Elon Musk recently revealed his plans to implant computer chips in human brains starting next year—a key milestone towards the science fiction vision of a brain-computer interface that will allow direct communication between a human brain and a computer.
But while a viable brain-computer interface is probably still some ways away, advances in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are coming fast and furious. Companies like Oculus and Magic Leap are trailblazing new hardware devices, while juggernauts like Samsung and Google are developing sophisticated AR and VR software and opening up a world of possibilities and coming distractions.
Technically, VR has more potential uses than AR because it’s unconstrained by the physical environment, making it particularly popular with gamers today. However, many experts believe AR will eventually be more useful to businesses. Although technical visionaries have long viewed VR as the more radical invention, AR offers the possibility to help us make commercial decisions, shrink our world and quickly evaluate competing options.
Tomorrow’s Commercial Opportunities
As AR and VR become more common, now is the time for companies to begin thinking strategically about how these technologies might help them connect to, engage with, and ultimately persuade consumers to become customers.
For example, an e-commerce firm selling clothing or shoes should plan to allow consumers to virtually try on apparel from the comfort of their own home to see how an item looks on them—or even to see how a piece of furniture or artwork will look in their home—resulting in enhanced confidence for the consumer and less resistance to a purchase.
From a VR perspective, firms like Amazon or Walmart might place users in a virtual store environment and let them walk through the departments and window shop. Restaurants, food delivery services or grocery stores might use VR to show how food will look before it’s ordered—enhancing the experience and increasing the likelihood of a purchase. And as these customers become more engaged with the brand, store or restaurant, they’ll be more likely to become loyal buyers.
Teleconferences and webinars may become popular VR applications and a great way for brands to interact with their customers, and for their customers to interact with each other, increasing their sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people. Having customers from around the world gathered in virtual spaces where they can try products or services, exchange ideas, give personal feedback and learn from one another could potentially change the way consumers identify with a brand or service. And when it comes to VR social interaction, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s difficult to say just how much AR and VR will impact the way brands and consumers interact in the coming years, but a lot of companies are working very hard to get ahead of the curve and be in a position to reap the benefits of this transformative technology. And now, while the tech is still in its infancy, is the time to be thinking carefully about how your company might use AR and VR to better connect with your customers. Because whether we like the idea or not, those brain chips are coming…