In 2014, Facebook changed the trajectory of the virtual reality industry through a $2 billion acquisition deal with Oculus VR. Prior to the acquisition, virtual reality was thought to be almost exclusively suited to the world of video games. The deal demonstrated Facebook’s confidence in the technology and guaranteed the future of VR: Within two years the total amount of dollars invested in VR and the number of venture capital deals tripled. While the complete adoption of virtual reality is still far in the future, many companies have already integrated the technology into their business practices to create innovative, sustainable workplaces. Check out five ways that VR has the potential to affect the workplace:

1. Increased Connection and Collaboration

Virtual reality allows people to come together and collaborate regardless of physical distance. However, unlike with video conferencing, VR users feel like they are inhibiting the same space- resulting in more effective collaboration. VR also provides the platform for users to view and manipulate data together in real time. While some companies choose to install mixed-reality rooms to conduct VR meetings and collaborative work sessions, others simply distribute VR headsets that can be used while in the office or remote. The technology is easily accessible and intuitive, helping people across the world connect and collaborate.

2. New HR Practices

With the effortless, global connectivity VR provides, human resources will change drastically. With access to workers across the world, hiring practices will expand to make sure that top talent is being recruited. As part of the interview process, prospective employees will have the chance to virtually shadow their potential position to get a real sense of the day-to-day responsibilities. VR can also be used for a variety of interactive HR workshops. The NFL currently uses VR in their diversity training, allowing their people to experience the prejudice and harassment that can occur in the workplace- a process they find far more effective than simply outlining company regulations.

3. Upgraded Training Techniques 

The ability to put people into fully immersive real-life scenarios creates the perfect training tool. VR training is especially beneficial in high-risk situations, as it allows employees to gain experience safely. Both NASA and the armed forces currently use VR training- minimizing risk and costs. Even Walmart has taken advantage of the technology, using simulations to train employees for Black Friday madness. Regardless of the industry, VR offers the opportunity for an engaging, educational experience.

4. More Efficient Product Development

Within a computer-generated environment, product development will become more efficient than ever. Virtual reality can be used to test products in a variety of scenarios, eliminating the need for expensive physical prototypes. During trials, changes to a product can be made virtually and tested immediately, allowing the final product to be refined faster than ever. Large scale manufacturers are already using VR to test everything from spacecrafts to cars: Ford uses the Oculus Rift, a popular VR headset  commonly used by consumers for gaming, to create and refine virtual prototypes. The company’s senior technical leader Jeff Greenberg notes  “The impact on cost, time and quality are significant, and have allowed our designers and engineers more creative freedoms to explore options that in the past would have been to time- or cost-intensive to consider.”

5. Innovative Marketing Practices 

Virtual reality gives the old fashion test drive a whole new meaning. From cars to vacations, VR creates the opportunity to try nearly every product and experience on the market before making a purchase. And when consumers are ready to make that purchase, they’ll be able to do it virtually. In 2016, Macy’s hosted a virtual shopping experience that allowed shoppers in China to browse and purchase from their flagship store in New York City. The immersive experience that VR provides is impactful and memorable, creating a personal connection between brands and consumers which can influence purchasing decisions.

Header photo by Nan Palmero 

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