A New Virtual Reality Test Can Measure Your Vulnerability To Stress
February 22, 2021
Explore a virtual room. Then explore an elevated alleyway with a step that suddenly has you plummeting. Next, using a virtual flashlight, walk around a dark maze with a figure lurking in certain places. Sounds like a bad dream? It’s actually a science experiment that utilizes virtual reality to test stress response. Each of the above scenarios was what participants experienced during the study. Each scenario progressively injected more stress. The individual’s response was measured throughout each virtual experience. Virtual reality to test stress levels is actually pretty convenient, and, obviously, a safer option than placing an individual in a possible stressful real-life situation. HOW WAS STRESS MEASURED? The study—or experiment—relied on the first two virtual simulations to predict the stress response in the third. Apparently, analyzing the heart rate during the first two stressful situations allowed scientists to guess how participants would react and respond during the, arguably, most stressful situation. Stress was measured via heart rate. According to an article in Science Daily, the stress response also was used to predict the stress outcome of participants when they engaged in another virtual challenge. This time, they had to answer questions (math!) and they were shown the results of other participants. If they answered incorrectly, the virtual floor started to disappear. Researchers concluded that “…the present study emphasizes the power of behavior to predict HRV responsiveness to a subsequent stressful challenge. Thus, in addition to highlighting behavior as a potential stress vulnerability marker, our study contributes a relevant approach to develop diagnostic tests based on VR immersion and machine learning modeling.” While the study looked at stress response to predict future responses, virtual reality also has been used in other—somewhat similar—ways by doctors. A New Virtual Reality Test Can Measure Your Vulnerability To Stress [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Virtual-Reality-Test2.jpg] VIRTUAL REALITY TO DESENSITIZE FEARS AND HELP PTSD Virtual reality has been used in the treatment of anxiety disorders to help individuals gradually overcome fears and anxiety. Virtual reality provides a safe environment, and allows the therapist to remain in control (in case the patient becomes too stressed). The book “Virtual Reality Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Advances in Evaluation and Treatment” discusses ways that this technology can be used to help those who suffer from agoraphobia or fears of spiders, driving, flying, heights, etc. Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) also is being studied regarding effectiveness of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. This type of therapy allows safe exposure to sounds or scenes of combat. In 2010, the United States Army announced “… a four-year study to determine the effectiveness of VRET on active-duty servicemembers returning from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom who are suffering from PTSD.” The study would enroll 120 servicemembers. VIRTUAL REALITY AS A RELAXATION AID While virtual reality is being used to help those who have anxiety or service members who suffer from PTSD, the technology also may be used as a means to guide relaxation. The virtual realm provides a safe way to experience and face events or scenes that create a stress response, but it also can be used to help individuals enjoy some stress-free experiences. In fact, Oculus offers Relax VR, which is a program/experience that allows the individual to enter the virtual realm for guided meditation. Scenes and sounds from the beach, chirping crickets, calming wind and even a relaxing stream can lull a sense of calm during meditation and relaxation. The experience also can be used in spas or maybe even wellness centers. A New Virtual Reality Test Can Measure Your Vulnerability To Stress [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Virtual-Reality-Test3.jpg] VIRTUAL RETREATS? Living through a pandemic has forced many individuals to get creative with their social lives. Virtual chats via Zoom or other platforms have taken the place of face-to-face meetups. Even dates have gone virtual. When museums were closed, virtual tours became the next best thing. Maybe you couldn’t walk through the Louvre, but you could take a virtual stroll through the museum’s notable galleries. Even the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling can be viewed virtually. Virtual might not replicate the in-person experience, but when it was the only option, the virtual world was probably a welcome escape from the four walls of home. And with the normalization of the virtual experience, perhaps the future could be marked by more virtual activities. Not everyone has access to the financial means to take luxurious vacations or visit remote retreats for a week of relaxation. That private bungalow on an exotic beach that was once reserved for the one percent might, in the future, be accessible to the other 99 percent, too. Could virtual reality be a ticket to a world that was unknown to many? Especially to those who had limited financial means? As technology becomes more affordable, more individuals have been granted access to the digital realm via the internet and cell phones. Years ago, owning a smartphone was a luxury. Today, the majority of teens have a smartphone. In fact, nearly 100 percent of teens have one. Virtual reality headsets are not owned by everyone, and their price point may be out of range for many budgets. However, as this technology becomes the norm—and it might become the norm—the access to virtual reality may come at a price that many can afford. The movie “Strange Days” depicted a future world where virtual reality experiences became an addictive drug. Users wore a headpiece (a bit like a skull cap) that tapped into their brain. Compact discs held memories, events or activities that users could experience. While virtual reality likely won’t become an addiction, the technology could become a window into new experiences. Imagine using a headset to walk through a museum in Europe. Have the kids put on their headsets, too, and everyone can take a tour. A virtual family outing! Or imagine going on a virtual retreat in a remote island with access to the best fitness experts. Or practice guided meditation with a group of individuals from across the globe. Want to learn how to surf? Maybe you can do that safely with a virtual instructor. Does virtual reality somehow tap into our senses in the future? Can we feel the waves? Smell the ocean? Today’s virtual reality might not have all the sensory experiences of real life, but we also might not be too far off in developing a heightened technology that can recreate the sights, sounds and smells of life. A New Virtual Reality Test Can Measure Your Vulnerability To Stress [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Virtual-Reality-Test.jpg] VIRTUAL SHOPPING, GAMES & EVEN TRAINING Those with access to a virtual reality headset can already take advantage of many cool virtual experiences—even guided meditation. The Climb, for example, allows users to take on virtual climbing challenges, including buildings. Walkabout Mini Golf is a mini golf experience…perfect for quarantine! But virtual reality isn’t just about games. The technology also lets users step into other experiences. Businesses use virtual reality experience during employee training; simulations help employees confront situations they may face on the job. And using virtual reality lets employees safely handle stressful experiences. Virtual reality even may help an employee learn how to handle a robbery. Kentucky Fried Chicken uses a virtual escape room format in its training program. KFC also is apparently developing another virtual reality program called “The Hard Way.” A virtual Colonel will be giving directions, per Viar360. While shopping isn’t necessarily a stressful situation, shopping online isn’t quite the same as shopping at the store. Virtual showrooms can provide a simulated in-person experience when the option to venture out is limited. RelayCars allows car shoppers the opportunity to explore their favorite makes and models virtually. Through a virtual showroom, RelayCars lets consumers do a virtual walk around, peek inside the car at all the features and even change the paint hue. This virtual experience was a great resource for new car buyers when dealerships might have been closed to foot traffic during the pandemic. VIRTUALLY DECREASING STRESS ON THE ROAD Virtual reality is even about to creep into our cars. Nissan’s Invisible-to-Visible technology might bring virtual avatars into the passenger spaces. Wearing special glasses or goggles, the driver could visualize these companions next to them. Friends and family may join the drive, even when they are across the country. While I2V is still in development, the idea of virtual passengers could be quite comforting for those who are traveling alone. The stress of solo trips cross country and/or long business trips might be reduced if the driver could invite virtual passengers during the drive. In addition, I2V also would allow virtual experts to join the drive to provide instruction on the road. If a driver needed assistance, help would be one seat over. This “service scenario” would allow for drivers to get help during the drive. The technology also would offer a “tourism scenario;” a virtual guide would appear in the vehicle to provide recommendations…maybe they could suggest a restaurant or a museum. While researchers have studied virtual reality as a means to measure stress responses, this technology has wide-reaching and beneficial uses. Virtual reality therapies can be used to help individuals confront fears or even help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Virtual reality also can be used to help provide an immersive relaxation experience in spas. The future of this technology may lead to everyone having access to a headset to explore many new activities, visit different countries or even enjoy the privilege of luxe experiences virtually. Virtual companions or passengers also may be in our future. In all these scenarios, virtual reality can be used to (hopefully) help decrease stress and increase happiness.
