One of the newest technological curiosities to hit the globe is virtual reality, where, with a headset, users can be transferred to a “real” place anywhere on Earth, in an environment that is also completely interactive. The vast amount of applications for this technology make it extremely promising, and its impact on the business world could be huge, possibly in a way not seen since the creation of the internet. At this time, the headsets have mostly been focused on the entertainment industry, in applications like video games, but as virtual reality becomes mainstream, its use could spread to many facets of our lives.

With the excitement building around virtual reality, investment in the industry has sharply increased. In a first for the industry, yearly investment has hit the billion dollar mark, only five months into 2016. In China, startups have seen venture capital triple in 2016, and industry forecasts predict $40 billion in sales by 2020. Projections for 2020 also predict only 30% of users will be gamers, showing more widespread use is expected in the near future.

For international businesses, virtual reality could make the world feel much smaller. Travel for employees to receive specific training could be greatly reduced, as headsets could allow workers to receive effective training without leaving their office. Virtual reality has already been in use by militaries around the world, giving new soldiers a much better simulation of the battlefield than was previously available. The same principles could apply to training in many other areas, for example allowing employees in one country to be trained how to manage a plant across the world. Virtual headsets could allow for meetings without anyone leaving their desk, or customers to visit stores without leaving home.

The impact of virtual reality technologies is unknown. The headsets could go the way of the personal computer and smartphone, becoming integral parts of many people’s lives, or end up like the Segway. As the internet connected the world and helped advance international business opportunities, virtual reality technology could very well increase the ease at which businesses are able to conduct themselves around the globe. A major advantage to companies could be the positive economy-of-scale effects that would help lower their costs and in turn enable their products to be sold for less. Businesses would be wise to look into the technology, and as it becomes cheaper and more available, look to integrate it into their operations before their competitors do.

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