VR escape room

VR

How can companies find out whether – and how – they can use cool new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in their supply chains? There are already several practical applications for VR and AR. Maintenance technicians wearing an AR headset can see a projection of the blueprint of the machine they are repairing, and in some cases can even receive advice and guidance from a colleague in a remote location. Smart glasses fitted with AR show order pickers in distribution centres which products they have to retrieve.

Chiquita has recently developed a smartphone app which enables shoppers to scan bananas in store to see videos about the company’s sustainability policy. And for several years now Ikea has been giving consumers the opportunity to view virtual items of furniture in their own homes to see whether they fit in terms of space and style. VR will be increasingly used in the development and design of distribution centres and production facilities too.

This summer, together with my wife and our two teenage children, I enjoyed the most advanced VR experience in Downtown Disney, Los Angeles: The Void. We were each given a harness and helmet to wear, covered in sensors. Then, we all physically stepped inside a virtual Star Wars base. Our mission was to retrieve a small container from within the enemy base. We could see each other and talk to one another. We could feel and operate all the buttons and levers that were necessary to complete our mission, and needless to say we could actually grab the laser guns we needed to shoot at the enemy stormtroopers. In effect, it was an escape room in a hyper-realistic virtual world in which you could even feel the heat of the lava.

Practical applications

Having been fully immersed in that VR experience, I can now foresee all kinds of practical applications for the technology. VR can be used to train employees how to deal with hazardous situations in a warehouse or factory. It can also be used to assess the suitability of (potential) employees and their teamwork skills. The added advantage of a virtual escape room is that it doesn’t require employees to get together physically. To discover what virtual reality could mean in a business context, you really should experience the technology for yourself.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media
martijn.lofvers@supplychainmedia.nl