How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development
February 5, 2021
Many consumers have long associated the Hummer brand with not-so-sustainable consumption. But, this auto manufacturer is changing the market’s approach to electric vehicles and technology in one go. With the help of virtual reality technology, General Motors has developed the 2022 GMC Hummer EV in a short amount of time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic sent much of the country’s commercial sphere into their homes, automakers took extraordinary measures to keep all of their staff, partners, and consumers connected. Following Hummer’s development of remote manufacturing for their line of electric vehicles, other automotive brands are following this trend. Now, VR technology has become commonplace in the work areas AND consumer spaces throughout the car sales industry. Read on to learn more about the ways automakers are using virtual reality to improve the speed, cost-efficiency, and overall seamlessness of the manufacturing process. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development2.jpg] VIRTUAL REALITY FOR AUTOMOTIVE DEVELOPMENT When the world is faced with a collective challenge, some of the best innovation can be born. Virtual reality technology, which was previously almost exclusively for gaming, is now being used to help medical professionals, manufacturers, and other physical trades stay in operation. The industry has been using VR and AR technology in automotive to improve internal processes for years, but leading brands are taking their remote connectivity to a whole new level in 2021 and beyond. GM is just one of the retailers that plan to use this system for primary testing, protypring, and supply chain management in the future. As its own industry, virtual reality within the automotive market is predicted to reach upwards of $14.7 million by the year 2027. This steep incline is promoting core companies in these interconnected spheres to prioritize virtual product development and immersive media throughout the customer experience. Instead of relying on physical models and prototypes to work through operational and exterior tests, digital models are more cost effective and take less time to complete. In fact, using VR during the car development process has helped the Hummer EV production line shave hours (adding up to months) from the development plan. Designing visual components and aesthetic properties is limitless using a tablet in an integrated AR/VR enabled environment. Drawing, sculpting, painting, and refinishing work can be completed with a few pieces of equipment and the user’s imagination. Brainstorming between multiple individuals can be consolidated in a virtual chat room or channel, and the innovation process doesn’t have to stop for a closed office, inclement weather, and other external factors. Forgoing clay busts and traditional design methods allows automakers to focus their primary efforts toward essential aspects of the vehicle’s operation, aesthetic, and engineering. Additionally, moving the workline online allows engineers and technicians to resume work from any properly equipped home office. Using VR headsets and interactive digital whiteboards that are scalable to the size of their work, it’s now possible for technicians to build an entire car without ever stepping foot onto company grounds. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development3.jpg] GROWTH OF ELECTRIC VEHICLE MARKET DURING COVID-19 While COVID-19 caused a severe market downturn in 2020, the electric vehicle industry still achieved high sales as a result of this remote tech innovation. Compared to the 2.5% market share we saw in the EV market in 2019, the past fiscal year was promising for the growing e-car industry. By streamlining operations across the auto industry workforce and factory spheres, the post-pandemic car sales market is expected to climb to 4.18 million units by next year. The electric car sector is no different, and the addition of thousands of EV charging stations across the country has helped to speed up this growth. Additionally, owning an e-car is more affordable than ever – which pairs well with the recent uptick in interest regarding global sustainability. The rapid increase in electric vehicle adoption across the world prompted auto brands to utilize production methods that maximize time, resources, and costs during a pandemic. While something as simple as access to personal protective equipment can halt the production line, providing creators and professionals with a way to resume operations safely from home played a major role in the success of this growing sphere. United States government officials have also played a part in the expansion of the electric vehicle market, largely with the previous two stimulus packages. The amount of EV charging stations across the country reached more than 70,000 units last year, which also contributed to the collective consumer interest in electric vehicles. To a lesser extent, recent changes in our societal structure have created a barrier between eco-friendly commuters and public transportation. COVID-19 has prompted more consumers to invest in their own personal vehicle, and EV brands are serving as a compromise for those who are moving away from the crowded bus or train. COST-SAVING BENEFITS OF VR IN CAR MANUFACTURING AND SALES Using VR in the car manufacturing industry has created more than a simple solution for saving time during the production process. This is also an effective way for auto retailers to save money on testing, vehicle prototyping, redesigns, rendering, and more. Virtual reality has come a long way from the clunky headset-and-handset combos of previous years. Using sophisticated AI-enabled motion and behavioral tracking, virtual reality systems can completely recreate just about any type of work environment you can think of. Traditional car manufacturing supply chains often require multiple phases of physical modeling and restructuring, adding up to millions of dollars in operational and material costs. Incorporating VR in business practices can drastically reduce the amount of physical equipment and collateral necessary to get the job done. Virtual product development provides each technician with unlimited trials and materials in a fully digital environment. Instead of using clay and polymer modeling, in addition to fully equipped sample vehicles, this virtual solution can be endlessly modified without incurring extra costs. Additionally, using VR as a method for product testing is safer than using physical prototypes on a real-life test course. But, the perks don’t stop once the car is on the market. Not only can the use of AR/VR tech in immersive showrooming boost sales, but this type of sales and marketing strategy has the potential to completely revolutionize a growing auto brand. Customers can interact with detailed elements of the vehicle digitally, and customize their selection in real time. Utilizing virtual reality in the sales experience is a fast and affordable way to generate customer loyalty and increase conversions. The combination of these benefits adds up to a 10% to 15% boost in annual savings for leading auto manufacturers. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development.jpg]Futuristic interface of autonomous car. Graphical user interface. Head up display. CONSUMER USE OF VR IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES Virtual reality is being used to create new vehicles, and it’s also being built into the driver’s seat of many up-and-coming electric models. Just like online consumers are gaining an interest in immersive reality on social media, those same demographics are looking for more ways to integrate interactive media into their daily lives. Leading automakers like General Motors incorporate virtual and augmented reality experiences for their consumers, as well as their staff. Virtual reality technology allows drivers and passengers to enjoy a higher level of control over their method of transportation. The advent of self-driving capabilities have opened this market even wider, taking hands-free entertainment to a whole new level. Navigation screens are getting wider, and safer line-of-sight projections are taking the place of traditional dashboard displays. Voice-enabled mobile assistance that syncs to your mobile devices can allow you to access your calls, texts, and even social media feeds without taking your attention from the road. Additionally, this same technology can make it easier for driver’s to predict and circumvent dangerous situations such as: * Road blocks * Traffic jams * Collisions * Natural disasters * Pedestrians * Updated routes and construction sites Virtual reality technology is not only making the driving experience more fun, but it’s also helping everyone inside and outside of the car stay safe and out of harm’s way. From start to finish, VR systems have a heavy hand in the electric vehicle market – and that change is showing no signs of slowing down. Consumers are becoming accustomed to the increased ease of use, mobile connectivity, and overall experience of a VR-equipped cab. Additionally, auto brands are taking the opportunity to tap into this growing consumer market while reducing their own operational costs simultaneously. By recreating virtually any environment regardless of the amount of space allotted, automakers meet consumer demand in a massive wave. This lightning-speed development of this corner of the market has the potential to grow exponentially as VR technology continues to expand. If you’re looking into buying or leasing an electric vehicle in the next year, you’ll be sure to see these changes throughout the shopping, production, sales, and even ownership processes
Virtual Reality May Make Remote Collaboration Easier
February 1, 2021
There are many benefits to working remotely. Remote employees are able to work more flexible schedules and avoid lengthy commutes to the office. Employers, on the other hand, can reduce overhead costs and boost employee morale by giving employees the option to work remotely. Of course, there are some drawbacks to remote work as well. But it is up to employers to identify and address these challenges to ensure their remote employees are successful. Fortunately, the results of a new study indicate that virtual reality technology could be the solution to one common remote work challenge. Here’s what employers need to know: THE CURRENT STATE OF REMOTE WORK Remote work has become increasingly popular over the last several years. But in 2020, there was an unprecedented surge in remote work caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that one-third of the U.S. workforce is now working remotely all the time, and one-quarter of the U.S. workforce is working remotely sometimes. Participants who responded that they sometimes work remotely spend an average of 11.9 days per month working from home. In other words, even those who only “sometimes” work remotely are spending about half of their workdays every month working from home. The growing popularity of remote work may have been sparked by the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean this trend will disappear once the coronavirus crisis has been resolved. Even employers that were hesitant to allow their employees to work remotely have come to embrace it. In fact, 83% of companies believe that the shift to remote work has been a success. Furthermore, fewer than one in five executives say they want to return to working out of the office five days a week once the pandemic is over. Based on this data, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Because remote work will continue in some form even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, it’s important for employers to make an effort to help their employees overcome these challenges. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-1.jpg] WHAT ARE COMMON REMOTE COLLABORATION CHALLENGES? Most remote workers rely on video call platforms such as Zoom or Skype to collaborate with one another on various projects and tasks. But the results of a new study revealed that remote workers are becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy with video calls. HTC Vive recently surveyed employees in the United Kingdom to learn more about the challenges that they face when working remotely. One-third of survey respondents reported that they were exhausted as a result of countless hours of video calls. Nearly half of those surveyed also admitted that they would prefer meeting face-to-face with co-workers instead of meeting on a video call. Another survey revealed that 45% of remote workers reported attending more meetings while working from home than when in the office. This statistic highlights how much time remote workers are spending on video calls with co-workers, which could explain their growing frustration. Even though these results reveal that remote workers desire more face-to-face interaction, it’s unlikely that they will get their wish granted any time soon. Returning to the office—or meeting co-workers in other locations—is still too risky due to the threat of contracting COVID-19. Even after the pandemic is over, employers may choose to continue remote work, so employees may need to adapt to working remotely all the time or some of the time. Face-to-face interaction might be out of the question for now, but there is another way to help remote workers avoid video call fatigue while also giving them the personal interaction they desire. Some experts believe that virtual reality technology could be the solution to this problem. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-2.jpg] HOW REMOTE WORKERS CAN USE VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY The term virtual reality refers to the technology that is used to transport users to a computer-generated simulated environment. Users aren’t simply viewing the simulated environment on a screen in front of them. Instead, users are fully immersed in the simulated world and able to interact with various elements of this virtual environment. This technology has been used in the gaming industry for years, but it has many other applications as well. Now, experts are starting to see the value of using virtual reality technology to make the remote work experience easier for employees. For example, virtual reality technology could help employers address remote workers’ discontent with video calls. Instead of using Zoom or Skype to meet via video call, employers could allow their remote workers to host virtual meetings powered by virtual reality technology. Employees could transport themselves to a simulated environment by putting on a virtual reality headset. Using this headset, employees would be able to meet with one another in a virtual meeting room, which could be designed to look exactly like a traditional meeting room in a corporate office. The technology would make them feel like they were actually inside a meeting room rather than sitting at their home in front of a computer screen. Each attendee could take a seat at a virtual table inside the room. They could take a look around the room to see other attendees—just like they would if they were meeting in-person. Then, they could conduct a virtual meeting in the same way that they would conduct an in-person meeting. They could even take notes on a virtual whiteboard located in the front of the virtual meeting room. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-3.jpg] WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY FOR REMOTE WORK? There are a number of benefits to allowing remote workers to use virtual reality technology to attend virtual meetings. Attending a virtual meeting is not exactly the same as attending an in-person meeting. However, it’s close enough to the real thing to satisfy remote workers’ desire for more face-to-face interaction with their co-workers. In a virtual meeting, they will be able to see and interact with virtual representations of their co-workers, which will make it seem as if they are actually meeting with their co-workers in-person. This will help remote workers feel more connected to their co-workers even when they are working far apart. Using this technology could also lead to better collaboration among remote workers. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that employees are more connected to content and focused when using virtual technology as opposed to other types of technology. Virtual reality creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration. Only one person can speak at a time on video calls, but this isn’t the case in a virtual meeting. Employees won’t need to worry about muting and unmuting themselves whenever they need to talk. Instead, they can simply speak up when they have something to say, just like they would in a real in-person meeting. Plus, employees won’t need to get dressed to make themselves presentable for a video call. In a virtual meeting, attendees will only be able to see virtual representations of each other, so it doesn’t matter if employees stay in their pajamas all day. Attending a virtual meeting can also benefit remote workers who feel like they are trapped at home. Even though they aren’t physically leaving their home, attending a virtual meeting will make them feel as if they were in a new environment. These are some of the many reasons why employers should consider utilizing this technology to make remote workers’ lives easier. WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO THE ADOPTION OF VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY? Using virtual reality to help remote workers collaborate may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some barriers that could stand in the way of the widespread adoption of this technology. First, there is still a limited understanding of how this technology works and more importantly, how it could be used to benefit remote work collaboration. This technology has been around for a long time, but many people are still unfamiliar with it. Those that are familiar with it often assume that it is only used in the gaming industry, which is far from the truth. As a result, it could be difficult to get decision-makers on board with the idea of adopting this technology. The cost of this technology could also prevent widespread adoption. Employers who want to utilize this technology for virtual meetings must be willing to invest in virtual reality headsets for their employees. They must also be willing to invest in building a platform that allows their remote workers to meet virtually in a secure environment. Creating a secure environment is always important, but it’s crucial if employees are going to discuss sensitive company information during these virtual meetings. Another barrier is the lack of awareness of remote work challenges among employers. Some employers have not taken the time to understand what challenges their employees are dealing with in a remote work environment. If they don’t understand these unique challenges, they won’t be motivated to address them with virtual reality technology. These are serious barriers that could prevent the widespread adoption of virtual reality technology. However, if experts are correct in predicting that remote work is here to stay, companies may need to break down these barriers in order to use virtual reality technology to make remote work easier for their employees.
Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing?
January 29, 2021
Virtual reality is essentially a simulation of sorts. It gives people the very realistic impression that they are in a certain simulated scenario, such as riding a roller coaster or driving a car. They can even interact with this simulated world in different ways depending on the technology that’s in use. Headsets, special gloves, and other sensor-filled devices are common examples. While this type of technology, to a lesser degree, has actually been around and talked about for quite some time, it’s only recently that it’s had a major surge in popularity. The question many people have, though, is why and how? The answer is multi-faceted and says a lot about the modern world. MOBILE-BASED OPTIONS When the concept of virtual reality was first developed, it wasn’t in a very practical way. Any type of truly impressive virtual reality experience would cost people a lot of money and would require the use of very complex technology, most of which was difficult to get and impossible to house, at least for the average person. But just as computers went from huge machines to tiny things people hold in their hands and carry everywhere, virtual reality has become more mainstream and accessible in recent years. A major reason for this is how easy it is to integrate VR Into mobile devices, like Smartphones and tablets, which just about every person has. With this technology more accessible than ever before, it’s no surprise that VR has seen a rise in popularity . . . one that shows no signs of slowing down. RESEARCH FROM ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE Not only is virtual reality becoming more accessible for the average person, but it’s also being backed by more people and, even more importantly, by all the right people. While VR was once very much a niche market, serious investors with major power have started to see its value and potential for use in video games, travel, entertainment, and so much more. For this reason, Google and other leading organizations have started to research and invest in VR technology. This lends credibility to the technology and also opens up an entire world of new possibilities. In fact, there’s a good chance that some of those top-dog investors have big plans in store with VR, plans the rest of the world can’t even begin to fathom yet. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing2.jpg] THE AI BOOM Another big reason for VR’s ever-increasing popularity is the growth of another technology: artificial intelligence, or AI. While it’s difficult to definitively pinpoint which one came first, it’s no secret that the two influence and empower one another. As researchers learn more about AI and expand its capabilities and, with that, its possibilities, people become more and more intrigued. And, once people are intrigued with one form of technology, it just makes sense they’d show an interest in another, similar form of technology. As one might expect, there have even been some “marriages” of these two high-tech things. Take, for example, all those Instagram filters that people so love to play around with. The possibilities for interactions between AI and VR abound. And, with people already adopting every iteration of these combined technologies they can get their hands on, it’s not shocking that the growth of both would be positively correlated. INCREASING COSTS AND RISKS Of course, the VR world isn’t all about fun and games. Some of the growth of this technology, in fact, is owed to its practicality and usefulness. For example, take something like employee training. Having to get everyone to a physical location to undergo training can be time-consuming and costly. And, depending on the job at hand, it can also pose a risk, which can lead to liability. Savvy companies have gotten smart and have reduced both risk and cost by using VR to supplement or, in some cases, fully take over their required training. Even some military branches have been known to use VR resources for training. Furthermore, in light of COVID-19 and with more people staying secluded than ever before, another surge in VR is expected to come soon. People want to do things virtually these days, and so do many businesses. With both individuals and organizations on board and in need of the features VR can offer, the “VR boom” just makes sense. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing3.jpg] THE ABILITY TO EXPLORE People have also fallen in love with virtual reality because of the opportunity it gives them to see and experience the world around them. Take travel, for example. For many people, traveling to exotic locales is cost-prohibitive. But, if they put on a simple VR headset, they can see anything and “go” anywhere they want. Places that once seemed impossible for them to visit, like the Taj Mahal or even the Grand Canyon, can now be experienced fully through the use of VR. It’s not just travel that can be enjoyed either. People can try on clothes in virtual changing rooms, see how different make-up shades or hairstyles suit them, and even check out potential venues for events all without leaving their homes. This means less expense for people and for companies, which keeps everyone happy. Plus, it adds a sense of adventure into the average person’s life, and who wouldn’t jump at the chance for that? EXERCISE, EDUCATION, AND MORE As you might expect, the possibilities of VR extend beyond just the basics. Not only is VR used for training and exploration, but people are also finding and developing their own unique ways to utilize it. Take exercise, for example. While not everyone feels comfortable going to the gym or taking an exercise class in person, no one minds putting on a headset and exercising in their living room. And, given the pandemic and recent gym closures all over the United States and beyond, it’s no surprise that VR-based exercise has soared in popularity. Some schools have also moved to using VR in the classroom or, in some cases, in lieu of the classroom. The pandemic has also been responsible for a surge in this type of activity. Plus, you have vendors showing off their goods in “virtual showrooms” or using VR to give people full and complete views of their products. As the uses and ideas surrounding VR grow, its popularity and ubiquitousness do too. THE DESIRE FOR LESS INTERACTION Finally, while some people might find it sad, there’s no denying the fact that modern people desire as little interaction with others as possible, or at least real, face-to-face interaction. Most have no problem interacting on social media, during virtual video game play, or in other less intrusive ways. The proof of this is evident all around. People walk through stores with their faces buried in their phones. They almost always choose the self checkout lane at the grocery store, fearing even the most minute interaction with a cashier. Even some restaurants have introduced virtual ordering platforms that require no discussion with the cashier and no tipping of a server. People have shown, even before the pandemic, that they want to have to deal with people less, and for many, VR is the perfect solution. They get to experience the world without any hassle and without any more interaction than they actually desire. As with supply and demand, businesses want to give people what they want. And, if what they want can be accomplished with the use of VR, then it’s not surprising at all that this technology has seen such huge growth in recent years. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing.jpg] LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Since VR has shown so much growth as of late and since recent events, such as the pandemic, have spurred its usefulness, continued growth is expected. What’s more is that not only should VR become more prevalent, but it should also become even more advanced. Like most forms of modern technology, it’s just projected to get better and better until it’s almost unrecognizable from its rudimentary roots. For some people, this is seen as something sad or disappointing. They see it as a further disconnect from the world we once inhabited. Others, however, look at VR and the growth of other similar technologies and see it as progress. And, no matter where a person falls on this spectrum, the fact remains that progress will always continue. The key, then, is simply to embrace it. And, for the most part, that seems to be exactly what is happening with VR. In fact, pretty soon, it might not be “virtual” reality at all, but just a new kind of reality altogether.
Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue?
