Why Virtual Reality Is Vital

Why Virtual Reality Is Vital
This story appears in the 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brands are already experimenting with VR. Among them, the NBA shows 360-degree game footage, Marriott Hotels loans headsets to guests so they can take “tours” of exotic destinations and Ford uses VR to help design its vehicles’ interiors. By the year 2020, Altberg believes, VR companies will be generating more than $150 billion a year in revenues -- and you may want a part of that.

Isn’t this a little speculative? I don’t even know anyone with a VR headset. 

That’ll change sooner than you think. VR has wide business potential -- a company can connect with remote staff as if they were all in the same room, a carmaker can offer test drives, real estate brokers can provide buyers with walk-throughs of entire buildings and a dressmaker can even offer a virtual fitting for a wedding dress. 

Cool, but how do I know if VR is worth it for me? 

Are 3-D environments and spatial relationships important in your line of work -- say, architecture, interior design or product design? Do your employees require expensive or potentially dangerous training in fields such as medical procedures, heavy equipment, product installations or hazardous materials? VR could be an effective tool for you. And if you have prospective customers, partners or others with whom you meet face-to-face frequently, VR might save you a bundle on travel.

So where would I start? 

Check your budget. There aren’t many companies creating custom VR content today, and the ones that do are expensive -- like Unity, which also makes blockbuster video games. You’ll also need to hire artists, videographers and software engineers. The price could easily top $1 million. Don’t have the cash? Don’t despair. In the early days of the internet, a website was expensive to build, too. Not anymore.

How far away are we from a VR boom?

For some industries, VR will become a critical component in the next few years. For others, it will probably be more like five to 10 years. And by that time, VR will be far more impressive -- and cheaper.