Welcome to another edition of Throw Forward Thursday, where we jump into the future and see what’s going on. Today is probably not a surprise because we are talking about virtual reality. Of course, yes, virtual reality where you use one of these virtual reality headsets. This is just an El Cheaper, cost me a few dollars, a nice plastic thing where the phone becomes the processor behind it. But of course, good, proper virtual reality that gives you a full immersive experience is just getting better and better from probably the Oculus Rift giving us the best option. And now you’ve got Microsoft, Apple talking about coming into this. This certainly is the way of the future. 

So, why a Throw Forward Thursday on this one? Because we already know that virtual reality is coming. Well a throw forward with this one is about going back to the office. What happens if going back to the office after lockdown is not about going back to any office at all? What happens if the Office of the Future is no office? And by that I mean what happens if the Office of the Future is actually in virtual reality? I don’t think that will happen in the near future. I don’t think that that is the immediate response to covid. So we’re throwing forward maybe a decade or two here. But there are already a lot of industries that are using virtual reality on a regular basis. A construction company that we know uses virtual reality to test out people’s fear of heights before putting them up on a construction site on top of a high building or a crate.

Wouldn’t it be better to know if somebody does have a crippling fear of heights by using a virtual experience rather than trying it out in real life where it could be quite dangerous? We have a mining company that uses it to help people deal with experiencing a crisis underground in their mind. Again, doing it in a simulated way that gives you all of the real feelings and experience. It’s a virtual reality experience, but without any of the danger. And what you do is you get to see how you react and respond.

We know a training company who has been using virtual reality experiences to put teams into stressful environments and test how the teams respond and react and in situations of deep stress. And that might feel like something where you think, well, why would you do that? Well, the answer is, of course, to work out whether the team is going to be resilient and responsive to change and adapt, and how they engage. When you put people in a pressure cooker, you can do things in an hour or two that otherwise might take a few weeks and months to unfold in the team dynamics.

And the list goes on and on. We are seeing tourism companies using virtual reality to attract tourists, during the Soviet period when they were not able to go in person and visit something. Now, virtual reality gives you a fully immersive experience. So, in industry after industry, we are beginning to see virtual reality, find use cases. And it’s no longer just toys and games. It’s no longer just simulated experiences. I mean, probably the industry that’s doing the most with it that’s beyond just a simulation is, of course, property developers who instead of now building models spending.

I’ve got a friend who’s an architect and he’s spent half his life building scaled models of the buildings that he is trying to get his clients to approve. And he now spends time building virtual reality walk-throughs. It’s that much better, much more immersive. So we know that this is coming to an industry near you, the motor industry, airlines, the list goes on and on and on. But for us, for you and me, the most likely use of virtual reality in the future, let’s call it sometime in the 20s or 30s, is going to be our ability to connect with other people, our ability to replace what most of us are feeling we missing in the office, which is that direct physical face to face connection with other people where you can just turn and talk to somebody where you feel the physical presence of of somebody else, where you can be in the room. Well, virtual reality gives us the opportunity to do that and probably creates for us the best of both worlds.

We don’t actually have to get into rush hour traffic. We don’t actually have to schlep ourselves into the inner city to get to an office, which probably isn’t quite set up optimally for us anyway. But through virtual reality, we can have the connection that we are missing by not being in the same room as other people. And this will obviously impact the office. It’ll impact meetings, it’ll impact conferences, exhibitions and events and all the things that I spend most of my life engaging with.

Throw Forward Thursday – Virtual reality is coming. It is already here. But as we throw ourselves into the future, we will discover more and more uses of it until all of us just don’t consider it virtual reality. It’s part of our real reality sometime in the future. Make sure that you subscribe. If you are watching us on YouTube, click the notification belly button so that every Thursday you’re reminded to join us in the future. If you’re listening to the podcast version, make sure that you share this with your friends and subscribe on your favourite podcast platform, maybe even rate us as well, that would be useful. 

I’ll see you next week with another glimpse into the future.

Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.

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