate and educational space, and I predict that most of us will have our first real taste of these new technologies in the workplace.
Kids, if you want to try these cool new VR goggles, you’ll just have to visit me at my office.
And for more on Virtual and Augmented Reality, visit our website.
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