For some professionals, it’s easier to have a meeting with co-workers from the comfort of their homes. Instead of Skyping or video conferencing, a growing population now meet in a virtual office space or one co-worker’s living room.
The app Bigscreen, for instance, allows companies to share a virtual office space for meetings, presentations and projects without having to leave home — and it’s possible because of virtual reality technology.
Companies, however, may find a pair of VR goggles to be useful not only for internal operations, but to attract customers and clients as well.
In Colorado Springs, several businesses have taken advantage of the technology, using it for training, marketing, real estate and entertainment.
A new VR company, Dreamality, a subsidiary of Springs-based defense contractor TechWise and digital marketing firm AroundUS Corporation, started in August and is offering a mobile VR experience to its customers.
VR Terror Tours, which launched Oct. 12, is a 32-seat bus rigged with VR goggles. It shows one of two short horror films while the bus drives through downtown Colorado Springs.
As part of Terror on Tejon, Shawnee Star, CEO and co-founder of TechWise, said VR Terror Tours is only the first VR project for Dreamality.
“The uses are really endless,” Star said. “From entertainment venues, to educational venues, to training-type venues — you can do all of these things with this mobile virtual reality platform.”
The tourism industry is one sector that mobile VR concepts could greatly impact, Star said, adding she would like to create small VR video clips of different places visitors can go when visiting Colorado Springs.
“Right now everybody comes to Colorado and they go pretty much to Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy. What if, as part of your tour … through a VR experience you are getting tidbits of insight to what else Colorado Springs has to offer?” Star said.
In addition to offering entertainment platforms through Dreamality, Star said TechWise is also offering new VR services to her clients.
“[TechWise] does a lot of training for the military,” she said. “So if we’re training on how to lead a convoy of tanks with virtual reality, you don’t even have to be in a tank, but you can look like you’re in a tank … so you can make the decisions that need to be made in a real-time environment without all the investment of equipment that is usually required for training.”
Star was not willing to say how much TechWise invested in VR equipment for defense contracting, but said VR Terror Tours invested $350,000 in equipment and development.
VR has been widely used to entertain thanks to companies such as VR Terror Tours and Epic Vr, a VR arcade located in The Citadel mall. But it can also be used to attract clients and engage employees.
Headquartered in Texas, VirtualRealityRental.co assists businesses with marketing and employee engagement efforts through VR. These services are used at events such as trade shows, conferences and office parties.
Shane Terrell, sales director for VirtualRealityRental.co, said while VR is mostly used for entertainment, this keeps customers at trade shows interested in a company’s booth so there is more time to inform and educate them.
“It snowballs to active engagement or participation and that’s what you want,” he said.
A Denver company Terrell worked with this week requested an informational VR video for their customers as opposed to a game, he said.
“It’s entertaining because you put on a headset and are immersed in the environment, but you’re learning about the product,” Terrell said.
Another client, a college, asked VirtualRealityRental.co to create informational videos for prospective students about majors for a career fair.
“Realistically it’s not made to entertain people, it’s made to educate people,” Terrell said. “[But] the beauty of the art is it can be both.”
Real estate is also an industry benefiting from using VR, Terrell added.
Buyers can take virtual tours of houses on the market with a VR system.
“You can get that many more people to tour a place from the luxury of [their] own home,” Terrell said.
He said while VR will primarily be used for entertainment, businesses may find more uses for augmented reality, which displays a computer-generated image in the real world as opposed to a virtual world. The recent Pokémon Go craze is an example of augmented reality used for entertainment purposes.
In Colorado Springs, marketing firms such as 2 Marketing Guys and Bourbon Street Productions offer VR marketing services to their clients. Mac Little, co-founder of 2 Marketing Guys said when his marketing company started, his team would use the Bigscreen app for meetings, but eventually moved into an actual office as they grew.
Little said he doesn’t expect VR to be widely used for another three to five years, despite the fact that last year $1.8 billion was spent globally on VR and about$4.9 billion is projected to be spent on VR in 2017, according to VR Scout, a virtual reality industry news site. By 2018 the number of active VR users worldwide is projected to reach 171 million, which is up from 90 million in 2017, and 43 million in 2016, according to Statista, an online market research company. That’s largely thanks to how affordable some of the equipment has become, as headsets can cost as little as $15.
“It hasn’t reached that mass adoptance tipping point where people are spending an hour a day on it,” Little said. “I think it’s still kind of a novelty, but there are cool examples of apps that people are using and they’re trying to make a transition of it to where you don’t even need a VR headset.
“I think that it’s all about the ease of adoption,” Little said. “I don’t think there’s like a super practical use for it every day.”