January 25, 2021
Remote work has become increasingly popular over the years. But last year, remote work grew exponentially as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It’s estimated that 42% of the U.S. workforce is currently working remotely. According to a recent survey, 80% of employers are going to continue to allow their employees to work from home at least part of the time even when it is safe to return to the workforce. Based on this data, it’s clear that remote work won’t simply fade away once the pandemic is over. Because remote work is here to stay, it’s important for employers to address several issues that remote employees encounter in their new work environment. One of these issues is Zoom fatigue, which refers to remote workers’ frustration with having to attend countless video calls throughout the workweek. One company recently conducted a survey of 1,000 remote workers in the United Kingdom. Over one-third of the respondents admitted that they were exhausted due to hours of voice calls and meetings. Nearly half of the respondents revealed that they would prefer more face-to-face interactions with their co-workers over voice calls on Zoom. These results indicate that remote workers are clearly open to Zoom alternatives that will give them an opportunity to interact with their co-workers face-to-face. Meeting in person is not an option for many remote workers right now. But there is one other way to beat Zoom fatigue once and for all: virtual reality technology. WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY? Virtual reality is technology that transports users into a simulated environment. Users aren’t just watching a simulated environment on a screen. Instead, they are fully immersed into the environment and able to interact with different elements of their simulated surroundings. Users typically need to wear a virtual reality headset device in order to experience virtual reality technology. Some of the most popular virtual reality headsets on the market are the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, and Google Cardboard. Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-233.jpeg] The simulated world created by virtual reality is often so like-like and real that users often experience what is known as “VR presence.” This is a phenomenon that occurs when virtual reality tricks your senses into believing that what you are virtually experiencing is what you are actually experiencing in real life. If this phenomenon occurs, your body will respond to virtual stimuli. For example, if you are standing on the ledge of a virtual mountain, you may find that your brain will not allow your body to step off the virtual ledge. Even though you’re safely standing on carpet in the real world, your brain has been tricked into thinking you’re actually on the edge of a mountain and in danger of falling. Although virtual reality is often associated with the gaming industry, this technology has been used in a wide variety of industries. Virtual reality is not all fun and games—it has many other useful applications. CAN VIRTUAL REALITY SOLVE THE ZOOM FATIGUE CRISIS? Some experts believe that using virtual reality technology is the best way to resolve the Zoom fatigue crisis among remote workers. How would it work? Instead of scheduling video calls on Zoom, remote workers could meet with each other in a simulated work environment powered by virtual reality technology. For example, the technology could transport a team of remote workers to a professional meeting room with office furniture and a white board. You would be able to look around the simulated environment and see your virtual co-workers just like you would if you were in the office with them. Each of you could take a seat at the virtual table and brainstorm ideas, which could be written on the virtual whiteboard. Unlike on Zoom calls, in this virtual world, you won’t have to listen carefully to a voice to guess who is speaking. Simply look around the room to see which virtual coworker has the floor—just like you would do in a regular office meeting. You also won’t have to mute yourself like you would on a Zoom video call. The entire team would be encouraged to speak freely just as they would in a real face-to-face brainstorming meeting. Because coworkers can see each other on a video call, many of them feel the need to get dressed as if they were going into an office before a Zoom meeting. But this wouldn’t be necessary in a virtual reality meeting since coworkers would only get to see virtual versions of each other rather than a live feed from each co-worker’s home. Virtual reality technology would essentially recreate the experience of meeting with co-workers in an office setting. It’s not exactly the same as actually seeing your co-workers in person, but many remote workers may find that it’s close enough to satisfy their desire for face-to-face interaction. In fact, a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that employees are more emotionally connected and focused when using virtual reality technology compared to other alternatives. If this study is correct, the use of virtual reality technology could help remote workers who are struggling to adjust to the lack of face-to-face interactions in their new, isolated work environment. Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-234.jpeg] CAN REMOTE WORKERS USE VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY IN OTHER WAYS? Using virtual reality to eliminate the need for Zoom video calls is one of many ways in which this technology can be utilized by remote workers. A number of different companies are already using virtual reality technology to provide training sessions to remote employees. For instance, several automotive manufacturers use virtual reality technology to provide training sessions to assembly line workers. These workers can learn how to manufacture different automotive parts inside this simulated environment. They can also practice manufacturing the parts inside the simulated environment, where it won’t matter if they make a mistake. This way, they can learn from their mistakes inside a safe environment before putting their skills to the test in the real world. Thanks to virtual reality technology, remote workers at automotive companies were also able to design new vehicles without building physical models or meeting in-person. Designers, engineers, and quality control specialists at Ford all relied on virtual reality technology to complete the design of the Mustang Mach-E. Of course, companies outside of the automotive industry are also using virtual reality to help remote workers perform their job duties. Facebook is currently in the process of developing technology that would make it easier for their employees to work from home even if their space is limited. Thanks to this technology, remote workers would not need to make room for multiple monitors in their home office. All they would need is a computer keyboard in front of them. Then, they could put on a virtual reality headset, type on their computer keyboard, and watch as the words appear on virtual monitors. This innovative use of virtual reality technology would help remote workers create a productive and comfortable work environment at home even if there are space limitations. These are some of the ways in which remote workers can use virtual reality technology. But as remote work continues to grow in popularity, it’s expected that companies will think of more new and exciting ways to use this technology to benefit their remote workers. WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BARRIERS TO VIRTUAL REALITY ADOPTION? It’s safe to say that the use of virtual reality technology could help many people overcome common challenges associated with working remotely. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that companies will start implementing these plans right away. There are several barriers that stand in the way of widespread virtual reality adoption. The first is a limited understanding of the technology. As previously mentioned, many people assume that virtual reality is a type of technology that is only used in the gaming world. These people may not understand that virtual reality can be used in other settings, including the business world. The cost of using virtual reality technology could also prevent companies from implementing these strategies. To use this technology, companies must invest in virtual reality headset devices for each of their employees. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-235.jpeg] Companies must also be willing to invest in developing the technology that would allow them to achieve their goals. For example, if they want to give remote workers the opportunity to attend virtual meetings, they must build the technology that would allow their team to meet in a secure simulated environment. The costs associated with this are steep, which means virtual reality technology may not be an option for small- or mid-sized companies. Some companies may not utilize virtual reality technology simply because they don’t understand the issues that their remote workers face. For example, a company may not realize that their remote workers are struggling with Zoom fatigue if they never ask their employees for feedback or encourage their employees to share their opinions and concerns. For now, these barriers could prevent the widespread adoption of virtual reality in the remote workforce. There’s no doubt that remote work will play a major role in the U.S. workforce in the future. But it’s still too early to determine whether virtual reality technology will also make an impact on remote workers’ work environment. However, companies would be wise to invest in this innovative technology in order to increase their remote workers’ job satisfaction and boost morale.
10 Most Influential Women to Follow in VR in 2020
November 27, 2020
While many women have carved a niche in the automotive industry, this sector still is, typically, dominated by men. Women in high-level positions within the automotive industry are rare; women hold less than 20 percent of executive/senior-level positions. However, in 2014, Mary Barra made history when she became the first woman to serve as the CEO of a major automotive manufacturer (General Motors). Other women also are paving the way in this industry and within the virtual reality sector, which is now infiltrating the automotive market. The organization Women in Virtual Reality (or WiVR) highlights the amazing work of women within this industry regularly; check out the site and the work of all members to see the impact and contributions of the women within the industry. Here’s our list of the 10 most influential women to follow in virtual reality, but this list is in no way comprehensive! [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-7.png] 1. Dr. Jacquelyn Morie -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dr. Morie is the founder and chief designer at All These Worlds, LLC. With more than two decades of experience within the virtual reality sector, Dr. Morie has contributed innovative concepts and designs that elevate the virtual space. She designed a scent collar that incorporates the sense of smell into the virtual reality realm. Dr. Morie was one of the founders of the University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Simulation and Training; at the institute “…she developed techniques to make VR environments more immersive and emotionally compelling, and helped lead a group of innovative students called The Toy Scouts.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-157.jpeg] 2. Crista Lopez -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Co-founder of Women in Virtual Reality (WiVR), Crista Lopez was the winner of the Pizzagatti Prize, from Tides Foundation for “software in the public interest.” Lopez designed OpenSim, which is used by many non-profit organizations. OpenSim is free to download, making it readily accessible to these organizations. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-8.png] 3. Sarah Hill -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hill tells stories in virtual reality with the company StoryUP and has won the National Edward R. Murrow award and also received numerous Mid-America Emmy Awards for her work. She also created Honor Everywhere, a virtual reality experience for ill or elderly veterans that allows them to see and experience the memorials honoring them. Hill talked about the project to WiVR, stating: “We were trying to find a solution for terminally ill and aging World War II veterans who were no longer able to physically travel to see their World War II memorial in Washington DC. We were doing live streams from Google Glass to laptops in nursing homes and the set up was not too comfortable and so when virtual reality came out, we knew that was a potential solution for some of the men and women who were unable to physically travel….” