Virtual Reality – the next big thing?

Technology is not just a disruptor. It’s now forming the foundation of our society and changing the worldwide landscape.

As innovators for over 220 years, we’ve not only stayed at the forefront of technology but lead in this space by selling our technology to other firms and in supporting the health, science and technology communities. That’s why we partner with like-minded companies such as Minds2Capital to discuss the opportunities and challenges that face tech-savvy entrepreneurs in these fast-moving times. Virtual Reality (VR) has found fame of late and its hype seems to be at its peak so, with Minds2Capital, we held a tech talk in Geneva on Tuesday 16 January. Among our panelists was CEO of Labster, a company who aspire to revolutionise educational right through to Rupert Breheny from Google who heads up VR and development. 

It is a misconception that VR is purely for entertainment value. We heard from MindMaze , a Swiss firm set up by a neuroscientist which use VR and 3d Tracking moving to accelerate the rehabilitation of stroke patients and it enables therapists to manage more patients at the same time. A crucial step in developing solutions for therapists to expedite patient recovery. The tool uses engaging game activities alongside calibrated expertise, all bespoke to the patient needs.  Even education plays a role in the world of VR. Labster, who we have profiled before with our partnership with Monocle, offers a new tool to make education more accessible to students so they can learn in a bespoke way and it is cost effective. The tool enables teachers to build their own simulations, either in VR or on the web, to suit their students. In short, this enables teaching to be more interesting for both the lecturer and the learner.

Many think that VR is new. But these rethinkers are not reinventing the wheel, they are refining an opportunity. Rupert Breheny at Google showcased the evolution of VR hardware and systems over time, from gaming to healthcare, and emphasised just how far we have to go. In Google’s view, the future of VR is in the hardware space and they can imagine a time where a VR headset could be easily slipped into a pocket, the same way a mobile phone is. Not only that, the gaming universe is still in its infancy. It marks a step in the journey of VR but there’s no knowing the final destination. 3D is a focus point for VR but 6D, the ability to experience reality in a fully immersive way, is certainly the future.

The economics bear an important consideration. How should companies distribute premium VR? And what does the European landscape look like? According got LucidWeb, there are over 300 companies who are active in the domain of VR in Europe alone. The power of the web browser should not be understated as many access VR from their own computer screens.  There are more opportunities in the retail space too. LucidWeb gave the example of mobile phone companies. Many consumers today purchase goods via digital channels but VR could be used as a means to attract consumers into bricks and mortar shops to create a large digital and retail ecosystem.

It’s clear that VR could be the next big thing. Now might just be the time for investors to investigate the opportunities this growing space offers, whether from a microfinance point of view or even as a socially responsible investor.  And maybe we should believe the hype.

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