Tony Robbins. CREDIT: Getty Images

"Not since the dawn of the internet has a single technology had the power to fundamentally change every business and industry," says Tony Robbins in his latest podcast, The Next Big Disruptor|NextVR's Brad Allen talks about how virtual reality is about to change everything.

When Tony Robbins first put on a pair of virtual reality goggles, he was transported to a basketball game, courtside. "I have been fortunate enough to sit courtside watching an NBA finals game, and I felt like I was right back there," says Robbins.

I must admit that my first reaction was to be skeptical. Ever since Star Trek's Holodeck, I have wanted to believe that virtual reality would one day change the very fabric of how we consume content and thereby how we do business. I was an early supporter of Linden Lab's Second Life in the late '90s and a huge fan of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash novel (published in 1992). But for the better part of the past two decades, virtual reality has not seemed to progress very much, until now.

Virtual Reality (Finally) Ready for Prime Time
What has changed is that the technology has finally caught up with the vision of what's possible. And the end-user cost of the technology has dropped below the $1,000 price point, which means that we're about to see massive growth in user adoption. According to research firm Tractia, more than 200 million consumer virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMDs) will be sold worldwide by 2020. The same article states, "The company forecasts that consumer virtual reality hardware and content revenue will increase from $108.8 million in 2014 to $21.8 billion worldwide by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 142 percent."

Consumer adoption is fundamentally being driven by three players: (1) Google's Cardboard, (2) Samsung's Gear VR, and (3) Facebook's Oculus Rift.

Why Virtual Reality Is the Next Big Disrupter
In Robbins's latest podcast, he and NextVR's executive chairman, Brad Allen, discuss what has fundamentally changed in both virtual reality and augmented reality that has made it ready for prime time. NextVR has invested millions in building the hardware and software technology that allows you to feel like you're right there.

"It's as if you are transported," says Allen. "It's the closest thing to teleportation you'll ever experience. You put on the goggles and instantly you're right there. From a courtside seat at the NBA to backstage with your favorite artist." NextVR has cut deals with the NBA, Nascar, Live Nation, PGA, NHL, boxing, NCAA March Madness, and Fox TV (to name just a few). NextVR is actively working to deliver the kinds of experiences you can't even buy in the real world. Not just front-row seats at your next music concert, but onstage, backstage, and the ability to bounce around from multiple perspectives during the live event.

"This is an unfair competitive advantage for businesses in the next 12 to 18 months," says Allen. "Goldman Sachs is predicting virtual reality will become an $80 billion industry." He expects as many as 20 million customers will adopt the technology in 2016, with another 50 million to 70 million in 2017 and hundreds of millions thereafter.

And while the focus of NextVR is currently entertainment, Allen sees applications in every industry. Imagine your child coming home from school and telling you, "We went to the pyramids today and walked around." Or how about using virtual reality for enhanced training programs? These are way better webinars when you can actually attend the live event. Or in the medical profession, why not consult your doctor virtually? And what about all the advertisers who want to tap this medium?

With the technology finally being ready for prime time, there are a slew of applications we are only just beginning to explore that will fundamentally shift your business.

What Business Are You In? What Business Must You Become?
Robbins teaches that every business must know the answers to two fundamental questions: What business are you in? And what business must you become? When you fall in love with your customers (instead of your products), you must build the future of your business for tomorrow while simultaneously delivering the value you've promised today. Regardless of what business you are in today, Robbins is encouraging you to be thinking about what business you need to become so you are not disrupted when the needs of your customers fundamentally shift.

In the podcast, I enjoyed Robbins's hockey analogy: "The best hockey players in the world don't skate to where the puck is, but rather they get to where the puck is going." Google, Facebook, Samsung, and Robbins believe that virtual reality will fundamentally impact every business. It's not a matter of if so much as a matter of when. Strategizing and planning for these shifts today will help ensure you ride the technology wave rather than have the wave of technology crash over you.