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-158.jpeg] 4. Orchidee Stachelig -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Stachelig is a communications manager for Abylight Studios. She manages relationships with the press and handles social media and other marketing initiatives. Stachelig also was a past editor for Gamesauce. In a profile piece for WiVR, Stachelig was asked about the small number of women in the game development sector, which has been largely dominated by men. Stachelig responded that she felt that “…it is changing.” She also noted that in the Ukraine, tech was mostly perceived as an industry for boys, not girls and this was understood in childhood. But she also acknowledged this was changing. Stachelig also gave some advice to women who might be interested in pursuing a career in game development. She told WiVR: “First of all, do not be scared to give new stuff a try. Secondly, you will eventually get where you want if you have genuine interest in what you are trying and others are doing. The third thing is to do a lot of networking. All the contacts that I have who help me go further, I got through networking and 90 percent of my friends are from the industry.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-159.jpeg] 5. Katie Goode -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Goode is the Creative Director (and one of the founders!) of Triangular Pixels, a game studio that created Unseen Diplomacy, Unseen Diplomacy 2 and Smash Hit Plunder. Unseen Diplomacy was the first HTC Vive game in history to be nominated for a BAFTA (for innovation). In a profile piece for WiVR, Goode also revealed that she also was the recipient of the Devon Venus Award in the category of PR Works Ltd Inspirational Woman in STEMM. 6. Claudia Backus -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oracle, Facebook, Barnes & Noble…Backus has worked for major companies to design solutions in the digital space. At Facebook, she is the Head of the Portal Content Ecosystem. For Barnes & Noble, she took the standard store to the tablet and ereader and created the digital platform for content. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-160.jpeg] 7. Catherine Allen -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Allen has been hailed as a VR Hero of 2016 and is the founder of Limina Immersive. She served as the Head of Marketing for Disney Animated for the iPad, which won a BAFTA for Best Children’s Interactive Experience. Allen also served as the executive producer for No Small Talk 360 for the BBC, a VR experience geared to women. No Small Talk was especially groundbreaking, as it was “…the first time a major broadcaster has released VR aimed at a primarily female audience.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-161.jpeg] 8. Jannick Rolland -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jannick Rolland is the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering Professor of Optics and Biomedical Engineering and Professor in the Center for Visual Science at The Institute of Optics and Rochester University. She co founded LighTopTech and serves as the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In 2014, she was awarded the OSA David Richardson Medal. Her research primarily focuses on three areas: “…(1) optical system design for imaging and non-imaging optics with a current focus on freeform optics, (2) physics-based modeling, and (3) image quality assessment.” In February, Rolland received the Optical Society’s 2020 Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize, which “recognizes significant research accomplishments in the field of optical engineering.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-9.png] 9. Malia Probst -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Known as @TheMalia on Twitter, Probst is a founding partner at VRScout and a cofounder of the WXRFund. Probst hosts VRScout Report, which gives updates and provides the latest news about the virtual reality and augmented reality industry. She also was cited as one of the Top 20 Most Influential People in the VR/AR industry, is one of the Top 20 Women in VR in L.A. and also is among the Top 100 Digital Influencers in the world. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-10.png] 10. Christine Cattano -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As the Global Head of VR and an Executive Producer at Framestore, Cattano is one of the most influential women in the industry. Cattano was the co-founder of the company’s virtual reality studio, which released the augmented reality experience Game of Thrones “Ascend the Wall.” In 2015, she was named in Business Insider’s 30 most creative people in advertising. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-162.jpeg] A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY Orchidee Stachelig mentioned in her profile piece to Women in Virtual Reality about the perception of women in the industry. There still exists in many countries a stereotype about women and the industries in which they might excel; these gender-specific stereotypes often dismiss any female interest in technology or STEM careers. As Stachelig mentioned, tech may be perceived—wrongly—as a sector for men. Schools have come to understand the low number of women pursuing STEM careers, and many have looked for ways to encourage young women’s interest in technology, sciences, math and engineering. While site after site and publication after publication will release a list regarding who they feel are among the most influential women in virtual reality, perhaps the true reality of this virtual tech sector is that any woman who crosses into this space, occupies it and leaves her mark is, in her own way, influencing the future. Not just the future of the industry, its creations and innovations, but the future of women in this industry, too. Young girls—young people, in general—need to see progress, they need to see leaders, and they need a mentor. There needs to be someone who goes first, someone who paves the way, who takes the lead. Those people, the individuals who blaze a new path, are the leaders who will help shape the generations that come after them. Girls in elementary school can look to Cattano, Probst, Allen, Goode and every woman on our list and every list of women of influence and see a story of someone who did what maybe they hope to do. The future of women in virtual and augmented reality is every girl sitting in a classroom, learning math, loving it. It’s the girl who is sketching, whose drawings may one day end up in 3D, as part of an explorative virtual adventure. The future is the girl who is gaming with her friends, beating every level, and wondering what could come next. It’s the young girl who is enamored with science, with exploration, with a curiosity that refuses to burn out. So this list, the list of 10 women chosen among so many (who need to be listed somewhere, too!) isn’t a comprehensive catch-all, but, quite simply, a reminder that women hold a place in this industry, that women have left a solid mark. They’ve all done it differently, perhaps even within different segments of the industry. But every woman has, in fact, left a legacy. The automotive sector is still male-dominated. But someone always has to come first to break the mold, to change the tide. General Motors realized that person was Mary Barra. When she became the first female CEO of a major automotive manufacturer, she shattered a glass ceiling into a million shards for girls and young women who were eyeing a place at that table. So the future in virtual reality, in the automotive industry, is a young girl, dreaming of her future. And, one day, that girl won’t just make a list…she will make history.
Virtual Reality – Changing How Cars Are Made
October 14, 2020
The automotive industry has been adopting new ways to work for a while now, since virtual reality and augmented reality started to expand how real-world businesses could function. There has been a strong adoption of these technologies in many other sectors. In the automotive industry, virtualized realities are becoming key functions in work processes, from mapping out car ideas to the production of finished vehicles. Showrooms have adopted virtual reality as a sales tool which allows salespeople to show off any car of the brand, without needing to have them in stock at the time. What’s more, virtual reality can also demonstrate the different trim levels and upgrades available across the brand, which is of great assistance to upselling. Virtual reality and augmented reality are being looked at and developed for use inside vehicles, and this is expected to expand as 5G makes truly autonomous vehicles possible. From heads-up displays for the driver, night vision, or virtual reality activities for passengers, the uses being discovered are expanding. It is expected that in the future, many will be able to enjoy virtual environments and games as they travel, or even work on virtualized devices. These uses of virtual reality are promoted quite heavily, but one area often overlooked is the research and development stage. Products have been modeled and designed in applications for a long time now, normally presenting 3D models on 2D screens. Now, however, virtual reality is adding a new dynamic to the development process and also opening up the possibility of totally new design concepts for car interiors. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-80.jpeg] HOW CAN VIRTUAL REALITY ASSIST DESIGN? Research and design are complicated and expensive processes, especially where cars are concerned. Manufacturers often spend years refining a single-vehicle. CAD has been a major player in the industry for a long time but is now transitioning towards integrated virtual reality CAD designs. The benefit of virtual reality is that it can provide lifelike, lifesize, and interactive designs. While modeling on a computer screen is quite effective, being able to see designs to scale, use x-ray vision, and even test them against realistic real-world simulations adds new dynamics to the design process. The fact that the environment is virtual also helps to increase design collaboration. It doesn’t matter where experts or investors are located, they can join a virtual room to view and collaborate on designs. With all of the company’s experts and invested parties able to easily be a part of the ongoing development of a design, it allows for continuous progressive development and feedback. This is more favorable to creating “complete” designs and then presenting them only to find that major adjustments are needed. Instead, any element of the vehicle can easily be viewed and reviewed remotely at any stage. With a virtual model, there is also a more complete feel to the design. Being able to see it to size, move around it, interact with elements and more can help to check the design and functionality better. This can help with everything from aesthetics to finding issues and faults. The virtual reality environment allows not only for design but also for interactive testing of the designs, allowing designers to see if the things work and if they could be viable. According to seat-mediacenter.com: “This technology succeeds in reducing production time of the prototypes by 30%”. Virtual reality has reached the point where a virtual vehicle could be test driven in a virtual world and how it would respond is almost exactly how it would respond when driven in the real world. This effective reviewing of designs helps to speed up every step, from design through to production, and later virtual reality even helps with online and real-world sales. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-81.jpeg] HOW THE USE OF VIRTUAL REALITY COULD AFFECT DESIGN FEATURES We mentioned earlier that virtual reality and augmented or mixed reality could become a big feature of the automobile traveling experience in the future. This, in itself, is likely to affect how cars are designed. While automation is surely going to change the operation and layout of vehicles, virtual elements could also, in theory, replace current real-world objects. This could, to some degree, even work with manually operated vehicles or remote drivers, allowing for virtual elements to control aspects of the vehicle. In this sense, we are talking about the possibility of removing a lot of the real-world “interactive parts” from cars, and instead, replacing them with virtual objects. This could either greatly simplify interior designs, swaying more towards space and comfort, or allow for totally different approaches to interior vehicle design. Elements in the car could also be hidden or interactive by using touch, light, or motion sensors and information systems within the vehicle that interlink with the virtual reality concepts. