Virtual Reality

In her role with SFU Innovates, BBA alumnus Vivian Chan is at the crux of SFU’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. At Eyexpo, she is bringing virtual reality into everyday experiences. Her background in the private and public sectors gives her a unique vantage point on the possibilities presented by this emerging technology.

Watch as she shares how virtual reality will reshape everything from education to natural disaster response training.

Vivian Chan

COO at Eyexpo Technology

Bachelor of Business Administration


What do we mean when we talk about Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality (VR) actually sits on a spectrum. On one end is the real world and on the other end is the virtual world (fully computer graphics generated), and then in the middle is augmented reality, which essentially means being able to view the real world with an overlay of information or graphics.

To make VR happen, you need hardware—the headset/computer and software applications. These applications can support everything from designing new cars and learning new languages to running tsunami simulations on cities.

Can you describe some ways in which businesses are using VR technology to do new things or solve problems in ways that weren’t possible without it?

Virtual Reality is now being used to train medical students on becoming familiar with their set of surgical tools. It’s a powerful simulation and training vehicle. In terms of end consumer health innovation, leading researchers like Diane Gromala are working on treating chronic pain via VR.

A lot of companies like Amazon and Alibaba are starting to look at the shopping experience of the future: VR shopping. This means being able to have an experience on your phone or computer and feel like you’re inside the store, without actually being inside the store.

VR is also influencing the way that real estate is sold and experienced. For example, International buyers based in Europe are able to now view properties in Canada via a virtual 360-degree experience. It’s being used in both B2B and B2C applications.

What applications for VR do you think are most likely to launch the technology into wide commercial success and mainstream acceptance?

Many believe that augmented reality is going to take off because you don't need a headset to experience it; all you need is your mobile phone. An example is Ikea's app, where you're able to take a picture of your living room and virtually insert any Ikea furniture component into the space. Pokemon Go is another example that really popularized the augmented-reality use case.

What are companies doing to safeguard consumers from any potential risks associated with VR?

The concerns about VR are similar to those the gaming industry had many years ago around people not wanting to leave the virtual world—existing in it for hours on end. Also of concern is cost. Virtual Reality is expensive. You need at least $300 or more to be able to have a headset, so it's not accessible to everyone.

As with any new technology we often cannot predict the downstream effects on people’s health and habits until a few years after it is introduced and adopted. We must remain critical of VR and continue to study its overall impact.

What might the future of VR look like?

VR is the new interface, and so if you're a company that is looking to improve customer experience or looking for ways to create experiential marketing of your product or service, it's something that you need to look into.

I'm excited about the future of VR because I think it's going to touch our lives on a day-to-day basis. We're going to learn differently, we’re going to treat chronic ailments in new ways, and we’ll be able to shop differently. It may surprise you to know much of this is already happening right now!

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