The bank for a changing world

Virtual reality and banking

  • 22.07.2016

The virtual reality market will grow to $895 million this year, according to Strategy Analytics , emerging in a number of businesses and sectors. Banking is no exception. How could virtual reality and augmented reality revolutionize the banking world? Let’s take a look ahead to a future that is closer than you think…

Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers

When you hear the words “virtual reality,” you typically think about video games. But virtual reality is already very much a part of the real world, offering numerous concrete applications. This is especially true in the retail world, where virtual reality and augmented reality have simplified the buying decision process by enabling the customer to “visualize” their choice. For example, to sell furniture, a brand can develop an app that enables customers to visualize the couch of their choice “inside” their home, moving it to different areas or changing colors until they find the perfect fit. An interior designer might visualize the result of renovation work using a tablet, pointed at different corners of a room, while a car dealer can “show” cars in various colors and with the options of the customer’s choice. 

While sales and marketing might be out in front of the virtual reality trend, they are not the only area of the business world that is taking advantage of this burgeoning technology: 

  • Tourism (virtual tours of hotel rooms, addition to a virtual “information panel” tour, etc.)
  • Businesses, when designing prototypes
  • Medicine, to observe surgery
  • Insurance, to reconstitute accidents in 3D
  • Professional training (virtual reality simulators can help train crane operators or jet pilots cheaply and with no risk!).

Virtual reality and augmented reality: what is the difference?

  • Virtual reality is a simulation, which gives viewers the impression of witnessing a real scene, with which they can interact. It stimulates several senses (sight, hearing, and sometimes sensations of movement, touch, etc.). 
  • Augmented reality is a real image (for example, one captured in real time by a tablet or smartphone camera) on to which an additional, virtual image is superimposed (via a screen). 

The agency Digi Capital has estimated that the global market for both technologies will reach $150 billion in 2020, including $120 billion for augmented reality alone, which is expected to see a much faster rise. 

Reinventing customer relations  

Banks are taking an interest in virtual reality, as well. First of all, it will revolutionize customer relations, by offering a new method for “enhanced” communications. With online banking, you can already contact bankers by email, live chat, call back and more. Tomorrow, you can meet with their avatar inside a virtual branch, so your banker can present offers and advice, show simulations through modified, real-time graphics based on different parameters, etc. Easier and more engaging than a phone conversation or even a video call, the “virtual meeting” is just as effective as an in-person meeting with no need to travel! Augmented reality will also come to mobile apps capable of tracking your location and guiding you to a branch by “materializing” your path. 

Job interview with an avatar

Virtual reality can also be used by banks and more generally by all companies for their internal needs. Take training efforts, for example. Or even recruiting, with an “interview simulator” like the one developed by the Center for Virtual Reality in Clermont-Ferrand. With this system, a single (human) recruiter can control several avatars and become an entire panel (virtually). The avatars interviewing the applicant are life-size and three-dimensional for a completely realistic effect, and can display different expressions while controlled by a single person. Applicants who tested the immersive cube used initially for interview training and preparation say they are often unsettled by their inability to catch the eyes of their “recruiters”!

Virtual guided tour of a banknote… 

In April 2016, during the release of a new bill, the Swiss national bank also launched an augmented reality app: by pointing the camera at the new bill, users can discover information about the graphic elements and security features, zoom in on the image, and watch a video.