Nyshka Chandran | @nyshkac
Monday, 28 Mar 2016 | 10:11 PM ET
Oculus Rift's first virtual reality (VR) headset has been targeted at the consumer electronics sector, specifically gamers, but its real significance could lie in commercial use.
Two years after being acquired by Facebook for $2 billion, Oculus Rift finally launched its hotly-anticipated device to the general public on Monday. The Rift aims to "radically redefine gaming and entertainment with 3D interactive content," according to the company's website, with over 30 video games available on the Oculus Store. More content will soon be added, including feature-length movies, Oculus said.
Experts, such as Zynga co-founder Tom Bollich, hailed the Rift's launch, comparing it to life-changing inventions such as computers and smartphones because of its potential to transform the technology market.
"The initial target audience may be gamers, but moving on from that, there are a lot of applications in the commercial space," echoed Kenneth Liew, senior research manager at market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
Still, the Rift's high price point and specific computer requirements could deter most people from buying it, compared to Google's Cardboard and Samsung's Gear that are lower-end and mobile-based, Joost Van Dreunen, CEO of market intelligence firm Superdata, told CNBC's Street Signs.
Among expectations for global VR consumer revenue to hit $3.6 billion this year alone, according to Superdata, we look at five ways to incorporate the Rift into the greater economy outside of entertainment.
Using the Rift to make remote video calls could be the first non-gaming service to roll out seeing as it's a personal dream of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Liew noted.
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg recently announced a desire to capture his child's first steps in virtual reality.
"I hope we have a 360 camera that can capture the whole scene, so if my family isn't there to experience it, I can send it to them afterwards - or it would be real-time enough where I could stream it to them live. They could put on a headset or get a message and feel like they're really there and experiencing it."
In 2013, electronics design consulting firm Pletex announced plans to bring immersive telepresence technology, i.e. a video communications system that simulates user immersion within a remote location, to the Rift.
Using the Rift to create three-dimensional (3D) graphics, interiors or products could be a game-changer for architects, engineers and the real-estate market, according to Liew.
Designers would be able to draw in 3D instead of a flat surface, enabling them to create true-to-scale, and navigable models, he explained.
A number of developers have already zoomed in on this sector, creating customized software for design-oriented firms. Moreover, prospective home buyers could also tour houses via a virtual reality headset and make informed decisions without actually being present, Liew noted.
The use of virtual reality for healthcare has been widely researched in the private sector, with companies such as Virtually Better, ImmersiveTouch and Medical Realities creating software for medical evaluations, therapy and surgery.
For example, doctors and trainees could use the Rift to examine a patient's body before performing invasive operations for greater precision, Liew said. Using the Rift to treat patients with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, is also underway.
History and geography lessons can be enhanced with the Rift by bringing students to simulated environments, noted Liew.
High-profile academic institutions, including Stanford, are already incorporating virtual reality software, and some schools, such as the Savannah College of Art and Design, are even using it to recruit prospective students.
For staff working in massive warehouses, dealing with inventory and ensuring efficient, speedy deliveries can be a Herculean task.
VR headsets however could increase productivity, allowing employees to see where items are placed and optimize load building, explained Liew.
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