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August 11, 2016

Virtual Reality: A Role in Insurance?

Summary:

Despite the emphasis on glitz and action games, virtual reality could help insurers with adjuster training, underwriter education and more.

Photo Courtesy of Maurizio Pesce

Virtual reality seems like one of those emerging technologies with limited applicability in insurance. But as I’ve tested a few VR headsets over the past few months I have come to realize there is opportunity for insurance — though you wouldn’t know it from the typical demos.

I’ve now driven a Le Mans race car (until I crashed), flown over Manhattan (until I crashed) and fired a gun in a first-person shooter game (until I was killed). In all these situations, I found that the speed and movement made me dizzy — I am not really cut out for this type of VR.

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. A few of the potential VR uses in the insurance industry include:

  • Adjuster Training: Today, large P&C insurers build houses and other structures solely for adjuster training. Imagine being able to create a wider variety of 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, and life underwriters must be educated on medical and health conditions. VR environments that show different types of roofing techniques or vehicle construction would be very useful, as would interactive 3D illustrations of the human body.
  • 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 and show how to use medical devices and 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 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 to navigate. VR will have to take some advice from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song”: “Slow down, you move too fast.” If so, insurers that implement VR really could be “feelin’ groovy.”

See also: Is Insurance Ready for Virtual Reality?  

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, etc.

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About the Author

Mark Breading is a partner at Strategy Meets Action, which helps insurers develop and validate their IT strategies and plans, better understand how their investments measure up in today’s highly competitive environment and gain clarity on solution options and vendor selection.

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