"Today, all the talk about virtual reality is just that, talk. Talk and speculation," said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. "And it will be several years before the first generation of virtual reality becomes real. Even then, it'll just be the first generation of virtual reality. It will be like bear skins and stone knives compared to what we will be using five years from then."
And before an enterprise will be able to dive into virtual reality, there will be not only a learning curve but possibly a substantial investment to be made.
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, noted that companies will have to think about how they will support their virtual reality experience. They'll need to invest in the headset hardware, along with new software, likely upgraded computer power and an expanded datacenter infrastructure.
However, with the wait and the investments needed, industry analysts say enterprises will be eager to see what this emerging technology can do for their business.
"Like everything else, this would start as a competitive advantage for those early adopters," said Kagan. "Then, over time, it will become the way we do things. At that time, companies who don't do it this new way will be behind the eight ball."
Here are a few examples of how the enterprise could use virtual reality in another five or 10 years.
Trainers, according to Kagan, will use virtual reality extensively.
"Whether training soldiers on a combat field or sales reps at the customer location, virtual reality provides the ability to enter the world to train and get better, without ever leaving your office," he said. "This would let every company be able to train every person, more often than ever. This would make every company more competitive."
Soldiers, for instance, would be able to train in a virtual middle-eastern village or in a snowy, remote environment without leaving their American base.
Financial managers would be able to train using a virtual office environment, so they could practice good communication and leadership skills.
2. Pulling in remote workers
Virtual reality also should make for better relationships between employees working remotely and their managers or working groups.
"Think about employees being able to work from home but, at the same time, working from virtual offices, surrounded by their virtual peers," said Enderle. "This could make the worker feel more like a part of the meeting or a part of the team," leading to possible productivity boosts.
Another plus: "If you are more tightly coupled, it can be instrumental to make your boss more confident that you actually are working and not just goofing off at home," Enderle said.
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