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Virtual reality could be the new reality at work: The demand for the free Samsung Gear VR headsets offered in a recent promotion was so high that the consumer electronics giant won’t be able to deliver them for months. Yet, as hot as the consumer market for VR gear appears to be, the business market may outstrip it.
“We totally underestimated the commercial interest in this thing,” Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela said at a company-sponsored developer conference in early April. It turns out that much of the early interest in Microsoft’s HoloLens VR headsets has come from companies like Lowe’s, Saab, and Volvo. That fact, reports editor Todd Bishop in GeekWire, caused Microsoft to shift the initial focus of HoloLens from gaming to business applications.
How can you transform work and improve performance with VR? Editor-at-large Lance Ulanoff described one application in an article for Mashable. With Microsoft’s support, a VR developer named 8ninths teamed up with Citigroup to reinvent the workstations used by futures traders. 8ninth’s Holographic Workstation integrates the real and the virtual worlds. When traders put on VR headsets, they see the desk and “a bird’s eye view of the market up top, with colored balls floating in a cloud pattern. Bigger ones mean more trading activity,” explains Ulanoff. The system also places information in space to prioritize it for traders. For example, writes Ulanoff, it puts “near-term stuff closer and information for months away in the virtual back row.”
Chatbots on the frontlines of customer service: Mark Zuckerberg, whose ascension to gurudom over the past couple of years really should be a mandatory case study for CEOs, made headlines last week with an oblique takedown of Donald Trump that was delivered to a couple of thousand software developers. But the really big news in the junior statesman’s address was about chatbots! Yep, a few days later, Facebook began providing 50 million companies the tools needed to use chatbots to sell their products and services to the users of its Messenger app.
Contributing editor John Brandon pegged the importance of this in Inc. He labeled 2016 the year of the chatbots — because the technology that enables them is good enough, because customers are willing to deal with them, and most importantly, because companies need them.