Bringing fantasies to life. How can that not excite someone?

Imagine the power of being able to envision an entire city, and being able to build that city and tour it, all while sitting at your desktop from the comforts of your bedroom. This ability to create something out of scratch and being able to live in our own creation, to alter the paradigms of reality is perhaps the closest we have come to playing god.

This idea of virtual reality, augmented reality or extended reality has been around for decades. We may wonder why, then, has it taken so long for it to reach the mainstream. Was there not enough funds? Not enough possibilities? Not enough technology? Was it to remain a pipe dream forever? Or was it to only be a very expensive, niche section with no mainstream acceptance or applications?

For too long, we have all waited for this market to mature enough for us, the general public to get our first taste of different realities, to experience in first hand, the promised land.

Now, the wait is over.

Virtual Reality has finally arrived.

It may have taken more than thirty years since we first dreamt about it, but it has finally arrived. You can now walk in to your closest electronic shop and buy a VR headset cheaper than a phone.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates AR and VR to deliver a $1.5trillion boost to the global economy by 2030. That is a truly staggering figure. Extended reality is ushering in the next industrial revolution. The opportunities we can foresee are mind-boggling and businesses are now waking up to see those numbers as a real possibility.

Many businesses are starting to recognize the opportunity to create new revenue streams and grow existing ones. Retail, hospitality and automotive are just three sectors already exploring the potential to sell and showcase products via both VR and AR, while gaming and entertainment companies are using the technology to create new experiences and products. New revenue streams are also being created for businesses developing and designing VR and AR services and technologies. The main reason for businesses to explore the benefits of VR and AR now is that the technology is finally maturing.

With the advent of haptics, we have discovered a whole new dimension to explore, but let us save that for another day or for another blog maybe. VR and AR have clear benefits in healthcare. Being able to create operating theatres and realistic scenarios in VR will help train doctors and surgeons and test their decision-making and responses to stressful situations in a risk-free way. VR can potentially be used therapeutically too, creating applications to help people cope with anxiety. AR glasses can overlay scans and x-rays onto a patient’s body, augmenting the view a surgeon has. We can now combine these innovations with the resources and cultural changes required to improve productivity and, most importantly, patient outcomes.

One of the clear areas of impact has been in the field of skill development and training. PwC estimates that this will be a $300 billion industry by 2030. The use of VR and AR in training boosts engagement and knowledge retention and enables organizations to enforce consistent, measurable standards at scale. The technology also provides a way to train employees where it is not always practical - or safe - to do so in the real world. For example, to simulate emergency situations or asset maintenance in dangerous environments.

VR and AR offer new ways to engage, entertain and interact with consumers, creating new possibilities in film, gaming and retail. Gaming is one area where many people have already experienced VR and AR, and the popularity of these technologies will almost certainly increase over the coming decade. According to the study the gaming industry alone could potentially contribute up to $204 billion by 2030.

There is work to be done to ensure these technologies now deliver on their potential. The value is clearly visible to all. The use cases exist today. For all the talk of potential, it is now in our hands to put in the long yards required, to make sure we harness the miracles, which this new technology can deliver.

We could all talk of market potential and industry developments, it might excite the bigwigs, it could bring in the dollars, it may accelerate further growth. But, if we can make a difference to even a single patient’s life, it will all have been worth it.