The time is right for companies to introduce virtual reality: The world of work demands new forms of location-independent collaboration, and the possibilities offered by the immersive worlds of virtual reality can cover diverse use cases from training to development across all industries. Companies should avoid five key mistakes.
The world of work is changing. According to reports from McKinsey, 90 percent of the companies surveyed are planning to introduce flexible home office arrangements, the majority are reducing their office space and around half are drastically cutting their budgets for travel. New forms of location-independent collaboration are emerging – one, perhaps the most forward-looking, is virtual reality (VR), a technology of the metaverse, or 3D Internet, along with augmented reality (AR). VR is available, mature and affordable.
According to a study by the German Digital Industry Association, VR and AR are now an integral part of the strategies of companies in the digital economy. Accordingly, it is becoming apparent that the technologies will play an important role in most companies.
VR in particular is suitable for various application scenarios: location-independent, more effective collaboration that becomes human with avatars, or impressive presentations of even complicated products are only a small part. Complex processes can be visualized and made more vivid with the technology, learning content can be consolidated more sustainably, and prototypes can be developed digitally.
The bottom line is that companies save massively on travel and production costs, thereby reducing their C02 emissions and increasing efficiency. So in economic terms, the total savings figure is in the billions.
For companies to fully realize the potential of virtual reality, they should avoid the following five mistakes.
1. a long-term strategy is missing – a digitization strategy for process optimization is not enough. For the most part, even the basic information about virtual and augmented reality and their possibilities is not available; not to mention a comprehensive approach with a holistic view – ranging from the idea to implementation and optimization, the costs and the benefits. Instead, there are isolated solutions: Small projects are developed independently in individual departments – marketing tries a show case to be innovative at the trade fair and HR realizes that the technology could be used for training.
The departments know nothing about each other’s plans. Instead of these isolated solutions, a holistic platform makes sense: it can cover not just one use case, but dozens. With such a broad application, the benefits of virtual reality – especially cost savings – can be fully exploited. In addition, a holistic strategy improves the overall user experience – users are then not left to their own devices, but are provided with technical equipment such as VR goggles, receive training and have contact persons.
Such a mentoring system makes it easier to get started with the technology, as does standardized equipment. A uniform platform solution also ensures that interfaces and connections remain the same, so users do not have to switch between solutions and relearn how to use them – instead, one tool covers all processes, which again improves usability. This increases overall user acceptance.
2. VR projects are often designed for only one device instead of taking a cross-device, cross-platform approach. This makes them available only to a small, limited target group – and acceptance in the company remains low. With an all-device strategy, the 3D application works not only on a specific device such as VR goggles, but also on a smartphone or tablet. This makes it widely usable, as access is not tied to the few glasses available and only individual employees or departments can use it. If the technology is rolled out across devices, user acceptance increases.
3. companies place too much emphasis on the quality of the graphics and a photo-realistic environment with avatars and 3D worlds. The expectation leans towards the quality of computer games, but it is not yet realistic for business scenarios. This is because such graphics require high processor and computer power, and very few companies are equipped with gamer hardware. Such graphics therefore always limit the range: Only those whose computers are equipped with the corresponding computing power can use them.
The better the graphics, the fewer the users. In practice, it turns out that many VR island projects fail because of these overly high demands on the graphics: It brings little added value if ten users with VR goggles can access the application of the highest quality, but the company has 20,000 employees who come away empty-handed.
4. the VR solution does not allow interaction. Thus, showrooms are mostly very static and no social interaction is possible with the avatars. Many companies are still hesitant to integrate more interaction options because they involve additional costs. However, interaction with other visitors through chats with avatars and objects is what attracts and what keeps visitors to a virtual trade show coming back, for example. Changing content is also important here, comparable to what a website offers.
Gamification elements are another possibility, when visitors are involved in a game with tasks or when a story is told.
5. The fifth mistake is the lack of integration with other systems. This is because VR systems are often set up in isolation. This again leads to limitations in usability and, above all, in security. VR must be integrated into the IT and security landscape, as sensitive product and machine data is available there. Companies must therefore ask themselves how the system fits into the IT, how it can be supported and what security mechanisms it supports.
Last but not least, an integrated system improves the user experience. For example, the user login can be a single sign-on for employees – giving them access to the VR service via their company account. After all, not everything has to be reinvented for the 3D worlds. Chats or support hotlines can be integrated, as can possible analytics that provide information about user movements and interaction.
To successfully launch the metaverse with virtual reality, companies need five pillars: a holistic strategy rather than stand-alone solutions, a cross-device platform for an all-device approach, a focus on reach rather than photorealistic graphics, integration of interaction in the 3D worlds to keep users engaged, and integration of the technology into the IT infrastructure to ensure security and usability.