By 2030, 23 million jobs will be using AR and VR in one way or another. (PwC)
By 2023 there will be an estimated 2.4 billion mobile augmented reality (AR) users worldwide, a rise of 2.2 billion from the 200 million seen in 2015. (Statista)
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality Market for the retail industry will witness market growth at a rate of 68.5% between 2020 to 2027. (Data Bridge Market Research)
With staggering numbers like these, it only makes sense to believe that AR and VR are re-imagining our reality and future.
1950’s - Virtual reality first pervaded the ether through TV serials, movies and sci-fi tales. The most creative minds introduced us to the world of virtual wonders that were beyond our wildest imagination. But, at the time, that was just a fiction, as the supporting technology was, to say the least, inadequate.
2021 - With latest devices (smartphones, headsets, glasses, and more) empowered by superhuman tech, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) are entering the mainstream culture and intersecting with real life. Their impact on our lives and workplaces is offering a different lens in how we interact with our world whether at home, work or on the go. And the COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing things down. In fact, it is moving things forward - with physical limitations, organisations turning to AR/VR technologies on a big scale, now more than ever.
And this is not where the story ends. The future has many more exciting things in store.
But before we explore that store, let’s first clarify the difference between these two concepts and their current impact on the society.
Back to Basics: How AR Differs from VR
While AR and VR sound and seem similar - they are essentially different.
Augmented Reality (AR) keeps you grounded in the real world but integrates computer-generated elements in the form of graphics, text, audio, video to create some kind of visual layer in that environment. All of this impacts the user’s interaction with reality and enhances his/her experience thus creating a surreal world of fact and fantasy. It is not a fully immersive experience.
Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, creates a computer-simulated 3D experience equipped with surround sounds and video, which enables users to move and interact with products, environments, and spaces in a non-physical reality using devices such as goggles with screen or gloves fitted with sensors. Users are fully immersed and able to have a realistic-feeling experience.
So, how can businesses make the most of these two technologies?
And are they restricted to certain kinds of industries?
Let us find out.
VR and AR: Where Are We Now?
Do you remember Pokemon, Go?
A game that went viral and brought augmented reality to a mass audience overnight, converting their smartphones into real-life Pokemon detectors. Now imagine yourself in a room capturing the monsters from the game through a device over your eyes? That’s VR.
However, gaming and entertainment are not the only niches these two technologies are applicable in. In just a few years, both VR and AR have opened up a spectrum of new opportunities for supporting mission-critical functions and improving people’s well-being on all levels.
Take a look at some of the current most popular use cases:
Retail and Marketing — AR is already being used to see how furniture and some other products will look like in a buyer’s house. Take Ikea, for example. Their Place app which allows users to see how its products would fit in their homes skyrocketed boosted its sales. Also, Trillenium created a virtual environment that is close to a real-life shop - a place where users had their own avatars and could shop and interact with one another. But all of this would not be possible without the HTEC solution which used the synergy of their technology and expertise to help them bring that virtual shop to life.
Healthcare — From using VR to operate on patients remotely to using AR to pinpoint location of serious health issues like tumors, these technologies are already playing a central role in care delivery. For instance, Humeds, in collaboration with HTEC, developed a complete solution that allows straightforward ECG recording and analysis any time, anywhere, therefore enabling precise diagnostics of cardiac arrhythmia.
Business and Education — While many news networks have turned to VR to bring viewers closer to live interviews, political debates and other events, students can learn even outside the classroom by using AR-aided educational materials. This makes online and distance learning much easier, especially now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Construction — 3D building modelling could help designers and architects visualize and work on the solution together more easily and efficiently.
Arts, Entertainment and Gaming — People can now attend virtual theatre plays and concerts without leaving their homes and event organizers can sell more tickets for more people. It’s a win-win! As we’ve already mentioned above, VR and AR have also been making waves in the gaming industry for some time now and that's just the beginning. VR game-makers are constantly coming up with new ways to create even more immersive experiences for players.
Fashion and Music — According to Forbes, users will be able to visualize fashion products in future which will help retailers achieve stellar success. Music has also been impacted by VR. Using a 360-degree virtual experience, a band Casabian let the audience join them at the stage during their virtual performance.
Military — AR and VR are breaking the boundaries on battlefields as well! The military can now create simulated environments where soldiers would rehearse combat and rescue missions.
Industrial Manufacturing — Wearable AR technology can now help workers organize inventory, learn the necessary material more quickly in realistic context and manage machines and get online advice through remote assistance no matter where they are.
Travel and Tourism — Tourists can now enjoy virtual tours to a certain tourist destination remotely which lets them evaluate a certain space before making their decision.
What Does the Future Hold?
Undoubtedly, AR and VR technologies will continue making strides across industries and reshape the world as we know it.
In fact, based on Retail Customer Experience research, AR engagement is up nearly 20% since the beginning of 2020 with conversion rates increasing by 90% for those consumers who engage with AR.
So where exactly is AR headed and what can we expect in the upcoming years?
AR Future Trends
1. Mobile AR and high growth with 5G
The increase in popularity of mobile devices like smartphones and smart glasses will bring everyone closer to the world of AR. This brings us to the rise of 5G, a complex and responsive network, which, combined with edge computing, is the engine that can handle the amount of data and the speed at which the power of AR will be transferred.