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-82.jpeg] HOW VIRTUAL REALITY COULD CHANGE PROTOTYPES Coming up with nice and intuitive designs is one thing, but developing a working prototype is a whole different level. Each development will go through numerous levels of design, discussion, fixes, redesigning, and testing. If any mistakes are made during this process, the costs can be extremely high. The smallest design fault can lead to halted production or even a total recall of all vehicles sold. This kind of error has further-reaching costs as well, as a brand’s image and consumer trust can be negatively impacted. Even detecting issues early in the process can cause considerable expense and delays, especially where key components are concerned or being produced for a real-world prototype. This is why it is so important that designers can both effectively design but also collaborate with experts and test design ideas at each step. Virtual reality is a major asset in every part of this process. It allows developers to visualize the vehicle in a life-sized and interactive environment. Seeing designs at scale can greatly help with detecting issues or flaws that could impact usability, function, or development. Being able to operate or use the designs as they are intended for the real-world only adds more insight to this testing phase. It also allows experts from any area of the company, or even remote consultants, to collaborate on any part of the design or even the final concept. How parts function or even how an entire engine should perform can be tested. What’s more, numerous situations such as weather, sea level, different surfaces, and more can be simulated to see how things work. The simplest of mechanisms can be tested, observed, and refined. As the vehicle can be actively interacted with, layout and accessibility issues also become clearer when observed on a functional lifesize model. If issues are found, depending on the advancement of the virtual reality system, it could even be possible to make real-time corrections or switch in already existing alternative designs. TESTING AND DRIVING THE FINAL VERSION Whereas before virtual reality any level of real testing required a prototype to be constructed and thoroughly tested, with virtual reality the testing phase can begin before any real-world construction. Virtual prototyping is now a reality, using a combination of interactive virtual reality and powerful computing to generate realistic and detailed prototypes, as well as ‘real world’ scenarios to place them in. The days of needing numerous clay models and prototypes are mostly gone. While they may still have some uses, the new virtual models use ‘materials’ that have all the properties of their real-world counterparts. Designers and engineers can check everything from styling to aerodynamics. Automotive manufactures are already using virtual reality design, as well as using it in other parts of the production process. As stated by thedrive.com “It would no longer be necessary to produce multiple physical models of various items to piece together and potentially reject due to fitment or design conflicts.” This is a huge step, as the research and design stages are both reduced and become more streamlined with the introduction of virtual design and testing. It also isn’t only the outside or mechanics of the car that can be tested in a virtual space. With advanced virtual environments, it is possible to test what it is like to be in the car and traveling on a journey. This can also be linked to ‘real-world’ effects, such as a mockup of the driver’s area, wind, engine vibrations, etc. Some of these systems allow for live adjustments so that designers can test different styles of items, or even quickly sketch out a new idea from within the simulation. Many showrooms today are already providing customers with virtual tours of cars, including virtual test drives. While this technology has been around for a while now, new business uses and improvements are constantly being conceived and implemented. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-83.jpeg] HOW VIRTUAL REALITY IS IMPROVING THE PRODUCTION STAGE Staff can now be trained in virtual environments before being set to work in the real world. This allows them to learn, practice, fail, and practice some more in a virtual and safe environment. The training can be created by the design staff and engineers that are specialists in prototype design. Each aspect can also later be adjusted, should any further errors occur. By allowing training from the experts on a particular vehicle design to be used to educate production staff in any area of the company, issues are often avoided. As an added benefit, the virtual environment doesn’t require resources or machinery, which reduces costs and allows the production line to continue functioning at full speed during training. Experienced staff members are also not required to undertake training or to take time out to monitor new trainees, helping to increase productivity overall. When the trainee is eventually ready to start work on the real-world production process, they can still be guided by augmented reality or mixed reality as they work. These headsets can overlay information on the real world, highlight issues, catch malformations, and much more. Even notifications and warnings can be sent remotely to these virtual devices. TO SUM UP The automotive sector has been quick to adopt virtual technologies. They have been using them for years, and have found intuitive and inventive ways of incorporating virtual worlds into real workflows. When it comes to prototyping, there are significant advantages to this technology. However, virtual reality has impacted many aspects of automotive production and will likely continue to be adopted further. To date, some of the impacts of using virtual reality and mixed reality in the automotive industry include: * Increased safety for trainees and employees * Increased productivity * Less downtime * Reduced costs across various areas * Improved collaboration without travel * Faster and more cost-effective prototypes * Consumer engagement There are likely many other benefits, but it isn’t hard to see why more and more businesses, particularly in industry, are adopting these virtual approaches to design, testing, training, working, and much more.
A History of the Rise of Virtual Reality
August 15, 2020
Twenty years ago, virtual reality was a technology breakthrough that used crude graphics and bulky headsets to transport participants to another realm—a virtual playground. In 1995, the movie Strange Days foreshadowed a more complex type of VR, an experience that tapped into the brain to relive moments and events that were captured from the past. The movie explored the addictive qualities of this type of virtual reality, equating it to a drug that enables users to get high off the euphoria and emotions of moments seemingly lost in time. While the VR experiences in Strange Days never came to reality, the past two decades have seen an uptick in this technology. There has been a clear evolution from those once crude graphics and massive headsets to a streamlined form of virtual reality. Today’s augmented reality is built into our cars, our homes and our lives. Bulky headsets aren’t required to experience these virtual worlds; now we simply need to start the ignition of our cars or say “Hey, Siri.” Here’s a look at the evolution and history of augmented reality and how it has progressed throughout the years since its inception: ANTIQUE VIRTUAL REALITY The Virtual Reality Society is the go-to hub for all things VR. The site has a full history of virtual and augmented reality from this technology’s inception. In the beginning, though, VR was a bit more…basic. According to the VRS, the birth of virtual reality began with panoramic paintings. How is a painting virtual reality? In the 1800s, the idea of experiencing a moment in time or another world could really only be captured in pictures. To bring the individual into the moment, these pictures had to be large and “fill the viewer’s entire field of vision.” Viewing a panoramic painting allowed the individual to feel as though they were transported into that scene, that painting. Panoramic paintings are the primitive form of VR as we know it. THE VIEW-MASTER Did you play with a View-Master as a child? These camera-like devices required you to place a round disc lined with pictures into a viewing slot. When you peered through the glasses (and, yes, they looked like VR glasses), the pictures created a virtual world that seemed to come alive. Clicking through the pictures helped tell a full story, and, as you clicked through the slideshow, the characters and scenes seemed to come alive before you. According to the VRS, William Gruber invented the View-Master in 1939, but the toy version was popular for many decades. MOVING PICTURES (OR MOTION PICTURES) Although the VRS doesn’t include motion pictures in its virtual reality history, the movies that we now enjoy regularly were cutting edge when they were introduced. Watching a movie allowed viewers to be transported visually to a new adventure and a new place. Movies captured far-off destinations and brought books to life. Moving pictures evolved from silent shows with captions to pictures with dubbed sound, and black and white pictures eventually became a world of color. THE SENSORAMA In the 1950s, a new device called the Sensorama was invented by Morton Heilig. The VRS describes this “an arcade-style theatre cabinet that would stimulate all the senses, not just sight and sound.” Speakers, fans, vibrating elements and a 3D display enabled participants to virtually experience movies with titles like Motorcycle, Dune Buggy, Belly Dancer and helicopter. AUGMENTED REALITY IN A COMPUTER The 60s gave us groovy music, peace and love…and, yes, even virtual reality in a computer. In 1969 Myron Kruegere created the first virtual reality (or artificial reality) in a computer program. Kruegere allowed for individuals to interact with each other virtually in a computer environment; his invention let those living in different places stay in touch via the screen…a common habit we take for granted today. VR HEADSETS & SIMULATIONS: THE FUN & FUNKY ‘70S STARTED THE TREND In the early 70s, General Electric created a virtual flight simulator. The simulator was used for pilot training, according to the VRS. In 1975, Myron Krueger invented Videoplace, and it was the very definition of funky. A website devoted to Krueger has all the details about his invention. Videoplace consisted of two rooms; participants could step inside and their image would be projected on the screen (and others could be projected with them). While in Videoplace, you also could virtually interact with other projected items. Plus, you could manipulate your image too (changing the color, size, etc.). VRS includes Videoplace in its history of VR, as this creation was an important contribution to the emerging technology. The latter part of the ‘70s saw the creation of a program called the MIT Movie Map, which was invented at MIT. VRS states that “It was almost like an ancient precursor of Google Street View.” Unlike Google Street View, Movie Map only allowed users to virtually experience one location: Aspen, Colo. Two years later (in 1979) McDonnell Douglas created the precursor to the VR headset: the VITAL Helmet. With the helmet, pilots could see virtual imagery. THE ‘80S & ‘90S: PERFECTING VR The ‘80s and ‘90s were times of virtual reality evolution. The phrase “virtual reality” was used for the first time in 1987. Sayre Gloves were invented in 1982, and these were the precursor to “data gloves,” according to the VRS. Throughout the ‘80s, VR was exploding…and the VRS notes many historic breakthroughs. VPL Research—the first VR company to sell VR items like HMDs and gloves—was founded in 1985. And, in 1986, The Super Cockpit allowed for more detailed VR flight simulations for pilots. NASA also became involved in VR in 1989, and used virtual reality program simulators to prepare astronauts. In the ‘90s VR went commercial. This was the decade that virtual reality really went mainstream. Kids heading to the arcade could jump in a simulator and experience virtual reality. Sega and Nintendo both had VR offerings; Sega’s never jumped out of the prototype phase, according to VRS. Nintendo launched its Virtual Boy, but it failed to land with consumers. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality.jpg] THE NEW MILLENNIUM Virtual reality was the subject of the movie The Matrix (1999), which transformed the notion of virtual reality as the technology moved into the new millennium. In The Matrix, Neo had to choose to take either a blue pill or a red pill–a choice that was the key to either continuing to live in the virtual, artificial world known as The Matrix or to wake up and face a brutal (and annihilated) world post apocalypse. While the movie might have left viewers wondering if we were all just trapped in a virtual reality, it also pushed virtual reality and its capabilities into the forefront. Although the machines took over the world in The Matrix, our world embraced the rise of computers and virtual assistants. The new millennium slowly introduced virtual reality into our daily lives. Game consoles like the Wii let players virtually experience different types of sports and games. The controllers were small handheld contraptions that sensed movement and interacted with the console to virtually control the game action on the screen. VR TODAY VR is now fully integrated into our lives. In 2011, Apple integrated Siri into the iPhone® 4S, and this emergence of built-in virtual assistants became yet another type of augmented reality. Our phones responded now to our requests. With a simple “Hey, Siri…,” we could order pizza, search the web, send a text and make a call. Siri gave rise to Alexa, a VR assistant built-in to Amazon devices. These devices—fueled by Alexa’s ingenuity—could control appliances in our home and even call for food deliveries. Alexa ushered in the Internet of Things (or IoT), and homeowners could purchase smart plugs and smart power strips designed to work with Alexa; daily appliances like the coffee maker could be plugged into the strips or plugs, and, suddenly, Alexa could take over. The morning routine, once a series of rituals like brewing the coffee, turning on the television and making breakfast was suddenly a virtual experience. “Alexa, brew the coffee.” “Alexa, turn on the light.” “Alexa, what’s the weather today.” With one simple command, life became almost effortless. