One of the most significant market trends in the past few years has been the increase of VR and AR devices. VR has consistently come up in conversations about technology, especially since gaining prominence after Jared Lanier, a technology scientist, started to share his vision for VR in 1991.
However, people often confuse augmented reality and virtual reality. The reason for this could be that their trend charts show similar characteristics as virtual reality statistics reveal time and time again. AR and VR expenditures are rising in both developing and developed countries. The United States and China are topping the charts in AR and VR spending, while Japan and western Europe are struggling to keep up.
Who turned the world’s attention towards AR and VR?
Two significant events helped VR garner its much-needed steam. The first was Microsoft’s launch of its mixed reality HoloLens headset, and the second was the introduction of the Oculus VR at the 2013 CES.
Microsoft always considered AR to be a mixed reality concept, although its primary rhetoric focused mainly on VR. However, Microsoft’s goggles had a see-through feature that allowed anyone to look at a room they’re in, and see an aquarium full of fish swimming around them. Thus, the concept of mixed reality started to get more attention.
Apple at WWDC 2016, announced they’d focus on AR and introduce their first version of an AR Kit. The company has since developed hundreds of AR applications, all for the iPhone and iPad.
These advances in AR and VR are essential to technology because they represent a significant revolution in how humans interact with computers.
Voice interaction has been a feature of science fiction titles since the late 1800s. In contrast to the 1940s, when you only used a keyboard to talk to computers, in the 1968 film, 2001, A Space Odyssey, Hal talked to the characters, giving serious momentum to voice interaction with computers.
Using voice to interact may have been novel and promising, yet the technology that redefined human-computer interaction was the mouse. The mouse concept was the brainchild of Doug Englebart, a Xerox PARC researcher. It gained further steam when Apple used it as a new way to interact with the computer.
Several companies, including Microsoft, brought pen computing to the computer interface between 1989 and 1991. However, the last decade has been viable for more advanced user interfaces.
Each of these advancements was revolutionary in some way. However, AR and VR, primarily when delivered via glasses or goggles, are the next major revolution in how we work with and interact with computers in the future.
When using any of the VR and AR goggles on the market today, you’ll realize the experience is significant, and the computing experiences will differ entirely from what laptops and desktops have offered in the last hundred years.
VR offers alternate worlds, and AR enlivens your surroundings using data, images, and distinct experiences laid over the world as you know it. There’ll be even more 3D and holographic technology introduced into this revolution of the man-machine interface.
With the raw processing power of modern mobile chips and 5G technology, VR and AR glasses will be capable of reinventing the personal computing experience.
How companies are using VR to help their businesses?
Mainstream appeal for VR grew as affordable, consumer-friendly headsets became available. Today, businesses are embracing the opportunities that come with this amazing technology. One can expect this considering the possibilities we can have when our minds unshackle from our physical bodies. We can then see into places that are available only in the digital world.
The rules are different in the digital world – objects come to life by using simple descriptions. You can travel anywhere at the blink of an eye, and undo any damage at the press of a button. These are the elements that make AR and VR powerful tools for business.
Let’s go over some business applications of these technologies and what the future might hold.
AR and VR can impact all fields of business
Much of the hype around the release of VR headsets has focused on their potential for enhancing entertainment experiences. VR adoption is forecast to outgrow the use of technology for leisure in the next few years. Tractica’s research predicts spending will reach $9.2 billion by 2021.
It’s possible to simulate any real-world process in VR. Customer service, finance, HR, marketing, and production are critical business processes. VR tasks can be either training or practical applications.
For training, VR offers new potential for an immersive experience of any scenario one can simulate on a computer. More photorealistic visuals can make us believe (to various extents) that we see something real, allowing us to monitor these interactions and learn from them. Oculus’ VirtualSpeech is an excellent example available in public speaking training systems.
Practical applications are limitless. The fact that humans can perform tasks without being present is pretty amazing.
Prototyping and Design
VR and AR allow for testing of all the characteristics of a mechanism, part, or process. With VR and AR, businesses can test performance or reliability under any condition, in a more effective, quicker, and safer way.
It’s good to be aware of up-front platforming and tooling costs. Increasingly, VR-as-a-service can reduce this.
Eliminating the need for full-scale working prototypes can save millions for companies. This application is now common in aircraft designs – Airbus and Boeing use simulated digital spaces to design and test new features and models.
Moreover, architects now present finished concepts to clients, enabling them to explore their designs before putting anything on-site freely.
With AR and VR, businesses can rethink how they engage and present things to their customers. As customer service and marketing tools, AR and VR expose new possibilities for displaying products and services.
