How VR can be embraced by corporates – and what it should not be used for


Virtual reality is increasingly being used by companies for a variety of things impossible to achieve without it. But while it has great potential, it also presents risks and challenges for society, Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director, Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University, told delegates at CAIS 2018.

In a presentation called Infinite reality: The virtual world, the author of Experience on Demand – what virtual reality is, how it works and what it can do, started by explaining some of the pitfalls of VR.

Some of these include the perils of distraction, with the first death reported recently attributed to VR; addiction, which has the potential to be disrupt people’s lives; reality blurring, where users of VR muddle what they have experienced with real life; and desensitization, where it might be used to practice things such as extreme violence.

Given these risks, he argued that its use should be limited to just a handful of specific scenarios: those that would otherwise be impossible, those that would be counterproductive in the real world and those that are rare or expensive or dangerous.

He offered some examples of its application that applies to some of these criteria. It has been used, for instance, to increase empathy with others in a way that counters prejudice on the basis of race, sex or disability. He said that the outcomes of such experiments were far more effective than other practices designed to accomplish this such as role play.

He said he also helped develop a simulation that shows the future effects of climate change, which has been especially useful for lobbying politicians and has also been rolled out extensively in schools and colleges. “When people directly experience something, they see it differently,” he said.

But more and more companies are also using it as a training tool, to help staff get better at their jobs. Walmart has adopted the technology on a major scale and it has been shown that staff trained in this way get better at their jobs faster than those who have not.

“VR can be amazing – it is not for everything but it can be used to tackle some major issues in the real world,” Bailenson said.

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