Across industries, there’s a new technology poised to change how we create, innovate, and understand the world: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). AR/VR is already proving to be one of the biggest tech innovations in recent history, and that translates to a world of business opportunities for those willing to embrace this new format.

Many are finding that AR/VR holds the power to make a good thing even better—nearly any function of your business can be simulated in the virtual space. As a result, organizations are discovering efficient, experiential solutions to elevate their daily operations. Even better? AR/VR often saves you money in the long run.

AR/VR is a relatively new, often mysterious technology, leaving many to wonder about its business implications and opportunities. Here’s how we should be thinking about AR/VR for business.

What Is AR/VR?

Let’s start with the basics. We’re all aware of the popularity of AR/VR in the gaming world (who’s up for a quick round of throwback Pokémon GO?), but if you’re not quite sure how this new technology actually works, you’re not alone.

Virtual reality, which has roots dating back to the 1800s, is an outgrowth of the development of practical photography. Today, we understand virtual reality to be a three-dimensional, computer-generated digital environment. In this virtual world, people are able to interact with and manipulate their surroundings, creating a sensory experience that closely simulates reality.

Augmented reality, the sister technology to VR, integrates with our existing environment to add virtual objects and information. AR overlays computer-generated components in real time to alter, but not replace, your surroundings. Consider the Pokémon GO example—the game uses AR to layer Pikachu to appear in the cubicle next to you, but it doesn’t virtually transport you to Pokémon World.

Why Does AR/VR Matter to Businesses?

OK, besides scrolling through the latest Snapchat filters during your lunch break, what does this actually mean for your business? While AR/VR is still an emerging technology, many are leveraging it to stand out from the crowd and innovate within their industry. For example, AR/VR integrates some of the most successful elements of eLearning, like bite-sized modules, gamified and rewards-based motivation, and interactive, experiential learning.

As the technology becomes more accessible, businesses are finding that if they can imagine it, they can achieve it. From medical to military, AR/VR offers opportunities in every field to operate more efficiently and precisely. The rise in wearable technologies and camera-equipped smartphones means that the technology is more readily available than ever, affording businesses the unique opportunity to close the gap between the physical and digital world.

Because of AR/VR, businesses are now able to control and elevate their concepts, processes, and products in a brand-new way. Whether you’re leveraging virtual reality to simulate a complex surgical procedure or using augmented reality to prototype a design for clients, AR/VR technology opens a world of possibilities.

How Should Businesses Use AR/VR?

Although AR/VR presents us with exciting opportunities, it’s not a one-size-fits-all format. Some content makes sense for the technology, but some doesn’t. You’ll want to take stock of your products and content and evaluate if there’s an opportunity to integrate AR/VR and if the ROI makes sense for your business.

Think of it this way: AR/VR allows you to see into places that only exist in the digital sphere. Is there a function of your business that would benefit from the speed, flexibility, and efficiency of a virtual environment? Imagine assessing the capabilities of a potential hire through a simulated task—you’d save time and money, and you’d reduce risk. The possibilities are endless and, quite frankly, pretty exciting. Let’s dig into two key AR/VR applications for your business.

1. AR/VR for Training Purposes

The business uses for AR/VR are twofold: training and practical application. Forbes Contributor Bernard Marr explains that organizations can leverage AR/VR for significant cost savings in training and recruitment, streamlining application screenings and eliminating costly mistakes in onboarding and training processes. Job applicants could even opt to virtually spend time in your office to assess culture fit—and you could leverage the same technology to integrate remote workers with your onsite team members.

Throughout the employee life cycle, AR/VR presents unique opportunities to learn from simulations. Even the most advanced specialist will need to learn to use new tools and technology, and AR/VR allows them to gain experience without the risk of costly mistakes. Life or death scenarios are commonplace in both the medical industry and the military—unsurprisingly, both industries are among the first to embrace AR/VR applications. By creating realistic environments to simulate high-risk scenarios, students and advanced professionals alike can increase repeatability and accuracy at rates previously unseen.

2. AR/VR for Practical Application

AR/VR is gaining traction because it holds amazing possibility for our businesses. There are endless applications for this technology, especially as it becomes a more mainstream tool across industries. A new teacher in an underserved school district simulates her response to a disruptive classroom. A new hire opens your company app to navigate the layout of your factory floor. A potential customer visualizes a kitchen remodel by simply holding up their smartphone. These immersive experiences have the power to transform how we interact with our clients, our customers, and our own employees.

AR/VR also offers a new way to approach prototyping and design, changing how we test production processes, product performance, and consumer response. With AR/VR, businesses can showcase new concepts and products by inviting their audience to explore it for themselves; whether through an immersive VR experience or an AR-enabled tour.

In every field, augmented reality and virtual reality are changing how we do business. As virtual experiences become more popular, we can look to early adopters to learn how to leverage AR/VR to do things faster and at a lower cost, all while achieving new heights of efficiency and innovation. While there’s always plenty of hype around new technology, businesses really can use AR/VR in amazing ways. It’s a powerful tool for the future, and by all accounts, the future is now.

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