Industrial Innovation 4 ways virtual reality is shaping the future of work

We are just scratching the surface of virtual reality. From doctors to auto technicians to astronauts, here are some ways VR technology is helping to reimagine the future of work.

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VR will not simply affect one particular industry or a scientific research need. They have the ability to touch every aspect of society — from prepping for surgery to traveling in space.

(Virtual Reality Ghana)
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Over time, ideas change and innovation takes us to new, unexplored territories that unleash the kind of creativity that creates new dynamic businesses and reimagines old ones.

Today, we are potentially on the cusp of such a change — driven by virtual reality (VR).

VR will not simply affect one particular industry or a scientific research need. They have the ability to touch every aspect of society — from prepping for surgery to traveling in space. The ideas and opportunities are endless, if we can focus on the core outcome and not be afraid to try new ideas and concepts.

Here are four ways that VR is transforming industries:

1. Reimagining the Body

VR will enable doctors to see the body in new ways, with technologies that can transform medical imaging into interactive 3D programs.

“VR gives a very immersive way of looking at all this data,” says Sandeep Gupta, manager of Biomedical Image Analysis at GE Global Research, which is working with some research hospitals on early-stage testing of VR technology to allow doctors to take a virtual tour of a patient’s brain.

The technology holds the potential to not only improve patient outcomes, but also cost. Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center found that VR simulations helped to reduce surgical planning time by 40 percent and increase surgical accuracy by 10 percent.

2. Empowering the Worker

On the factory floor or the oil field, VR can provide skilled laborers with the real-time information to improve their effectiveness and safety. Industrial wearables — smart gloves, helmets, glasses, watches — enable workers to communicate with machines via sensors connected through the Industrial Internet, allowing for higher level of efficiencies, productivity and even predictivity.

“I have witnessed first-hand how human error can mean the difference between not just profit and loss, but life and death, and there is potential for 4D to vastly improve almost every process — from training new employees to assembling the most advanced machinery,” says Andy Lowery, president of Daqri, a startup that has developed a smart helmet for industrial applications. The helmet, which Lowery dubs the “worker empowerer,” is equipped with a camera, sensors and a transparent visor that displays data superimposed over objects in the worker’s view.

Wearables powered by VR and the Industrial Internet are redefining the future of work.

3. Collaborating Across Space

It doesn’t get more remote than space, and that’s where the true potential of VR technology is being tested.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are experimenting with Microsoft’s HoloLens for mixed-reality interactions with ground control. Instead of having to rely upon voice commands from Houston, astronauts are now able to have an expert guide them through in real-time how to make a repair or perform a certain experiment in space which reduces the possibility of error. The device can also display animated holographic illustrations on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting, eliminating the risk that communication delays could complicate difficult operations deep in space.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” says Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Given the remoteness and extreme nature of operations, space could be the final frontier for VR technology.

Off-the-Job Training

Given VR’s early success in the gaming industry, it’s no surprise that some of the biggest promise for the technology lies in worker training applications. By introducing VR into an apprenticeship program, an industrial company could digitally transporting new employees to their future work environment without the added expense of relocation or fear of failure.

Engineers at Bosch have developed a virtual reality training experience to train auto technicians how to repair gasoline direct-injection (GDI) engines. By using virtual reality to train technicians, Bosch is creating a cost-efficient training program that directly benefits their bottom line, as Bosch projects it will have a 56 percent market share in GDI technology by 2017.

“Training has been pretty much the same forever,” says Rob Darrow, manager of strategic projects for Bosch. What is the future of training and how do you get tools to engage people and talk to them?”

The power of VR is that it transports you to a place that you have never been to before — the future. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of how these technologies will impact industries and improve our lives. The future is bright.

Written by Grayson Brulte, Co-Founder & President of Brulte & Company, an innovation advisory and consulting company that designs innovation and technology strategies for a global marketplace.

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