The Reality of Virtual Reality on the Trading Floor

Virtual reality headsets could make their way into financial firms and onto trading floors sooner than you think.

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Dan talks about the evolution of virtual reality and why, despite his concerns, it might become a staple of the industry.

I had to go to Best Buy the other day (yes, they still exist) to buy an Ethernet cable (yes, I still use those, too) and I got to see one of my favorite things: a person using a virtual reality headset.

There are few things in this world that look as ridiculous as someone wearing one of those bulky headsets with their mouth open in amazement (why is their mouth always open?) randomly swiping at seemingly nothing. I have to imagine it's a similar look to the first people who used cell phones in the 1980s. It's basically impossible to look cool holding one of those big, clunky phones with a thick antenna to the side of your head, unless you're Zack Morris.

If you haven't caught on by now, I'm clearly not a huge fan of these virtual reality headsets. To me, they feel bulky and unrealistic. Also, I've already see them, although it was about two decades ago. It was Nintendo's Virtual Boy gaming system, and it sucked.

I'll never forget the first time I tried one out. It was the winter of 1995. I was six years old. My parents had taken me to the mall, and I saw them at the department story and immediately tried them. All I needed was three minutes playing the Star Fox demo before I recognized these were not for me. I was fine with my Super-NES. Sure enough, I was right. The system didn't even last a year in North America and sold less than 800,000 units.

Changing Times

Clearly, the technology of headsets has progressed a lot since Virtual Boy. You can't step into a tech store nowadays without seeing a handful of people trying them out, usually with dumfounded looks their faces.

How do I know these headsets are here to stay? The financial industry has taken a serious look at utilizing them. The first time I got true confirmation of this, as opposed to just hearsay or rumors, was while speaking to Barb O'Malley, an engagement manager within the enterprise enablement unit at Northern Trust, for my user experience (UX) feature, which you can find here.

I asked O'Malley at the end of the interview about any other areas of UX the firm was looking into. She mentioned gamification and using virtual reality headsets for doing financial transactions. She herself seemed skeptical, but admitted that it was on Northern's technology radar, albeit far out.

As luck would have it, almost at the very same time, a source sent me an email with a link to a YouTube video created by Citi explaining how a holographic workstation would work on the firm's trading floor. You can find the video below:

 

While I think this video isn't completely accurate (where are all the expletives and shouting?!), I can see how this type of environment could eventually become a reality.

To be honest, and this might sound silly, I think the biggest hurdle for firms adopting them is the actual size of the headshot. I just can't see a trader wearing one of those things throughout the day. Traders are known for being a bit ... primal, and I could easily see a couple of those being smashed on the floor if a few trades don't go their way.

But these are fixable problems. As the technology gets better, it will also get smaller. Look no further than the aforementioned cellphone. What was once a bulky, intrusive object is now part of the daily routine of seemingly everyone above the age of 10.

It seems, as is the case with so many technology projects, that it's not a matter of if, but when.

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