THE BLOG
09/06/2015 06:12 BST | Updated 08/06/2016 06:59 BST

Virtual Reality Isn't for You and Me

VR's future lies not in the home, but in the workplace. Architecture, engineering and construction firms have all been jumping on the virtual reality bandwagon. Why? Because it improves how we build and make things.

Consumer tech journalists have worked themselves into a tizzy over virtual reality. At last week's Google I/O conference, the world's largest software company unveiled the second iteration of its budget virtual reality headset. Cardboard 2.0 is as it sounds, a piece of cardboard that folds into a box that allows you to slot a smartphone inside.

Once there, a viewer can load up the VR app store which Google has developed and go wondering around any number of museums and tourist attractions on the other side of the world. As you turn your heard or look up, the image inside does the same thanks to the gyroscopes installed on the smartphone powering the experience.

Google aren't the only ones to be experimenting in this space. Facebook, who recently acquired YouTube favourites Oculus Rift, is set to release its own VR headset next year.

Sony's Project Morpheus, another high-end headset like Oculus Rift is set to be released in 2016. Electronics giant Samsung meanwhile has put VR onboard first-class Qantas flights for those who want that little extra bang for their buck. Or get bored really easily.

But, despite all of these developments, there is a huge question mark hanging over what VR is actually going to be used for on a day-to-day basis. The consumer market has a chequered history when it comes to adopting new technologies. When Nintendo brought out its Wii device that introduced motion-controlled graphics, people were blown away by its capabilities. But it was quickly left to accumulate dust - along with Nintendo's stock price.

Xbox's Kinect device? Again, people were blown away by its capabilities, but do you see it being advertised? What about Sony's PlayStation Move? Yep, another innovation on the scrap pile. The problem is, gaming is still overwhelmingly a passive activity. The world's biggest gaming platform? iOS. The second? Android. These are operating systems for things you make calls on. Not devices designed to sit in your living room.

VR's future lies not in the home, but in the workplace. Architecture, engineering and construction firms have all been jumping on the virtual reality bandwagon. Why? Because it improves how we build and make things.

Oculus Rift is being used to work with 3D models in real time, by examining the dimensions of surfaces and planes, rather than relying on a computer screen to do it for us.

Unreal, a gaming engine used to power virtual environments on PCs and consoles, is now being used to visualise spaces and render architectural models. Microsoft's Hololens, its own virtual reality headset is being championed by business as a way of providing better customer experience, improve business collaboration and help staff navigate industrial spaces.

Remember the Nintendo Wii? Well, Leap Motion a US company has used the same technology to create a wand that can be used to manipulate 3D models for designers.

The problem with consumers is that they're a fickle bunch, which means new technology is quickly superseded and forgotten about. In the enterprise space however, everything works at a much, much slower pace. For example, ATM machines are still running Windows XP, which is now 14 years old. These longer tails in a product's life cycle ensure a product has time to become a vital part of an industry, offsetting the huge costs that go into developing something like wearable VR. They also make it more financially viable to spend a lot of money on something that should be around for a long time.

The future of virtual reality won't be sealed by its presence in your living room, but it just might in a warehouse or a building site.