Posted on 9/21/2016

How virtual reality is leveraging technology to drive business

Jason Vazzano

Business transformation and innovation are key to remaining competitive in the global marketplace. Recent research shows almost half of all CEOs expect their organizations will be significantly transformed by 2020. That’s why companies wanting to succeed need to embrace and implement both disruptive thinking and disruptive technology not only when developing new products and services, but also when transforming their business processes. By doing this, they can increase their agility, as well as drive rapid and cost-effective innovation and growth.

DTE Energy: Recognizing the value of VR

DTE Energy is a prime example of a company leveraging disruptive technology to drive transformation and improve its competitive position. The utilities company wants to provide better training for its technicians, improve the customer experience, and strengthen the company brand.

DTE Energy is focused on next generation technology to advance how they approach every aspect of their business – including ways to improve safety for their customers and, of course, their employees. According to the BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, in 2014, there were 19.2 fatal work injuries per 100,000 electrical power-line technicians, ranking the profession ninth in the top 10 of civilian occupations with high fatal work-related injury rates. 

Fortunately, recent advancements in virtual reality technology are providing risk-free alternatives to real-world, high-consequence training. Virtual reality, commonly referred to as VR, places the user in an immersive, simulated environment. VR systems typically consist of a head-mounted display (HMD), which is used to block out the user’s surroundings and replace the environment with a virtual one using internal screens within the head unit. Advanced systems also utilize headphones, motion tracking controllers, and sensors to engage all of the user’s senses in the experience.

Scientists have long predicted the value of VR in training. Studies about information retention conducted by the National Training Laboratories show the following statistics:

  • Traditional, passive learning methods such as reading, listening to lectures, and watching instructional videos result in information retention of between five and 20 percent.
  • Seeing a demonstration of a technique increases retention to 30 percent.
  • Active learning—repetitively performing a technique or applying information—can increase retention to 75 percent.
  • Having the opportunity to practice and make mistakes¬ can increase retention to 90 percent.

VR offers a way for companies to train their employees in virtually simulated work situations. Immersive and interactive technology allows workers to practice and hone their skills by replicating the consequences of their actions in the virtual world—but without the risk involved in real life situations.

Recognizing the value of VR for life-critical, high consequence training, DTE Energy partnered with Vectorform to leverage VR training for its electrical power line technicians. Using the HTC Vive® platform, technicians experience visual immersion with a 110-degree field of view and 360-degree motion tracking. As the training will blend real and virtual elements and utilize full-room sensing, trainees will retain real world awareness and be able to move around in the virtual space. In short, they’ll be able to practice dangerous tasks such as making repairs at great heights, performing gas shut-offs, and repairing down lines without compromising their own safety or that of the public.

The impact of VR on businesses

VR offers a number of significant advantages.

When used as a training tool, it increases the safety of employees and training personnel, which can enhance a company’s employer brand and improve the quality of services, which will result in positive competitive differentiation. 

At the same time, VR offers a powerful method to simulate and test prototypes, as well as create new manufacturing processes. It also provides an effective way of assessing innovative technologies in regard to regulations and compliance. This results in leaner, faster development cycles and better products. In the automotive industry, for example, VR is used to design new technologies and subsequently fine-tune them by testing them in a variety of simulated environments.

VR is also poised to revolutionize the world of marketing, providing consumers with an accessible, commitment-free way to “try before they buy.” According to E.J. Schultz in the AdAge article “Why Virtual Reality Is Auto Marketing’s Sleeping Giant,” a number of automotive manufacturers are embracing VR as a way to reach tech-savvy Gen Z and Millennial consumers. For example, interactive videos which simulate driving a specific model can be used as a hook to attract these consumers to the dealership for a test drive.

The potential of VR is unlimited. What’s more: forward-thinking organizations that leverage VR to quickly and cost-effectively explore their vision to develop solutions are likely to position themselves as leaders in their industries while transforming their business. If you want to learn more about the future of VR and experience the cutting edge technology for yourself, connect with us at the Vectorform Virtual Reality Experience at Automation Alley’s 16th Annual Awards Gala on Oct. 14 at the Detroit Yacht Club. We look forward to seeing you there!

About the Author

Jason Vazzano | Vectorform

Jason Vazzano is the CEO and co-founder of Vectorform®, an organization that invents digital products and experiences for the world’s leading brands. Jason is an accomplished entrepreneur and thought leader on innovation and technology’s impact on society. Under Jason’s leadership, Vectorform has become a platform for revolutionizing future solutions in connected vehicles, cities and smart homes.

About Vectorform
Vectorform invents digital products and experiences for the world’s leading brands with a focus on Mobile, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Internet of Things, Smart Home, Connected Vehicle and Wearable Technology. Founded in 1999, Vectorform has five global offices: Seattle, Detroit, New York, Munich and Hyderabad. Visit and connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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