I was lucky enough to be around when 3D CAD was first being introduced. It was my job to demonstrate the capabilities of this new technology to engineering companies, highlighting how they could best utilise it to their advantage.

Many of them took quite a bit of convincing that 3D truly was the way forward, and several simply rejected the idea. Instead, they continued to work with 2D technologies or even manual drawing boards.

Expense wasn’t the issue and neither was the level of technical skill required. It was just too much of a scary leap to get them to envision a world in which all their workflows and processes would be altered. Despite the proven return on investment from early adoption by major companies in the aerospace, automotive and construction sectors, many SME’s just were not prepared to change. Even many larger companies hesitated and only took a handful of seats.

Are companies now ready to accept virtual reality software? 

Jump forward 30 years and I see the same parallels with VR. Once again, the early adopters have taken the technology and run with it, delivering a clear return on investment. However, SME’s are yet to whole-heartedly embrace it. Whilst they may have dipped their toes in the water, they aren’t quite ready to use virtual reality software as an everyday tool and roll it out company-wide.

Initially, I thought it was a cost issue. However, with the arrival of the Rift, Vive and MMR headsets we have seen the cost of the necessary hardware plummet to below $1,000 (workstation aside).

My next thought was that it might be an ‘ease-of-use’ issue, but recent talks with users of Virtalis’ virtual reality software confirm our belief that the majority are up to speed in 2 to 3 days. That’s a faster education than the original 3D CAD.

Finally, I wondered whether there was enough evidence available to demonstrate a real advantage, but several companies have now gone public with proven results. These indicate savings in a wide range of areas including design review, production planning, training and maintenance teams. Each and every department has a success story to tell.

I can only conclude then, that it is an issue of mind set, just like in those early days of 3D CAD. They either can’t see or don’t want to see that change is on the horizon. It’s a shame, as many of those original companies struggled to compete against leaner, slicker rivals who adopted 3D CAD early on. I wonder if we will see the same division occur with those who are reluctant to use virtual reality software?