H&R Block is testing new technology that uses Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality equipment to provide avatars of tax preparers for customers of the future.
The company recently demonstrated the technology on CNBC. It’s mostly being used right now so Block can try out new office designs and layouts on potential customers and gauge their reactions before spending money to build and reconfigure its existing office spaces.
The customers wear Oculus Rift head-mounted displays and interact with an avatar of a Block preparer who walks clients through the tax prep process. Until now VR headsets and goggles have mostly been used in the video game world in 3D immersive action games, but as the cost of the equipment comes down, they are being tried in business settings.
Facebook sees great potential for expanding the use of virtual reality and acquired Oculus VR last year for $2 billion. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the acquisition last year in a Facebook post, saying, “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face—just by putting on goggles in your home.”
He didn’t mention doing taxes that way, but perhaps it may be how future tax preparers interact with their clients.