Is virtual reality finally ready for business use?

Virtual reality is about to make a big impact in the enterprise. Here are four companies making business-ready VR products and four industries embracing the technology

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4 examples of real companies using VR 

Virtual reality is not just a fledgling market for business that is coming in the future. It's already taking root with the follow companies who are using the technology to help customers understand a product, visualize an idea or project, and even to explore space.

sage realty virtual realty floored

Sage Realty uses the platform developed by 3-D modeling and virtual reality software provider, Floored, Inc. to provide VR tours for commerical real estate properties.

1. Real estate virtual tour 

For those thinking of buying a home, the search process can be grueling. It can require visits to dozens of homes, which is challenging for those moving to a different state. Many real estate companies are considering virtual tours to help buyers make a decision on a home. 

[Related: What Facebook's bold vision for virtual reality means to you] 

Sage Realty Corporation offers a VR tour currently for commercial real estate properties. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Sage Realty provides a demo for potential tenants to view how an office in New York will look once it is completed next year. They can even walk to the outdoor terrace and check out the wet bar.

mccarthy virtual design construction

McCarthy Building Companies uses the Oculus development kit and Samsung Gear VR to build and show clients VR replicas of construction projects.

2. Construction project virtual visit 

Another business use for VR has to do with showing a client how a building will look once it is completed. The traditional approach is to build a mock-up, which can be time-consuming and expensive but also doesn't show the interior or what it feels like to walk down a hallway. 

Mike Oster, the vice president and CIO at McCarthy Building Companies, says they build VR replicas of construction projects to show clients. Some are hesitant at first and prefer a physical medium, but quickly see the value. They currently use the Oculus Rift development kit and Samsung Gear VR. They use VIMTrek to convert Revit architectural designs to 3D renders for use in the headsets. 

"In this regard, we always bring a fully rendered model with texture, proper lighting that is adjustable, and detailed equipment into the head-mounted device so the client is able to tour the most realistic space," says Oster, adding that -- as with any emerging tech -- they always have to clearly define the goals and process for clients to set expectations on the final VR demo.

lockheed martin chil Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin creates virtual representations of space vehicles, satellites, tools and other instruments at its Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL) facility.

3. Space vehicle creation 

VR is a perfect match for space -- in a VR world, you can simulate the freedom to explore in any direction. At the Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory (CHIL) facility, Lockheed Martin uses two VR platforms -- one is an enclosed room that projects holographic displays; one is a motion-capture studio with engineers and technician decked out in Oculus Rift gear -- to create virtual representations of space vehicles, satellites, tools and other instruments. 

"When they see virtual prototypes in a 1-to-1 scale, the engineers or technicians get a much better perspective and are more readily identify any problems or area of improvement," says Darin Bolthouse, the manager of CHIL at Lockheed Martin. He explained that the lab is a step up from desktop prototype because multiple people can all experience what it is like to be inside the Orion vehicle or interact with a satellite long before the actual prototyping stage.

volvo xc90 vr tour

Volvo offers full virtual reality tours of its new XC90 using your smartphone and Google Cardboard.

4. Car dealership demo 

While it's a consumer application for experiencing the features of a new car, Volvo's demo of their new XC90 is an example of how dealerships could sell cars. Both Rogers and Simons noted how the use of VR in dealerships is one early use for business because it brings the test drive to potential buyers without having to physically get them into the seat of the car. 

In a Volvo promotional video, the company explained how they wanted to give potential buyers a way to test drive the car before it even became available in showrooms. The car appears in front of you with the dashboard in your near field and the road beyond that. Volvo is the first auto company to create this kind of experience, in conjunction with Google Cardboard.

This story, "Is virtual reality finally ready for business use?" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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