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Is Human Reality the Next Big Hurdle for Virtual Reality?

March 21, 2019  
John Cunningham
DiSTI – Chief Revenue Officer


If you read the news from the recent CES 2019 and the bullish forecasts from industry analysts, by all accounts 2019 will be the year that Virtual Reality finally takes off! Yay...we are finally at the Tipping Point! Or are we?

We are certainly at a point where virtual and augmented reality technologies are proving their value in training applications. There is solid evidence from military and commercial companies that virtual training technologies provide significant strides in educating workers and improving bottom lines. There are even virtual training platforms that integrate into enterprise systems. These platforms enable 3D models and CAD data reuse and workflows to be extended all the way to these devices. And there are finally enough players to make the market competitive. All the indicators signal that we are finally ready for scale. But there is one essential component in the equation that is often still missing.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting the CEO of one of my largest customers to review the status of the numerous virtual training projects that we have delivered. After presenting all of the benefits they have seen, including significant learning improvements, increased student throughput, reductions in training costs and even new revenue generating models from the training content, the CEO looked over at the Director of Global Training and asked this question…“With all of these proven benefits why isn’t your phone ringing off the hook from our internal staff and our customers demanding virtual training?” With that one question, he nailed it.

If the technology is viable, the business is case extremely compelling, and there is widespread support then why aren’t we seeing mass adoption of virtual reality in the enterprise? Why is there still internal resistance within organizations to adopt this new capability?

For many years I worked in the IT outsourcing industry. Our primary message to our customers was a simple value proposition that we could reduce their IT spending by 30% or more, and we could prove it. Any CIO or CFO that would ignore that kind of return to the business would probably have gotten fired! As a result IT outsourcing took off and forever changed the industry. The ROI models that we are seeing today with virtual training often far exceed the simple 30% cost reductions that made IT outsourcing so successful. So why isn’t this rocket taking off you might ask?

I believe that the fundamental answer to the question can be termed Human Reality. We humans are programmed to resist change, and we fear what change means to us as individuals. Whenever we are presented with something that represents change, our brains immediately start asking questions that often paralyze us. “What does this mean for me?” “What do I have to learn now?” “How will this potentially impact my upward mobility or even job security itself?” And whenever it comes to new technology, that fear gets exacerbated based on our past experiences with using new technologies that don’t always work as promised. Human Reality is the next obstacle to widespread adoption of Virtual Reality in the Enterprise.

I remember back in the 70’s when VCR’s first came out. This technology fundamentally changed how families watched movies and every family wanted a VCR so they could watch movies in the convenience of their home when they wanted to. The problem was that the adults had to figure out how to operate the darn things. My parents constantly struggled with programming the VCR and inevitably relied on their 12 year old to guide them through the simple VCR programming guide...for years. What I thought was very simple and logical was very complicated for them and represented a huge change for them that they would not learn. I simply couldn’t comprehend why they couldn’t remember how to program the VCR with the guide! Well time has a funny way of putting things into perspective. I am now “that parent” that relies on my teenager to help me with our never ending stream of new technologies in the house and I can’t figure out how to configure them all even with instructions! And I have been in the IT business for over 25 years and actually like technology! However, every time a new gadget appears in the house I feel fear creeping into my soul, as I know what it is going to take to figure it out and how inept I am going to feel while learning it. So I subconsciously resist learning I guess in hope that it will figure itself out so I don’t have to…or one of my kids do it for me!

Human Reality is our deep psychological programming that no spreadsheet or ROI analysis will overcome. It is that part of us that ignores logic and facts in favor of feelings based on fear of change and past experiences. It is a perception that becomes our reality.

Now that we have gotten past some of the technology hurdles related to virtual reality, we are at that point where we have to deal with probably the most difficult challenge which is our human willingness to learn something new and accept the changes that it brings. This is not something that you can plug into a spreadsheet or invest more money into a technology to fix. This requires the old fashioned art of patiently working with people and allowing them time to absorb the change and deal with their deep seated psychological issues that make us all human.

When cell phones first became popular, I proudly showed my father my new Motorola flip phone and exclaimed how this was going to change our world and everyone will eventually have one. His comment to me was something to the effect of “when hell freezes over”. It wasn’t until he was out fishing and had to make a phone call due to an emergency and had to borrow a cell phone from a fishing buddy that he decided it might be a good idea to get one. He had a human experience that changed his reality! Today he can’t go anywhere without his cell phone…it only took 10 years!

If anyone out there has a proven methodology or technology that can address the Human Reality issue with VR adoption then please contact me so we can make a licensing deal!

Looking forward to your thoughts on this…