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality-1.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY: DRIVING OUR LIVES The millennium also gave rise to VR in the automobile, although computers were taking over already. While many automobiles were utilizing computer chips for different functions, virtual reality started slowly creeping into the drive. Many drivers started using VR in the car thanks to portable devices like GPS systems. Garmin devices could plug into the car and display an easy map of the trip, giving voice commands and highlighting the route along the way. Getting lost was now a problem of the past. And forget about those bulky maps that could never be refolded with ease! Who needs a map when you have a navigation screen! The popularity of these systems likely led to manufacturers finding a way to include them into the automobile. Cars began to incorporate smart features like digital driver displays that alerted drivers of inflation issues with tires, old oil or other issues. Back-up cameras started to become a standard feature, as the rear camera view allowed drivers to parallel park with ease and back out of tight parking lots, and, hopefully, reduce fender benders. Today’s cars are loaded with virtual features, and many consumers probably don’t realize that these features are a form of VR. Backup cameras have evolved into multiple cameras that give drivers a full view of the entire car. Warning sounds alert when a driver pulls too close to an obstacle, and some cars even stop automatically when an obstacle is detected by sensors. To ease the issues of night driving, rearview mirrors now project images from the backup cameras to give drivers a better view behind them. Even smartphones have found a home in the car. Smartphones can integrate into the vehicle’s entertainment system, and we can interact with the phone in our car…without lifting a finger. We can stream music, make calls and pull up maps and other functions. AUGMENTED REALITY: DRIVING THE AUTOMOBILE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE While virtual reality has taken over the driver’s seat in most vehicles, the technology also has transformed the way many dealerships are doing business. During the pandemic, restrictions may have forced dealerships to close or limit the number of customers. Shopping for a vehicle was no longer an easy and laid-back experience. To ensure that consumers could still view inventory and shop for their dream car, dealerships began offering virtual showrooms. These online sites allowed customers to view the interior and exterior of the car and check out the features, too. Dealerships that couldn’t set up their own online virtual showroom could direct buyers to sites like RelayCars, which hosted online showrooms filled with new (and older) makes and models. The site lets customers browse at their leisure and find the car that is right for their budget and lifestyle. Customers can look at different vehicles and even change some of the vehicle’s features (like the paint color). For dealerships and manufacturers, virtual reality also created other opportunities to elevate the shopping experience. VR gave manufacturers and dealerships the opportunity to offer test drives when the customer couldn’t leave home. Some test drives were available through app experiences; customers could tilt their screen to navigate the car…just like a game. VR IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: USAGE BEYOND THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE Manufacturers and dealerships might have embraced the virtual reality world for showrooms and test drives during the pandemic out of necessity, but this technology has been used by the industry for many other reasons, too. Volvo teamed up with Varjo for a “mixed use headset” called the Varjo XR-1 headset. This headset was used by engineers “to develop and evaluate active safety solutions more easily.” Porsche’s “Tech Live Look” partners smart glasses with a software platform to help guide service technicians in repairs. The glasses include an LED light to shine on hard to see places and the glasses also magnify, allowing technicians to see tiny details. Apple also might be taking over the windshield. The company applied for a patent for a smart windshield. According to an article by Future Car, the writer of the patent detailed that the windshield, “…could facilitate video calls and other forms of communication while waiting to reach one’s destination.” Yes, videoconferencing in the car may be our future! VR TAKING OVER: THE SELF-DRIVING CAR The future for virtual reality in the automobile industry is leaning toward a fully virtual car. While this technology hasn’t been perfected, it is on the horizon. Virtual reality is already embedded into our vehicles, and a car that drives and navigates without a human behind the wheel may be our space-age reality. Are we ready, though, for machines to take over our lives completely? The Matrix might have been a work of fiction, but it also could have been a foreshadowing of what will come next. Will the machines become smarter than humans…and conquer humanity? Or will the computer—and virtual reality—just act as our virtual chauffeur, chef and personal assistant? Whatever the future holds, just remember to buckle up… and be prepared to relinquish the driver’s seat. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality.png]
Apple Dives Deeper into Virtual Reality with Purchase of Broadcaster NextVR
August 12, 2020
The news of Apple purchasing NextVR is a major change in the VR market. While they are not revealing their exact plans for the platform, it is a strong indication that something big is coming. As of last year, NextVR was heading towards 100 employees and secured some major brand-named partnerships in the sports world. As a startup in 2009, it had gained significant traction and support in the VR industry. The niche focus of this company was not simply on headsets or gaming experiences. They wanted to deliver better at-home virtual reality entertainment experiences, especially to sports fans. Sports weren’t all that they covered though, as everything from concerts to paranormal investigations was provided in full VR. Using special cameras at the events, NextVR was able to provide people at home with a realistic experience of major events that were being hosted hundreds of miles away. However, since the acquisition by Apple, their website currently displays a message that “NextVR is Heading in a New Direction” – which hints at some major changes being in the pipeline, although nothing has yet been announced as to what these changes could be. WHY SHOULD APPLE BE INTERESTED IN VR/AR? Apple has already been working on their headset for a while. Although there is no official launch date at this time, many expect the launch to happen in the next 18 months. There are rumors that this headset is going to provide both AR and VR in one device. The purchase of NextVR by Apple shows a strong commitment to this technology. THE FUTURE OF VR VR is not only about entertainment, such as concerts and games, but can be used in so many other ways. People can virtually experience almost anything through VR, making it a great tool for sales, useful for training, and even for helping to improve the lives of those with physical challenges. This technology can be used for virtual travel, distance education, online shopping, or even shopping for a new car virtually without the need for visiting a showroom. The full range of opportunities isn’t yet known, as new innovations are constantly being unveiled. VR IN ONLINE SHOPPING When it comes to online shopping, instead of viewing a 2D image on a website, your shopping experience could actually be in a virtual shop or showroom where you can interact with the items. You can view items from all angles, and even hear them in a totally virtual environment from within your own home. VR IN THE MEDICAL SECTOR In the medical sector, potential uses being explored are amazing. Not only can students study and practice virtually, but doctors can also consult and assist with treatments and patient diagnosis from anywhere in the world. VR IN ROBOTICS 5G is also coming into the picture, offering data transfer rates that were previously not possible, especially wirelessly. This then allows for VR and AR to become ‘live’ and wireless, with the content being streamed remotely and allowing for almost instant real-time interactions. As robotics progress, VR and 5G could become a human connection technology. As COVID-19 spreads, the need for at-home meetings, training, and more has been growing exponentially in demand. VR and AR can allow people to do incredible things from home without needing to risk physical contact or exposure. Whatever is coming is almost sure to be market challenging, especially when combining the entertainment systems of NextVR with the likely high-end VR/AR tech of Apple’s new headset. WHAT LIKELY MOTIVATED THE MOVE TO PURCHASE NEXTVR? While there are rumors about Apple soon launching a new device in this sector, this particular purchase was more likely connected with entertainment and some of the technologies that NextVR used in production. VR and AR content and uses are expanding. It is important for any company that breaks into this industry to have both effective technology and quality content. NextVR had the technology and partnerships to provide great content, but we will have to wait and see what Apple does with it. While NextVR is, of course, focused on VR content, there are already ideas in the pipeline for AR glasses that allow the experience of VR content in various ways. If the details provided by MacRumors are correct, then the way we currently experience AR and VR might be changing. MacRumors claims that, “Apple is working on two AR projects, including an augmented reality headset set to be released in 2022 followed by a sleeker pair of augmented reality glasses coming in 2023.” MacRumors has deduced from the patents filed and the help of an insider that Apple not only plans to provide glasses in this field but also new and inventive ways for which users will be able to interact with augmented worlds. Most VR or AR setups today require interaction through devices like gloves or other sensor fitted devices. However, Apple seems to be working towards a way in which people could virtually interact with surfaces and augmented environments through natural movement and touch – with no other devices needed. HOW MUCH WAS APPLE’S PURCHASE OF BROADCASTER NEXTVR? NextVR was a startup company with a strong focus on providing the next level in at-home sporting entertainment. Considering the initial investment raised $115.5 million (tracked by Crunchbase), the purchase should be a considerable amount. However, we will not know the exact figure until it is made public. The initial rounds of investments, VR streaming technology, and high-end partnerships with major sports entities like Wimbledon and the NBA make it likely this takeover involved a significant purchase price. The exact price is unknown. Although the purchase was confirmed to 9to5Mac by Apple, the full details were not disclosed. 9to5Mac estimated the purchase price was likely around $100 million. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ApplebuysNextVR.jpg] WHERE IS APPLE VR/AR GOING NEXT? There are signs that a high-end spec VR and AR device will be released soon. It is likely to be a single device that can perform both functions, with wireless freedom for the user. It will be powered by Apple’s state of the art technology, which has long held a reputation for its graphics processing capabilities. This will be a challenge to Microsoft’s and Facebook’s current grip on the market. In order to crack the market, Apple needs to launch something that is beyond what is currently available and popular. Apple has already released ARKit to developers, sparking the development of AR apps for iPhones and iPads. Facebook acquired Oculus in March of 2014, which prompted rapid growth from developers to create content and take a leap into VR products. Many are currently predicting that computers and phones themselves could even be replaced with AR glasses that project what we need and allow us to interact with the image via motion tracking or compact sensor devices. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ApplebuysNextVR-1.jpg] How many of the ‘things’ we use today could become augmented objects of the future? For an indication, just look at the number of objects and functions a mobile phone has replaced over the last 10-20 years. This market is going to explode, with some current projections showing ten-fold growth in the next 4-5 years. As of 2019, the current AR market was worth about $33 billion, and the VR market was worth $13.5 billion according to Consultancy.org. They then project this to expand to $338.1 billion and $138.3 respectively. LEFTRONIC also predicts rapid growth, showing that as soon as 2025, there is a significant chance that “the AR market will reach $198 billion” and that “68.7 million users are expected to use augmented reality at least once monthly”. No wonder Apple is making some major moves.