Being Transported Into the Heart of Incredible Experiences
But hardware is not enough. We've seen massive flops in technology such as 3-D television sets. Why should anyone believe that virtual reality will succeed when other technologies have failed utterly? The answer is in the incredible content that is currently being developed.

This year at Collision, I was consumed by a virtual reality storytelling panel that had David Eun and Marc Mathieu of Samsung Electronics speaking with Jacques Methe of Cirque du Soleil. Eun talked about his own life-changing experience being transported to Africa. "I was fortunate enough to be with Scott Harrison, CEO of Charity: Water, and a small group of benefactors," said Eun. "We put on our VR goggles and were instantly transported to a small village in a third-world country. There we experienced the joy of dozens of children as the water well Charity: Water had drilled went online. I've never experienced anything like it. I was there. We all were there. And yet each of us had a different and unique experience depending on which child's face we chose to focus on. I believe virtual reality will fundamentally change the nature of the charities we support, when you can stand in front of the very people whose lives you are forever changing."

Then, Jacques Methe blew my mind when he described what Cirque du Soleil was doing in partnership with Samsung. "At first, we used virtual reality to capture the front-row-seat viewing experience" he said. "But then we asked ourselves, what if we put you right in the middle of the action? Rather than watch from the audience, what if you could be in the show? With virtual reality, you can now be onstage and part of the story."

Imagine experiencing what it feels like to be a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. With the ability to change perspectives, you can be flying on a trapeze, bouncing on a trampoline, or simply look out into the audience as a clown. We are now only scratching the surface of what's possible with virtual reality storytelling. The content creators have an entirely new medium to play with.

We Must Get Beyond the Novelty
I also had the opportunity to speak with Curtis Evey and Dominic Kurtaz of Dassault Systèmes 3DExcite, a leader in virtual reality for the automotive and aerospace industry. "Until you put on a virtual reality headset, you don't understand," says Evey. "Today, retail is primarily an execution of decisions already made digitally before you ever enter the store. But with virtual reality, we can finally experience the product without leaving our homes."

"What gets me really excited," says Kurtaz, "is combining 3-D printing capabilities with virtual reality. This is going to completely change the game in so many industries."

And that, my friends is the point of all of this. Virtual reality is (finally) here, and it appears to be gaining traction in all the right places. You can choose to ignore virtual reality and wait for one of your competitors to disrupt you. Or you can take the time to understand what this is all about and find new and interesting applications for your business.

Take Massive Action on Virtual Reality
So, enough of the intellectually interesting information. The time has come to take massive action. If you want the full benefit of this knowledge, you need to do something with it. So here are the three things you must do if you're serious about building the business you must become.

  1. Listen. Hear all of these insights from the very players who are making it happen today. Listen to Tony Robbin's podcast: The Next Big Disruptor|NextVR's Brad Allen talks about how virtual reality is about to change everything.
  2. Put on a damn virtual reality head-mounted display. We can discuss and debate this until we're blue in the face. You're at a massive disadvantage until you adorn a virtual reality headset from Facebook's Oculus Rift or Samsung's Gear VR. Even Google's Cardboard at least gets you a taste of what's possible. But just talking the talk is meaningless. You won't get it until you wear it.
  3. Envision and write down three possible futures. Once you've experienced today's virtual reality, take 30 minutes to brainstorm (by yourself or with your team) how you might use this technology to make your customers' experience 10X better. Don't fall in love with the technology. Instead, fall in love with how you will dramatically improve the lives of the customers you serve. That's the only way to win.

I appreciate your taking the time to read my articles, but if you choose not to take these action steps, then all I've done is bring this technology to your attention. For the full benefit of your business, you need to take the time to do something with this information. Otherwise, there's very little benefit for you or your company.

If I haven't convinced you, you can also read Tony Robbin's latest LinkedIn Influencer post on the same topic. Perhaps hearing it from "the Chairman" (i.e., the man whose ownership of multiple businesses is worth more than $5 billion) will inspire you to take massive action. Robbins is, after all, the No. 1 life and business strategist, a New York Times best-selling author, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. When he sees something insightful, let alone game-changing, I tend to pay attention.