Virtual reality has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. However, with the popularisation and hype of the Oculus Rift (swiftly followed by many others), we’re still to reach the stage of VR many predicted was ‘dawning’ as OR launched.

While gaming and social media are still to meet the expectations of early enthusiasts, there are a few industries who have cleverly jumped on virtual reality to their advantage, and use it to take customers on a journey that was simply too expensive to imagine in previous years.

Mental health care


If you’ve seen Black Mirror, you’ll know that this application comes a little close to one of the scariest episodes produced, but put that thought down for a second. The fact is, most of us experience some form of fear, anxiety or stress in our lives, and virtual reality is here to help.

One of the most common techniques for psychologists to help individuals overcome anxiety is through exposure therapy (ET), something that immediately links to virtual reality. Essentially, VR has been used to expose patients to their deepest anxieties within a controlled environment, giving them exposure to them and eventually enabling them to overcome their fears. For decades, this has been expensive and widely unavailable – not anymore.


Real estate and venue hire


While there’s nothing like taking a walk through with a fine toothed comb – virtual reality is helping you sort the good from the bad so you can fully imagine the experience of your potential new home, wedding venue or function room without going anywhere. It’s a potentially the simplest execution of virtual reality; tripod-mounted scanners capture 360-degree views of every room in the house, and users can mill about the property in a similar fashion to how you would use Google Earth, but instead of clicking you just stare down parts of the room to move into them.

This use of technology is starting to become a regular feature at your average real estate agent or venue provider, particularly as a value add at expos and tradeshows to effectively sell an idea that is too expensive to move physically for a limited time.


Charity and causes


One of the biggest struggles that charities have is showing donors that they’ve made a tangible impact; which can of course encourage further advocacy and involvement in a cause. The Kony 2012 / Invisible Children debacle four years ago showed how important it is to be transparent about where donations are going, as even the best of intentions can backfire.

Virtual reality is being used by charities in a really smart way to bring donors directly to the cause and show the real impact donations are having. In particular, it’s worked well to target larger scale donors (companies and wealthier individuals who pledge large sums of money). For example, at a dinner for “Charity: Water” in New York in 2015, attendees were all given VR headsets to watch a 9-minute interactive movie documenting a 13-year old Ethiopian girl getting clean water for the first time. After watching the film, donors committed $2.4 million.


This year is set to see technology continue to have a huge impact on content, particularly on social media. There’s more and more bots popping up everyday, innovation in short-video and facial recognition and of course virtual reality and augmented reality will form a part of this development. While a VR headset is not something that is widely available to all consumers, it’s worth taking a note from some of the sectors using virtual reality sparingly, yet effectively, to drive business results and deliver a richer content experience to viewers at a fraction of the usual cost.