Business Insider

Virtual reality is the disruptive technology you’ve been waiting for

Minnesota Daily via AP

Want to guarantee that half your audience will be asleep during your next presentation? Give a speech to students in the morning hours.

That’s my experience, at least. The kids are forced to be there and they definitely didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Their attention spans are shorter than Danny DeVito’s legs.

My speech at one student event was about the internet and entrepreneurship, and one eager girl had a question: “Now that all of the ideas have been taken, how can somebody start a business online?”

That’s a common theme when looking for business ideas. It seems that they have all been taken and the possibility for success has passed. Trying to compete against powerful, established companies as an entrepreneur is sometimes futile.

Oh, did I mention that the student asked me that question in 2007, right at the peak of MySpace’s popularity? It did feel like all of the big ideas were taken by Amazon, AOL, Google, Yahoo and PayPal.

When smartphones started to become ubiquitous after the launch of the original iPhone, a whole new world of possibilities came to light. Over the next few years, a few new companies were started you might be familiar with: Instagram, Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Spotify, Snapchat, Tinder, Groupon and thousands of others.

It’s impossible to compete against companies such as Amazon, Ford and Nike by going head-to-head with them. You have to do something new. Large companies are mired in their own quicksand of best practices and dependable revenue streams. If a startup can see what tech is coming just a few years ahead, it can create the next household name.

Virtual reality is one such disruptive technology.

It brings new capabilities to the world that can fundamentally alter every industry.

Ryan DeLuca

It’s also easy enough to get started in compared to expensive and harshly regulated technologies such as robotics, biotechnology and space flight.

VR technology has been available for decades, but only recently has it reached a level of quality and affordability that makes it usable for consumer applications. The Oculus headset was announced in 2012, and only two years later Facebook bought the company for a cool $2 billion. That moment woke everybody up to the realization that VR was really here.

Anyone can see that VR can be used to play games or watch 360-degree videos. What else does it bring to the table?

First of all, there is the immersion that’s created by the sights and sounds that move in the headset the way the real world does. A common reaction after coming back to the “real world” is one of amazement. The person really felt as if they were in a completely different place. We’ve see people falling over because they tried to lean against a virtual table or take a step off a virtual cliff.

This level of immersion has powerful uses for education, news and business training. Reading about the structure of a cell is one thing, but going inside of one is more powerful for learning.

Modern VR platforms such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are called room-scale systems because you can move around in every direction. Your movement is intricately tracked in real-time in a way that was possible only with expensive motion-capture systems a few years ago.

This allows design to be done in 3D instead of on a flat screen. You can collaboratively design objects with others in the same environment and immediately sense the scale of what you are creating.

Athletes can train for their sport no matter where they are. NFL quarterbacks and 2018 Winter Olympic downhill skiers are using VR to get the edge, with astounding results. There are apps for learning to become a DJ or a crane operator, and for physical therapy. Your new motor skills directly translate to real life.

Going inside virtual reality allows you to get an accurate sense of scale. Finding your new home is much faster when you can explore dozens of houses in an hour instead of driving around all day. Designing your new building from scratch is also much easier when you can go inside your design before a single nail has been hammered.

Virtually visiting a museum gives you a better experience. Vastly better tours are available and there are no crowds. The same can be said for getting a front-row seat at an NBA game, going backstage for a concert, brainstorming with your work group or attending a business conference.

Virtual reality is still a few years away from becoming truly mainstream. Thousands of new companies will be created. Students watching a presentation inside a virtual world will fall asleep less often, while perhaps still asking why all the good ideas have been taken.

There’s always another “big thing” on the horizon for imaginative entrepreneurs. Now is the time for VR. I’ll see you in the metaverse.

Ryan DeLuca is the co-founder of Black Box VR, an immersive virtual reality workout experience, and also founded Bodybuilding.com.

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