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Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

A quick visit to new surroundings might help you seal the deal with customers. We look at what’s coming onto the market and how you can make virtual reality a business reality

Virtual reality has been the stuff of science fiction for so long that it's hard to believe it's finally here. Thankfully it's not hard for your business to dip into the virtual world in search of real business benefits – from showcasing amazing places, to tours and site visits, innovation in VR will be a huge differentiator for small business.

Samsung Gear VR

How does VR work?

The Oculus Rift Kickstarter program helped bring Virtual Reality headsets to the masses. These headsets feature two screens, one for each eye, each presenting a slightly different angle to create a 3D effect. The headset includes motion sensors, so it can tell when you turn your head.

Virtual reality provides a more immersive experience than a 3D movie because you have control over where you look. Left and right, up and down, watching planes fly over your head or water flow under your feet. The effect is like standing inside a movie, rather than just staring at a screen.

Clarifyer

Don't confuse Oculus Rift® with Google Glass™ and Microsoft HoloLens. They offer augmented reality, letting you see the real world around you and superimposing information over the top – a little like the Terminator's enhanced view of the world. With virtual reality, you can't see the real world around you.

DIY VR

Many suppliers, such as Samsung, have their own portals for content, but you can also create your own inexpensively – perfect for SMBs who want to show off a property or experience.

The Surround Shot mode for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4's built-in camera app lets you take 360-degree photos to view with the Samsung Gear VR®. This works like panorama mode, requiring you to slowly turn around as the phone takes multiple photos and stitches them together. You can even point the phone up and down to get a complete view of the world.

Meanwhile LG's VR for G3 headset works with the Google Cardboard-compatible apps. The official Google Cardboard app can turn your panoramic photos into a 360-degree virtual environment, plus it can tap into Google Earth, Google Street View and YouTube®. But look through app stores and you’ll find other apps offering virtual reality games and simulators.

And while you can't shoot 360-degree movies with a smartphone (yet), if you're keen to make immersive video clips you'll find a range of standalone 360-degree cameras available for purchase or preorder, such as the Kodak® PixPro SP360 Action Cam, VSN Mobil V.360, Ricoh® Theta m15, Bublcam and Giroptic 360cam

What’s out there?

The much talked about Oculus Rift is just a headset, so you’ll still need something to feed images to it. You can hook an Oculus Rift up to a computer and run special software, but there are also smartphone-based Virtual Reality systems that are far more portable and easy to run.

Tech giants Samsung and LG are both planning to bring virtual reality headsets to Australia in the future, relying on a smartphone to act as the screen.

Samsung offers the Gear VR headset, developed in partnership with Oculus Rift. To make it work, Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 phablet slides into the headset to act as a screen for each eye, with lenses in the headset to adjust the image and help create a convincing 3D effect. Sensors in the headset can detect when you turn your head to look around.

Meanwhile LG offers its "VR for G3" headset, based on the Google Cardboard project. Similar to Samsung's Gear VR, it is designed to hold LG's G3 smartphone up to your face.

LG has said they intend to give away the headsets with new G3 smartphones but also intends to sell them down the track.

Things you need to know: Oculus Rift is a registered trademark of Oculus VR, LLC. © 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google Glass and Youtube are registered trademarks of Google Inc. The Samsung Gear VR is a registered trademark of Samsung in the United States or other countries. The Kodak trademark and trade dress are used under licence from Kodak. 

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