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Techstartupday 2016 : virtual reality on the rise

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At the techstartup day 2016 that took place in Brussels last week, one of the buzzwords was virtual reality (VR).

Juan Bossicard, Cluster manager at Impulse and President of the Microsoft Innovation Center, held a very interesting speech on the opportunities offered by VR in various industries.

What I loved about Juan’s speech was the perspective it gave to Virtual Reality and its link with digitalization. Juan’s argument was that despite digitalization a frontier still remains between the people and objects we are digitally interacting with. This frontier (which is most of the time a screen) can be removed with the help of virtual reality. Suddenly the body becomes part of the experience. This is the revolution of VR.

As Juan pointed out it gives tremendous possibilities to people to experiment things that were previously out of reach : flying, going to space, meeting dinosaurs. Imagination is the limit and I agree with Juan that those opportunities are extremely exciting and will dramatically change the consumer’s experience.

There is however a downturn to virtual reality. We, Humans, are social animals who need physical, real contacts to establish relationships and .. live. Our species, although its increasingly “connected” nature (see our article degrees of connections) has probably never been so isolated in the real life. We’ve never spent so much time behind our smartphones, ipad, computers  and it can’t replace the time we were spending before with other Humans. The danger of virtual reality is to push us further into a virtual world that will slowly replace the “real” world.

Will virtual reality enter the classroom ?

Think for instance of Juan’s idea to have virtual classrooms. I agree with him that it would give the possibility to millions of people to attend the best schools and to access the highest level of education. But the danger is to have pupils attending classes from home and missing the social links that are built throughout the years with classmates. These social links, facing problems with other, enjoying relationships are necessary to let children grow and let them find their place in the outer world. My fear is that pushing virtual reality too far may isolate people.

Conclusion

Virtual reality will prove an amazing tool to change dramatically the customer’s experience in many different industries (especially in B2C). However this technology must be harnessed carefully. It should be used to enhance people’s lives, not to replace parts of their lives that contribute to their socialization and their integration within the real world.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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