They’re likely to become a useful source of unique information on customer behaviour. The reason is that, when a person engages with you in a virtual, digital world, they provide a massive amount of data on their actions, reactions, and interactions.
Instead of visiting a physical showroom, customers with an increasing reliance on digital capabilities can simply wear a headset and appear in a virtual one. They can then interact with sales reps once they are in this new virtual world. The sales assistants themselves may be virtual representations of real humans or AI constructs that operate without explicit human control.
A customer trying a new car, piece of furniture, or home appliance, can also do so without leaving their homes.
Real-world showrooms are not going away anytime soon, because oftentimes customers still want to see and feel a physical product before buying it. However, AR and VR are great for early-stage market research – to give a quick overview of a brand’s product range. They offer a highly convenient alternative to physical experience.
Ikea is already offering virtual showrooms, and an increasing number of customers are getting used to this new way to shop.
Training in virtual worlds
- Medical practice
The most apparent advantage of training in AR and VR is that when things go wrong, you can simply use the reset switch. The healthcare industry is already using this, as surgeons simulate training in making life-or-death choices when performing complex pediatric operations.
The simulation even scans and creates 3D representations of real nurses that the trainees will work with. These faces will already be familiar when they get into the actual operating room.
In other medical applications, doctors and surgeons can try out new tools and procedures in a safe, simulated environment. Manufacturers of equipment can also benefit from invaluable feedback from VR- and AR-enabled monitoring.
- Pilot training
Pilots have used sophisticated simulators for decades. But these simulators are expensive, and are space- and hardware-intensive. More cost-efficient and portable VR solutions are quickly replacing these giant simulators.
Better access to state-of-the-art simulators means pilots will have more simulated hours of flying time to their credit when they finally earn their wings.
- Teacher training
In a virtual classroom, teachers are given the chance to test their abilities. They can rehearse their teaching methods and practice disciplining students.
- Better law Enforcement
New Jersey’s law enforcement officers are using a new system that enables them to train for a variety of scenarios, including being shot at and making routine stops. The company responsible has even incorporated technology to deliver an electric shock to trainees when they make a dangerous move.
The objective of the electric shock is to simulate the fear that’s common with officers in the field.
- Energy and Utility Sectors
These sectors have been slow in adopting advanced technologies as traditional methods have so far proved efficient. Also, the implementation of any technology involves plenty of capital investment, and this certainly won’t suit every utility company.
Augmented and virtual reality is making it possible to simplify many processes in the utility industry. Employees can now enjoy a safe and efficient working environment.
The utility sector can adopt AR and VR for:
- Employee training
- Inventory management
- Data generation
The major challenge in implementing virtual and augmented reality in the utility field is the slow adoption rate by key players in the sector.
There are also challenges with the implementation of existing technologies in the workplace. Access to WiFi, power, and security are critical issues to resolve to implement these technologies successfully.
Manufacturers need to make devices that workers will find easy to use. The interface should be intuitive and straightforward in order to enable technicians to understand the instruments’ operations quickly. Also, the form should exist in tandem with function, and the hardware should feature a design that is easy to use on-site.
Bulkier and heavier devices are less portable, which is critical for specific devices. These devices should also meet safety standards within the companies.
Augmented reality and virtual reality will transform the utility sector and bring new value to it. Implementing augmented reality in the utility field will undoubtedly increase the sector’s efficiency. Organizations need to allocate funds, develop effective strategies, and align with professionals having the experience to implement augmented and virtual reality in their organization.
In comparison with traditional, room-based solutions for simulation, AR and VR cut costs dramatically. However, there can be significant up-front expenses. This scenario is especially true if your training needs require coding custom simulations and designing environments from scratch.
Businesses are emerging to provide packaged services, ranging from world-building tools to hireable VR suites.
Marketing agencies fall into the category that has built the capacity to create virtual and interactive experiences for brands and companies. They will likely play a more prominent role in the marketing landscape within the short term.
These emerging services are contributing immensely to the development and deployment of VR and AR for leisure and industry. Therapeutic services, VR dating agencies, and entertainment products are starting to redefine their respective sectors.
AR and VR technology will keep improving and bringing our virtual experiences in closer alignment with the real world. Recent breakthroughs that could have a widespread impact include eyeball-tracking technology. It allows us to interact and activate aspects of simulation just by focusing on them.
There are ongoing experiments to interface brainwave activity, potentially allowing us to change our environment by the simple act of thinking.
Other advances will likely alleviate some of the current limiting factors of AR and VR. One such factor is that existing applications can feel like solitary experiences. Current high-end devices are still on the expensive end of the spectrum. They also need costly, dedicated computers to power them. However, there is a high likelihood for this to change as standalone headsets become able to do more.