There was a time when it looked like virtual reality (VR) would never be able to shake its clunky image. From the release of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1994 to Google’s low-price headset, Google Cardboard, it was hard to hear about a new iteration of VR without the additional point of ‘unfulfilled expectations’. Despite numerous rollouts from various tech giants promising that the next release would ‘finally’ nail VR, the technology continued to be viewed as not much more than a gimmicky gaming accessory. However, perhaps we had the wrong idea about VR all along. Instead of thinking about VR headsets as personal accessories, maybe it’s time we start looking at them as a key workplace tool?

VR’s turning point

A major catalyst for this change stems from Apple’s long-awaited entry into the VR market in 2024 with the release of the Apple Vision Pro. By prioritising user experience and allowing adjustable immersion levels, Apple addressed long-standing critiques around comfort and whether VR had any practical business use. This ability to tailor the virtual experience is a key reason for VR’s increasing use in businesses.

Transforming industries

In healthcare, VR can be used to simulate high-stakes scenarios, risk-free – allowing practitioners to build vital skills through realistic, repetitive training without jeopardising patient safety. At Great Ormond Street Hospital, the technology is being used to help train surgeons by allowing them to interact with 3D anatomical models of body parts. This is allowing surgeons to map out procedures in advance, and even direct surgeries that are taking place in different parts of the world altogether.

As digital meetings are now commonplace, many companies are looking to VR to create digital workspaces that foster an office environment for widely dispersed workers. Our client Cornerstone recently hosted a meeting in the Metaverse, enabling colleagues worldwide to meet, chat and visit their expo hall – and had a few fun extras with a dance club and spa retreat!

Immersive VR is also transforming teacher training by providing innovative tools to enhance curriculum delivery. At universities like Sunderland, education programmes are equipping trainee teachers with headsets that simulate realistic classroom environments. This allows student teachers to practise managing a virtual class and experiment with multisensory teaching methods before ever stepping foot in a real classroom.

VR finds its place in the world of work

While there are still barriers to widespread adoption – such as price and comfort – it’s clear VR has found a place in the world of work. Perhaps it’s time to reframe our expectations to stop thinking about VR as a gimmicky personal accessory, but rather as a pragmatic workplace tool. Just as with any new technology, the real breakthrough usually happens when the hype subsides, and pragmatic use cases emerge. It took a while for VR to ‘grow up’, but it finally feels like we’ve stopped imagining it as a futuristic novelty and instead embracing it as a tool for the present.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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