Exploring the possibilities of virtual reality across industries

January 20, 2016



Six industries that can benefit from virtual reality applications—will your business be prepared?


Virtual Reality (VR) is quickly moving from fantasy to reality with the first generation of  head-mounted displays now entering the consumer gaming & entertainment market, but VR isn’t limited to just gaming. VR adds an unprecedented level of immersion, delivering engaging experiences that are poised to change how we do business.

A forward-thinking insurance client asked PwC’s Experience Center to help them stand out at an important industry conference. Instead of using expensive and inaccessible VR headsets, we opted to reach a wider audience by using low-cost cardboard goggles. By leveraging the powerful sensors already built into most smartphones, we were able to not only give clients an immersive experience at the conference, but we were also able to give away these low-cost branded VR headsets to everybody at the conference. Attendees could then download the mobile app to their own personal devices to relive and share the experience from the comfort of their own homes.


Additional applications for VR in business

The Gaming and Entertainment industries are obvious proving grounds for Virtual Reality. However, as evidenced by the insurance industry use case listed above, we see VR potentially disrupting many other industries as well:

Imagine being able to test drive a car before it’s even built. What if you could check for blind spots and test dashboard layouts with focus groups before building a single physical prototype? Car designers are already designing their vehicles digitally; why not simply export those already created digital models to VR for immersive full-scale tests?

Children can see history come alive through immersive storytelling. Anybody can be whisked away to the Martian surface using real photographs taken by our Martian rovers. Any story, location, or even point in time (past, present, or future) can be brought to life through Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality is already being used in rehabilitation through immersion therapy. Patients can virtually face their fears one step at a time, knowing that at any moment, they can remove the VR goggles and be back in their safe zone. VR can also be used for social cognition training and beyond.

Virtual reality is being widely embraced on factory floors. It’s being used for product design and development, maintenance operations, remote collaboration, and more.

Real Estate & Tourism
Today’s virtual tours are better than they were before, but it’s still not quite as good as actually being there in person. Properly built Virtual Reality tours can guide potential buyers through new homes and vacations, drawing attention to the best features, pulling information from a variety of sources, all without the buyers having to leave their own living rooms.

Military and police services can put their people through a variety of low-risk experiences. Virtual Reality can make these simulations feel real at a fraction of the price of building physical scenarios, providing low-cost ways to build team experiences.

Lessons learned

  • 360° spherical Virtual Reality experiences are much more immersive than traditional cinema, but come with a completely different set of rules for filming and storytelling; food for thought: where does the Director sit, if there is no longer the concept of “behind the camera”?
  • Although mobile devices offer many Virtual Reality advantages, such as  portability and accessibility, they also come with their own limitations when it comes to speed and memory; choosing the right hardware plays an important role in telling the right story
  • Creating a storyboard for a VR experience is different from traditional storyboarding; instead of forcing the view and the perspective on the audience, their attention has to be guided through visual and directionally audible cues
  • Although 3D gaming software has matured, creating narratives for 360° gaming and cinema is still relatively new
  • VR experiences are more impactful when they’re simple and relatively short in duration, especially with cardboard devices that require users to physically hold their own devices in front of their faces

Virtual Reality is an exciting new medium, and these DIY devices offer a cost effective distribution model that gets your experience into your customers’ own hands.  PwC’s Experience Center is already helping a variety of our clients navigate this growing space by creating Virtual & Augmented Reality experiences. How will VR disrupt your industry?


Jody Brewster and Gustavo Paris contributed to this post.





Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffery

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email