The boom in home working has given several virtual reality (VR) companies an incentive to experiment with new trading methods.
While platforms are evolving quickly and companies are putting themselves in a position to sell the new technology, this isn't big business just yet – but many believe it will be soon.
The Glimpse Group is an umbrella company for various VR companies with real applications. The company went public last month and has eight VR groups in its portfolio, including telemedicine, entertainment and learning programs for schools and businesses.
They also focus on trading stocks through a company called D6 VR. It was developed by former Morgan Stanley analyst Andy Maggio, who told CNBC in an interview, "I believe VR is going to be the most transformative technology of our lives." While Maggio admits the technology isn't quite ready for prime time, she says the quality of the technology is improving rapidly. "The resolution is twice what it was five years ago, the hardware is evolving very quickly, it is lighter and easier to use," he said.
While several financial firms have experimented with the technology, none plans to demolish their physical trading floors anytime soon.
Former hedge fund manager and CEO of Glimpse Group, Lyron Bentovim, is not surprised by the pace. "Wall Street is slow to adjust, but this is the future of commerce," he said.
Bentovim argues that a retailer can typically see six to a maximum of eight screens in physical space. "You're limited," he said. VR lets you see and interact with dozens of screens and layer data on top of data. "I can see a trader watching multiple trends and then delving into the data without being constrained by physical boundaries," he said.
While the Glimpse Group is trying to make a name for itself in the room, it isn't the first to get in. The British company FlexTrade, which specializes in the development of software for financial companies, presented its first VR program for traders at a conference in 2017.
“Dealers just don't have enough real estate on their desks,” says Managing Director Andy Mahoney. "We can do better than a keyboard, screen and mouse."
FlexTrade's Andy Mahoney demonstrates augmented reality at a conference for financial professionals.
In rounds of testing, Mahoney found that VR was making traders sick to the full because it was too confusing. However, this becomes less of a problem with new improvements.
FlexTrade's research and development team has conducted customer test runs with augmented reality, which integrates a range of data, graphs, and information into a real-world environment so that users can see things in both the real and virtual world at the same time.
"Customers love it, but they still think we're not there … but we will be soon," Mahoney said.
“The real benefit is the ability to visualize data in multiple dimensions,” said Brennan McTernan, D6's chief technical officer.
He believes there are three areas where VR is becoming more valuable to the financial industry.
The first is for traders who allow them to break out of physical space and customize data and research. The second is viewing data in 3D and being able to control size, color, and overlaying data on top of other data. The third, McTernan said, is that "financial advisors can tell clients a better story and help explain the data better with virtual reality."
Industry executives admit that wearing a headset for hours at a time can be uncomfortable and confusing. But they also make the case VR allows clients and finance professionals to work free from distractions for at least part of the day.
As for adoption, the Glimpse team is ready to be patient. CEO Bentovim said, "There was a time when nobody had a computer on their desk, then the tide turned very quickly."