2. AR expands to automotive industry
Heads-up displays (HUDs) is one of the brand new applications of AR technology that will become more popular in the years to come. Its biggest value is that it offers drivers a clear view of the road, informing them of potential hazards they may not have noticed along the way. Also, the system can help drivers maintain their focus on the road if they become distracted for some reason. Overall, AR’s biggest value here is drivers’ safety.
Plus, AR can also be leveraged for automotive marketing where drivers can see the new virtual car in different colours without having to go to the store.
3. AR glasses
AR headsets are much more superior to a smartphone camera when it comes to viewing simulated objects. Although these wearables like Microsoft HoloLens or Google Glass already exist on the market, they are extremely bulky and too expensive for an average non-enterprise consumer. Once the industry develops comfortably, socially accepted and affordable glasses, the demand of AR will skyrocket.
This is why more tech players are entering the race. Apple and Facebook are developing their first pairs of smart glasses which will be released in the next few years. And when they reach the market, they will be the industry’s main drive with numerous use cases, from allowing surgeons to view their patients’ status in real time to enabling factory workers to see the invaluable data coming from the machines they work with.
4. AR in the classroom
The interactive nature of AR technology makes it an ideal solution for creating the classroom of the future. By scanning educational material including flashcards, books, and providing additional necessary assets for online classes students will be able to easily interact and engage the way they want to. Plus, this helps students with disabilities and learning difficulties to
easily master the educational material and overcome any challenges on the way, especially through interactive games and activities.
5. Remote assistance and virtual manuals
It is obvious that telework has significantly increased in the last two years since the world was hit by Covid-19. And this is how remote expert assistance powered by AR came to the spotlight. Let’s say you are having a problem with wi-fi and need someone to fix it. Instead of calling an operator who would try to offer you assistance by phone, now augmented reality can allow IT technicians to show you the problem and walk you through the steps you need to take to repair it by using on-screen directions remotely. This is definitely one of the things that will become stronger and push AR even further in the following years.
And, what VR trends will blur the borders between offline and virtual worlds?
VR Future Trends
1. Haptic feedback
Even though VR has come a long way from the moment it was first mentioned in sci-fi tales, like any other technology in this new fast-paced digital age, it never stops evolving. Even though the ingenious use of sound and sight create a magical and fully immersive experience, users still feel the “virtual” more than “real”. Haptic feedback will change all that in the years to come. Namely, according to Maryville University, it will stimulate the sense of touch through some kind of wearable device or gloves, so you will not only be able to hear and see things in this virtual world but also touch them.
With the world trying to fight the dreadful and the fearest enemy of all, Covid-19, it’s no surprise that VR jumps to the rescue on so many levels in the field of healthcare. It is helping to change the landscape of the healthcare system. Currently VR is being leveraged and explored as the method to help people suffering from anxiety, stress, depression find a more relaxed state of mind. This can help patients overcome traumatic memories and better manage Covid-19-relate stressors in future. Also, surgeons will be using VR more and more to simulate operations while paramedics will use it to prepare and rehearse for hazardous situations. VR in healthcare is on the steady path - the opportunities are endless!
3. VR meets AI
What happens when the two most mainstream technologies join their forces? The synergy of AI and VR enhances the intelligence of the characters in the virtual world. For instance, while LG leveraged AI to reduce motion sickness among VR users, Facebook’s DeepFocus uses AI to make focus effects which would improve users’ VR experience. On top of this, many Chinese tech leaders are already working on integrating AI and VR in video games and various mobile solutions.
4. Virtual sports events
As most organizers were forced to postpone sports events across the globe due to the pandemic, the use of VR is entering the stage as one of the ways to reach fans and create new revenue. For example, although the 2020 NBA season had to be postponed due to Covid-19-related circumstances, organizers offered VR/MR league passes which offered fans an opportunity to enter the archives and enjoy the game virtually through VR.
5. Virtual offices
Again, the pandemic has been making tectonic shifts in the way we work for a huge number of employees worldwide. Maintaining cooperative activity, team spirit and thriving culture have become real challenges. Luckily, many VR solutions are emerging to help solve these issues.
Erricson, the communication giant who provided their employees with Oculus headsets while they were working from home derived the concept called "Internet of Senses." Essentially, this solution involves smell, touch and taste predicting that by 2030 we will be able to enter digital environments that will appear much more real to all of our five senses at the same time.
The result: “dematerialized office” – a completely interactive and collaborative environment we will be able to create just by using a headset or similar devices.
It’s Time to Step into the Future
The trends listed above are only there to spark your curiosity. We have only scratched the surface.
Despite the fact that both AR and VR are entering the scene in all their blaze and glory they are still at their infancy but with the immense potential to open up a world of opportunities that will help us reach new heights in every aspect of our lives.
Consumers will start interacting in new innovative ways we could not even imagine before. Employees will thrive and grow in natural and comfortable working environments where they would not be obliged to sit at the desk all day. Art, gaming and entertainment will reach new heights enabling us to explore concepts and places in a more compelling and engaging way. Healthcare professionals will be able to provide assistance and thorough personal treatment and develop new breakthrough practices that will reshape what’s possible in the medical field.
AR and VR are the future and the future is now!
Seize the opportunities to reach the stars on your digital sky.
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