During the past 2 years, the way in which industry views virtual reality (VR) has changed. Previously, only a few large companies were assessing virtual environments either as “internal marketing exercises” or through demonstration worlds built for them by outside consultants or universities; most other industrialists may have seen VR as only having entertainment applications. Now there is some evidence that parts of industry, and manufacturing industry in particular, see VR as an increasingly affordable technology with potentially wide-ranging applications. This paper briefly describes a recent U.K. research program MOVE (Manufacturing Operations in Virtual Environments) consisting of an industrial VR user survey and demonstration applications built to allow potential users to make informed assessments of virtual environments. Two particular applications—training for maintenance and rapid prototyping for product design—are described in greater detail as examples of industrially relevant environments, before an assessment is provided of potential VR application in manufacturing.

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