Virtual reality: The next big thing?

Sandeep Srivastava | UX/UI Startups | Indian Business magazine

In the absence of physical reality, Virtual Reality (VR) comes in to play. How often have we experienced it? Be it at a car showroom when the particular model is not available or at the sales office of a newly launched residential project. To most technologically challenged consumers like me, that is the extent of our knowledge of VR. To articulate, an immersive fully virtual world that doesn’t include aspects of our real environment. Then comes the enlightened few who either know or claim to know and talk about Augment Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), Interactive Reality (IR).
One of the earliest memories of VR my generation would have is that from the 1987 Hollywood move Project X. The simulation used to train chimpanzees to fly often made me wonder about the limitless possibilities that technology (I obviously had no clue it was VR way back then). Over 30 years later, whilst innumerable breakthroughs have been made VR still has a lot of unlocked potential waiting to be tapped.
Healthcare, education, gaming, defence, education, construction, manufacturing, medicines, home décor….the list is endless. VR can play a big role in our everyday life. However, we are limited by dual barriers. One is the acceptance and the other are the ground realities.
As a visiting faculty at a business school, I have often wondered why can’t it be used across so many disciplines like retail to increase interactivity or plant layout to boost material and machinery utilization. Instead we subject the kids to theory. No wonder they have to unlearn when they start work and start learning afresh on the job. If only these kids were better equipped at B-school, they could start contributing to their jobs much earlier than later. It would have benefited both, the employer’s and the employees.
For another example, I am often reminded of the movie Munnabhai MBBS wherein scores of students struggle to get a glimpse of what their professor was trying to do with a corpse. I am pretty sure it is a common practise in most medical colleges. This is how our aspiring doctors learn about the human anatomy. Having said that, it is not possible for every medical college to provide a corpse for each student. VR can play a big role in helping the students with a better understanding of the anatomy? It would virtually imply that each student has a corpse of his/her own. I am pretty sure that this would make them better doctors sooner than later. It would probably not be a stretch of one’s imagination to wonder why an M.D. is generally 40 plus when he/she comes into his/her own. The years learning on the job (in this case being the side kick to a senior doctor) can be reduced if the foundation is set right at medical school.
I could go on with examples across categories where virtual reality can make a positive difference and help improve productivity. If only we opened up and let go of the rigid mindset and made an effort to understand how it can benefit all. At an industry as well as an individual level.
Besides the obvious mindset issues, there are ground realities that cannot be ignored.  There are quite a few factors limiting the growth of VR in India. Some of them are systemic whilst the others are pure legacy emanated.

  • VR is still expensive. Whilst hardware is still not cheap, the software is still prohibitively expensive.
  • Enterprise application of VR is still low. Once corporate India adopts it in a big way, we will see huge proliferation and subsequent reduced costs.
  • Lack of talent. Especially that of content developers.
  • Government backing (compared to that in U.S. and China)
  • Bandwidth continues to be a bane. The 4G penetration in India is at 21%, whereas Asia is at 44%. 5G looks like a distant dream.

It is the children of today that interact with VR (thanks to gaming areas) much more than the grown-ups. It is our refusal to step out of our comfort zone and adopt VR as a new toolkit to make our lives more productive. Little wonder that gaming has made huge strides on content, software and hardware.
All said and done, VR is here to stay despite the not so impressive growth. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is part of the syllabus at a design institute. Hope this spreads to many more institutes (if it hasn’t already). Guess that is the best place to lay the foundations for it to be an integral part of our tomorrow. The consumer adoption will grow. The pace however will depend on fast the barriers disappear.
About the Author
Sandeep Srivastava is Senior Branding & Advertising professional of Evolution Strategy Advisors LLP . He has over two decades of experience in advertising agencies. Nine in FCB-Ulka and the last six in Triton. Spearhead key account development programs that target, penetrate, and launch business growth. He has deep knowledge in a wide spectrum of brands in the B2C and B2B space.  Thereafter, he  moved on to ESA (Evolution Strategy Advisors) a boutique consultancy group to head their Mumbai operations. He also pursue his passion to teach and is visiting faculty at NMIMS, a leading Business school in Mumbai.

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