Academics were amongst the first adopters of the technology and their activities greatly contributed to its birth. Beyond this, the same way that the industry has very clear and profitable applications, virtual reality offers tremendous opportunities for academics. A recent vr-bnb field study has shown that close to 39% of European professional VR users are academics or related.
Why is that? How do academics use VR in a way that justifies the investment?
Well, what better way to answer that question than by asking them!
That is what we did, through a second field study, this time qualitative. This second study has very clearly outlined that the main concern, focus and use for virtual reality in the academic world is research. You could have guessed that one, right?
Research in an academic context consists for example in doing research on seasickness through virtual reality, analyzing the interaction between humans and machinery or even testing and using 3D archeological models.
However, a use related to communication, both external and internal, is also widespread through the academic world. While we were able to identify that private businesses were using VR as a great and efficient external communication tool, it was surprising to hear about that type of use from academics. As such, we asked them what they were concretely doing that they considered as being communication.
Well amongst other uses it appears to be a great mean to share and spread the results of a research. In other words, VR is used in this context in order to present results/conclusions to other academics or to outsiders.
But that is not all, the interrogated academics specified that the use of VR also leads to a better communication within researching teams. Researchers are able to understand each other faster through a common visualization of their topic of study.
The interesting point here is that both private businesses and academics mention process improvement as a description of the use of VR, the only difference appears to be with regard to their concerns. While industrials focused on cost reduction, the interrogated academics did not mention that notion of cost once. On the other hand, while academics outlined research as being one of the core purposes of VR to them, industrials did not mention it explicitly once, although they clearly use it for R&D and innovation purposes!
The reason for that is simply that industrials see research and innovation as a process and cost generating activity, while academics see it as a process leading to a pluridisciplinary understanding of a complex topic and scientific advancement.
While the focus and wished end result are very different for academics and industrials, VR leads to process improvement in both cases and is used for communication both internal and external.
Trends announce a great future for the professional VR market and this field study is a great reminder that virtual reality already is a remarkable communication tool and can nowadays be integrated in a broad range of processes. Using it at present time still is an innovative move, but that won’t be for long anymore as the technology is spreading and its accessibility increasing!
So what would you rather be? An innovator or a follower? The market is telling us that a few months will make you one… or the other.