The VR train is moving faster than ever before and if you’re not on it yet, you’re missing out
In this age of digital transformation, ideas are not held back by how things have been done in the past. That's what's so exciting to me about working as a leader in virtual reality – you are at the forefront of innovation. There are vast opportunities for women who can devise their own jobs and futures that play to their strengths, delving deep into their skills and experiences to help create better tomorrows.
For those who aren’t quite up to speed with VR, it’s the term used to describe a computer generated environment that someone with the aid of 3D glasses or a VR headset can explore and interact with. When the person becomes emerged in the simulated 3D environment the brain starts to think of the virtual reality as the real world.
So, what is it about working in VR that is so attractive? Very few people at the beginning of their careers said "You know what, I’d like to work in a virtual reality tech company one day". The VR world pre-1990 didn’t really exist in the way we know it today and while there have been computer scientists and software engineers coming out of university for decades, they don’t all necessarily want to escalate to C-level and lead the tech companies they work for, preferring the challenge of writing the code and developing new software products. This has led to many company boards looking for talented people, men and women, with the business skills and passion for innovative technology needed to lead and grow these emerging new VR software companies.
It has been said many times that the opportunities for VR are endless. However, to enable a business to be profitable, the VR product has to solve a problem. Sadly, too many companies and university spin-outs create products looking for a solution. While this sometimes works, particularly for companies with large marketing budgets, successful SMEs develop products that solve real life problems.
"The VR product has to solve a problem"
My own company, Vertual Ltd., develops software which is used across the world to create simulated treatment rooms in universities and teaching institutions, training the next generation of radiation therapists to use the latest medical scanning device (LINAC), and to learn complex radiation therapy techniques using virtual reality simulation. Our newest software called Proton VERT simulates proton beam therapy with treatment visualisation and will be used to train radiation therapists across the world in this new field of treatment for patients with cancer.
Virtual reality simulation is already helping students across other healthcare sectors (medicine, dentistry, and ophthalmology) to practice techniques and procedures repeatedly in a safe environment away from the patient enabling them to become more proficient and confident. We will undoubtedly see more companies enter this sector in the next 2-3 years, training the next generation of healthcare professionals.
It is worth considering that virtual reality can be used in almost any sector to simulate the real world in order to learn or practise a new technique before embarking on the real thing. In certain situations, getting it wrong could be dangerous, costly, or risk lives.
The main VR sectors emerging alongside gaming and entertainment are:
- Automotive: 3D virtual reality allows engineers and designers to experiment easily with the look and build of a vehicle before commissioning expensive prototypes.
- Healthcare: Students and healthcare professionals can now use virtual models to prepare them for working on a real body.
- Retail: One of the front runners in VR is ASOS, allowing potential buyers to try on clothes before buying them, saving the cost and hassle of returning unwanted clothes.
- Tourism: TUI travel agents were one of the first to use VR with their "Fly Before You Buy" campaign that allowed holidaymakers to visit destinations and explore their hotel accommodation before they booked.
- Estate Agents/Property Development/Architecture: Scanning software enables buyers to explore homes they are interested in buying, DIYers can envisage how an extension or renovation will look and VR makes it possible to see not just what a building or space will look like, but how it will feel.
- Training/Education: The training/eduction is second, after the gaming industry, for the use of virtual worlds.
- Sport: Transporting people to live sport events from the comfort of their own homes is just one way that virtual reality is impacting the sport industry.
- Marketing: The use of VR simulation to enable customers to feel a product or service as well as see it is an invention that is propelling the marketing sector forward.
Undoubtedly, we will see shake up in the VR sector over time and there will be casualties, not all the pioneers and foundling companies will exist in 5 years' time and the market will accelerate the winners, those with the most innovative, cost-effective, or time-saving solutions will win the game.
As a CEO in this sector I’m committed to making Vertual Ltd. an even greater success to benefit patients and customers globally. Undeniably, it's going to be challenging, scary, exhilarating and intellectually rewarding.
"Those with the most innovative, cost-effective, or time-saving solutions will win the game"
Debra Leeves is CEO at Vertual Ltd.. She will be sharing her knowledge in a session entitled 'Preparing for Leadership' at Women in Tech Scotland, 3rd September.
Don't just be part of the conversation – drive it!
Join Debra at Scotland's top women in tech conference, 3rd September at EICC, Edinburgh. For group booking advice please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or, if your company is interested in getting involved, please visit this page for more information.