Understand what virtual reality is and how it can be used in industry
Virtual reality to simulate, collaborate and train without risk and at lower cost
Virtual reality (or VR for Virtual Reality), allows a person to be totally immersed in a virtual universe generated and controlled by a computer. The experience is visual, auditory and sometimes haptic, that is to say, which gives sensations through touch thanks to feedback effects (blows, impacts ...). Immersed in the data, virtual reality offers new possibilities of visualization and analysis. Through virtual worlds, it allows to train at lower cost and to approach without risk dangerous procedures and environments. Thanks to avatars, it brings together distant actors for effective collaboration.
Thanks to its immersion, virtual reality is perfect for simulation and training in operational processes. Professions with dynamic and stressful situations (soldiers, athletes, emergency response personnel...) can also benefit from cognitive training for a fraction of the real cost.
3D data analysis
Immersion brings a new point of view to 3D data analysis. The natural interaction allows to navigate, display, hide with ease, to collaborate easily, between experts of different fields, around complex data.
Videoconferencing is showing its limits for collaboration between remote experts. Through persistent environments, virtual reality allows actors to gather in the same space, equipped with the appropriate tools.
When we think about virtual reality, we mainly imagine the headsets released in the last few years. These headsets are indeed today the most complete and affordable solution to fully enjoy virtual reality.
The first question you should ask yourself is whether you want a standalone or non-standalone headset. Standalone headsets (like the Meta Quest) are self-contained and allow for mobile use. Non-standalone headsets (like the HTC Vive) need to be connected to a computer, but allow for more complex content.
Virtual reality on a smartphone is also a possibility. More basic, it allows however to benefit from a huge base of potential users, and to play on virality.
Immersed in a virtual world
The objective of virtual reality is to immerse the user in a digital world, to achieve the sensation of presence, that is to say "the authentic feeling of existing in a world other than the physical world where the body is". This sensory immersion is mainly achieved through the eyes, the sound, and the proprioception: our movements and our point of view are taken into account by the machine to offer a graphic rendering and a spatialized sound accordingly.
Interacting in virtual reality
Virtual reality can be used in conjunction with other systems, particularly for simulation or training. By connecting a headset to an appropriate control panel, a learner can thus find himself in a situation as varied as learning to weld, handling a crane, training in skydiving, etc.
What is the interest for the industry?
Immersion allows you to do things "almost for real" in a world that is not subject to the rules of the real world... and that is especially much cheaper to create! Virtual reality makes it possible to use virtual prototypes even more, pushing the need for a real prototype further into the development cycle. For example, you can walk through a building that only exists on a blueprint, learn the right way to repair an engine without needing the engine on site. But in addition to product presentation and training, virtual reality also allows for the ergonomic evaluation of systems even before their first physical prototyping.
Points to know
Of course, this technology has its own constraints and limitations that we must be aware of. The very principle of virtual reality is to play on perceptual illusions in order to provoke immersion and trigger this famous feeling of presence. These perceptual illusions present inconsistencies that our body perceives and to which it can react: the best known example being the "virtual reality sickness", similar to motion sickness.
A human-centered design, taking into account these ergonomic particularities, is therefore critical to create a smooth and pleasant experience, and thus maximize the impact of your content.