Virtual reality seems like one of those emerging technologies with limited applicability to insurance. Its widespread adoption may still be a few years away, and how does it relate to insurance anyway? I’ve tested out a few VR headsets over the past few months and have come to realize that there is opportunity for insurance, but you wouldn’t know if from the typical demos and apps.

I’ve now driven a Le Mans race car (until I crashed), flown over and through Manhattan (until I crashed), and fired a gun in a first person shooter game (until I was killed). In all of these situations, I found the speed and movement made me dizzy (and my results indicated that I am not really cut out for this type of VR). But I also recently tested Google Cardboard with a series of apps.

Admittedly, Cardboard apps are entry-level VR, designed to give a person an idea of the capabilities of VR. Mercifully (for me), many of the apps I tried were much slower, allowing me to absorb, learn, and be entertained. This more “normal speed” approach is what I think is likely to be the basis of business use cases for the insurance industry. Just a few of the potential uses for the insurance industry include:

  • Adjuster Training: Today the large P&C insuvr cityers build houses and other structures just to be used for adjuster training purposes. Imagine being able to create a wider variety of damage situations and enable adjusters to learn and experience them through VR.
  • Underwriter Education: P&C underwriters must learn a great deal about the vehicles or property they will be evaluating, while Life underwriters must be educated on the medical and health conditions of individuals. VR environments that show different types of roofing techniques or vehicle construction would be very useful. Interactive 3D illustrations of the human body might help accelerate learning for Life underwriters.
  • Injury Rehab: Treatment programs for injured workers or individuals hurt in car crashes are often complex. VR might be used to demonstrate physical therapy exercises, show how to use medical devices, and to assist in managing stress or depression.
  • Loss Control: Training for loss control engineers or even providing safety training for commercial clients would be possible with VR.

I understand that the fast moving, visually stunning VR environments are where the action is today (pun intended). And there will certainly be a big market for gaming and entertainment VR apps. But in the long run, there may be many more apps for individuals and businesses (including insurance) that allow users to experience a virtual environment by moving slowly and making conscious choices about how they navigate through the world. VR can be leveraged to learn, travel, educate, and share experiences with others. But for these uses, VR will have to take some advice from Simon and Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song: “Slow down, you move too fast.” Insurers that implement VR in some of these ways really could be “feelin’ groovy.”
What is your opinion about Virtual Reality and insurance? Take the new SMA survey on emerging technologies in insurance, where VR is addressed, along with blockchain, AI, drones, driverless vehicles, and others.

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