Virtual Reality in Automotive Market: What will be the Short-term Impact of Coronavirus?
August 5, 2020
In March, businesses across the country shut down in an effort to flatten the curve of coronavirus infection rates as the virus threatened to spread out of control. Life as usual stopped suddenly, and businesses were forced to adjust to the closures in a fight for financial survival. Many industries learned to evolve to stay afloat and keep sales from tanking. Customers could no longer shop or patronize businesses and shops in person; in many states, shelter-in-place mandates kept many from leaving their home for anything but the essentials. In response, the evolution of business and retail went virtual…and online. The automotive industry may have seen sales and consumer traffic drop significantly during the height of the pandemic, and, even now, some states may still limit businesses to a minimum number of patrons. BCG reports that 2020 sales (in the US, Europe and China) are forecasted to be 14 to 22 percent lower. However, the pain of the industry is more complicated than just the noticeable drop in foot traffic at dealerships. In a report titled “Understanding the impact of Covid-19 automotive industry,” Deloitte explains that plant closures also played a role in the issues faced by executives in the industry. Closed plants meant the halt of production, and perhaps a limited amount of models hitting the showrooms and dealer lots. CNBC reported that because of coronavirus plant closures, global auto production was expected to drop by 1.4 million vehicles. While the halt in factory production might have forced major automotive manufacturers and the executives in the industry to brace for a decreased supply, dealerships still needed to find ways to sell the inventory on lots. Sales couldn’t simply stand at zero, survival meant adjusting to the quarantine and finding ways to reach consumers. The solution? Many embraced virtual reality technology to bring the car buying process to life when in-person sales and laid-back visits to dealer lots simply were not a viable–or safe–option for consumers. However, virtual reality showrooms aren’t simply a short-term solution to an economy that has faced limitations on shopping and sales that have been complicated by constantly evolving safety guidelines. Instead, the use of VR might be the new pivot of the industry, an advancement that was waiting on the sidelines and was already prepared to jump into the driver’s seat. Virtual driver’s seat, that is. As Covid forced employers and schools to adopt a virtual environment, many businesses and educators have embraced virtual methods as users have adapted to their high-tech features. Businesses began to understand that conducting business at home was cheaper and, in many ways, more convenient and much safer than pushing employees to come into the office. The normal business as usual became virtual offices, conferences, interviews and lectures. The automotive industry has realized that offering a virtual showroom that allows the buyer to browse cars at their leisure may be here to stay. In fact, virtual reality in the automotive market may be a long-term solution to what was perceived as a short-term impact of a pandemic. VR IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY: VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS, MARKETING PIZZAZZ & TRAINING TOOLS Fortune Business Insights released a comprehensive report that detailed predictions and data about virtual reality’s use within the industry. The use of virtual reality in the automotive industry is far-reaching and is used beyond the concept of virtual showrooms Fortune Business Insights notes that virtual reality can–and likely will–be used in marketing campaigns for manufacturers. However, VR already is used in training; the report noted that in 2019 both Rolls Royce and Qatar Airways announced that VR would be used to train engineers. For consumers–and perhaps even other audiences, too–Fortune discussed scenarios that could integrate virtual reality to boost sales or marketing efforts. Fortune posited using VR to navigate a vehicle on a different planet! Imagine allowing a buyer to somehow interact with the vehicle as viewed on Mars…or even on a beach. This digital experience allows companies to create any image they wish for their product. Take a ride in a luxury vehicle along the coast of Monaco! The scenery and the backdrop for the VR showroom or virtual test drive could elevate a brand’s reputation and create a memorable experience for the consumer. The savvier the experience, the deeper the impact it could create for the future buyer. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/VirtualRealityinAutomotiveMarket.jpg] THE VIRTUAL TEST DRIVE ISN’T NEW… BUT IT MAY BE GAINING MORE TRACTION THANKS TO COVID Exotic locales for test drives might be a future possibility, but manufacturers are already offering some type of virtual reality simulated driving experiences. Fortune Business Insights’ report noted that Volvo offered this experience to buyers for its XC90 model. Given that the report was released before Covid, Volvo was ahead of the game. Audi also steered ahead of the curve; back in 2018, The Drum reported that Audi offered a virtual reality test drive of its Q5 model… except Audi conducted the test drive in a sandbox (a virtual sandbox, that is!). Now, in a world that is still adjusting amid the pandemic, dealerships also are offering the virtual test drive experience to their buyers. Krieger Ford offers virtual test drives on numerous models so consumers can feel out different car models. The VR works on phones–operating almost like a game!–and consumers can tilt the screen to maneuver their vehicle. THE VIRTUAL SHOWROOM In the current health climate, businesses across the country may still be limiting the number of patrons within their stores. Dealerships also could be restricting the number of potential buyers within their showroom to follow local and state health mandates during the Covid pandemic. As some states continue to be hot spots, the effect of these restrictions could have more of an impact within certain geographic locations. Yet, Coronavirus and the health restrictions (especially the weeks of shelter-in-place mandates required in many states) have forced many dealerships to seek out other ways to reach buyers. The solution has gone virtual… and online. As conferencing platforms have taken over the boardroom, virtual reality apps and platforms have become the new normal for previewing a new car at a dealership. Virtual showrooms are a different form of virtual reality. These unique online experiences give consumers the ability to shop for a new car at home, in private and without pressure. Yet, the experience is still quite similar to a real-life dealership showroom. HOW CAN BUYERS ACCESS A VIRTUAL REALITY SHOWROOM? Here’s how the virtual showroom works: Choose the Make, Model, Year and Trim from the available vehicle options Hit the ‘Explore’ button Use the navigation options to view the vehicle’s interior and exterior Select the ‘color’ icon to view the different color choices for the vehicle The virtual showroom allows potential buyers to see different features of each vehicle to help simplify the shopping process. Using the virtual showroom is especially beneficial for those who are comparing newer models of vehicles or who are simply researching options. VIRTUAL REALITY SHOWROOMS & USED VEHICLES Virtual reality showroom sites may provide consumers with older model vehicles on certain makes/models. However, for consumers on the hunt for a used vehicle, the research process may require a bit more due diligence. The VR showroom shows older models, but these models are simply models of the cars. They don’t show any potential flaws or damage that a used model on the lot could exhibit. For this reason, buyers on the hunt for older cars can use VR sites and platforms for guidance, but they also should send an inquiry to the dealership to ask about any specific flaws or issues. Most dealerships offer photo slideshows of inventory, but never hesitate to ask for more information. CORONAVIRUS: THE SHORT-TERM IMPACT MIGHT NOT BE SHORT-TERM AT ALL Virtual reality technology and offerings were wired into the automotive industry before Coronavirus wreaked its havoc. While the impact of Covid has probably boosted the need for virtual reality showrooms and test drives for dealerships and manufacturers, it will evolve with the technology that guides and directs its design. Virtual reality will be a key feature in the automotive industry for the long haul. For many consumers, virtual reality in the automotive industry may simply mean that they can go online or download an app and take a virtual test drive or shop for models via a virtual showroom. Executives in the industry, though, may understand that this technology will penetrate the automotive market in other ways; training has already integrated virtual reality technology for some companies. Virtual reality has the potential to take the shopping experience into the fast lane; as Fortune Business Insights theorized, buyers could soon take virtual test drives on other planets… or somewhere exotic. Companies could let buyers into the driver’s seat in virtual race simulations to feel out the strength of the engine. The possibilities for how VR could be used in the automotive industry could be limited only by the imagination of the designers and engineers. For the automotive industry, virtual reality could be the beginning of an amazing evolution in the buying process. As VR simulations advance and become even more true to life, there may be no need to ever visit a brick and mortar dealership. The right car could be just a click away, and virtual car shopping may become the new normal.