Virtual reality is the next big thing for Nashville businesses | Crain's Nashville

Virtual reality is the next big thing for Nashville businesses

The team at Blackbox Simulations firmly believes virtual and augmented reality are the next big thing for Music City. | Photo by Cassie Kebler. 

Virtual reality is everywhere. Google, Microsoft and Apple have all invested millions in this quickly growing technology. But overall, this immersive tech seems to be best suited to the world of video games, right?

Wrong.

“Virtual reality has received attention in the gaming world, but there are very relevant business-use cases as well,” said Brian Moyer, president and CEO of the Nashville Technology Council

According to Lee Kebler, president and co-founder of BlackBox Simulations in Nashville, virtual reality is absolutely great for video games – and a whole lot of other applications and arenas. A newer company, BlackBox, has already provided simulation solutions to big industry players such as Franke Group, the Swiss manufacturer of kitchen and foodservice equipment. 

“Industry makes big things," Kebler said. "They make really big, heavy things. If you think about your everyday scenario, you get into your extremely big, clunky car. If you go to a restaurant, that's a really large building. All of the assets inside of VR don't have any weight, and they can have an infinite amount of scale.”

When these companies need to show their products at trade shows, virtual reality eliminates problems like shipping costs, allowing prospective buyers to walk around and interact with replicas of kitchens by simply putting on a VR headset.

Any industry and any company can benefit from utilizing this technology. According to Kebler, every potential client they have brought the tech to has immediately produced problems that virtual reality could solve.

"These technologies play very well into the creative tech strength of Nashville and apply to our other key verticals, including entertainment and healthcare,” Moyer said. For example, fans of "Nashville" on the CMT cable channel could take advantage of virtual reality to experience the famous Bluebird Cafe music venue so often featured on the show.

Kebler revealed that Nashville’s Adventure Science Center would also soon be embracing this tech, as BlackBox Simulations will be providing a permanent exhibit of 600 square feet of high-quality, immersive virtual reality.

Healthcare, which rivals entertainment as one of Nashville's biggest industries, has also recently received a virtual reality facelift.

“In healthcare, related applications include not only medical training, for which BlackBox has developed applications and content," Moyer said. "Virtual experiences for pain management therapy and to treat opioid addiction have recently been reported.” 

While Nashville, for the most part, failed to fully capitalize on the dot.com boom, these experts believe that virtual reality is a huge opportunity for the city. And the technology continues to advance on a daily basis.

"The virtual sky’s the limit,” Moyer said.

June 14, 2017 - 11:45am