When you think of Facebook's (FB) - Get Report Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, you are probably thinking of gaming. And for good reason. Virtual reality is going to be a crucial element in gaming in the near future, as gamers look to break to the next frontier of the industry. And while gaming is a huge industry, the potential for virtual reality is much larger.
Facebook is always trying to improve connectivity and interactions among its users. Part of the reason Facebook acquired Oculus Rift for $2 billion in 2014 is that CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees virtual reality as a new step in communication.
"By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures," Zuckerberg said at the time.
If connecting all humans in the world isn't a big enough market, how about revolutionizing the world of medicine?
Microsoft Corporation(MSFT) - Get Report revealed in June of last year that it would launch a developer's version of its HoloLens VR headset, costing $3,000 apiece. It is expected to launch within the first quarter of this year. The Microsoft HoloLens is the first fully untethered, holographic computer, which allows the integration of high definition holograms with the real world.
Engadget recently speculated that this technology could "teach the next wave of doctors." Additional applications are numerous, including to prepare for complex surgeries, overlay x-rays and MRIs onto patients during examination, and to tend to patients who are remote.
In fact, anything where there is expertise separated from a problem by distance, these virtual-reality headsets have possible applications. Giving a plumber a look under your sink or even into your pipe system; designing machines, buildings or anything complex; test-driving cars.
Connecting people for business is another application that we're already seeing.
A financial services firm in the UK, Trade24, has been experimenting with virtual reality to conduct company meetings, instead of spending the money and effort to fly executives for face-to-face meetings. So far, nothing has replaced the immediacy of face-to-face communication -- even revolutionary services like video-conferencing -- but this has the best chance yet. Imagine a board meeting in a virtual boardroom that looked real, members attending from all parts of the world. No flight expenses, fewer carbon emissions, all made possible by virtual-reality devices.
As Zuckerberg said when Facebook bought Oculus, "this is just the start. After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."
Of course, it will also be huge for gaming, a nearly $100 billion industry. But don't forget about the other applications when considering this exciting, new industry.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.