Virtual Reality Tecnology: Big Changes for Business?

AMA3-24-15No more real estate agents? No more brokers and financial advisers and money managers? Those jobs and many others could be obsolete in the next five years, thanks to advances in digital technology that put many of their functions into the hands f users who can take full control of a range of financial transactions with the click of a mouse.

Online financial management isn’t mew. For years, a variety of websites and apps have been helping users find and buy homes, trade stocks, conduct banking transactions and more. It’s possible to browse home listings, apply for a mortgage and conduct credit checks in minutes – and get 24/7 support for all those things on any device you choose.

Advances in video and “smart” applications are pushing the envelope even farther, though, with even more sophisticated uses that promise to bring major changes to the way we do business in just about every sphere of life. Leading the way: virtual reality and artificial intelligence applications that can eliminate distance and streamline decision-making.

Some forms of VR-inspired technology are already in use. In real estate, for example, its now possible to take “virtual home tours” of properties via videotaped walkthroughs of homes up for sale on a listing site. Video technology also lets doctors consult on cases and examine patients that are halfway around the world.

But advances in VR tech make it possible for an individual to be “present” in places miles away, with a 350-degree view of surroundings in real time – and to virtually move in space. That technology has enabled fathers far from home in military deployment or other job situations to be virtually present for the birth of a child or milestone family events. It’s also allowed consulting doctors to “sit in” on medical procedures and surgeries.

Thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, the concept of the “recommendation” engine is already familiar: based on your previous choices, the site you’re browsing offers other suggestions you might like. But artificial intelligence is getting even smarter, with the potential to mine a user’s history for clues about what they’re looking for and construct an entire catalog of potential choices – all on its own.

In combination, those technologies have the potential to forever change the way the world does business – not just for large corporations or specialized industries, but for the average consumer in daily life. They have the potential to save money, reduce energy waste – and out users in control.

That could eliminate a wide range of professions that evolved to assist people in handling complex transactions that until recently, they really couldn’t do easily on their own. Take real estate, for example.

In pre-digital days, a prospective homeowner usually needed the services of an array of professionals to finalize a home purchase: agents with access to property listings, mortgage bankers, and more. The process could take weeks or even months.

Today, many of those tasks are accomplished via online listings, mortgage pre-qualifying applications ad more. And with advances in virtual reality technology, they may well be accomplished entirely online at the user’s leisure, with virtual home tours that let browsers try out the property by uploading images of their own furniture and décor, or by adding landscaping and other features to the scene.

Smart technology on the site would also store a detailed set of user preferences to make new recommendations – and initiate bids or financial transaction right from the site, without the need for an agent, broker or other third party professional at all.

These technologies are now in their early stages in a variety of other consumer and business related environments too. It’s possible now to “try on” glasses, hairstyles and even new facial feature before plastic surgery – just by uploading a photograph. The fashion world also embraces aspects of VR and AI tech to show buyers outfits and accessories before they buy – and make other recommendations based on those choices.

Widespread applications of VR and AI technology could eliminate the “middleman (or woman): in many situations, with less need for travel and professionals to bring two parties together on a deal. Since information is available to everyone, any consumer can make educated decisions about finance, commerce and more.

Advances in VR and AI applications are coming fast, putting the world of tomorrow into the hands of consumers today – and offering them more control than ever over the decisions that shape their lives. (Top image:Flickr/webtrends)

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