While augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been around for almost a decade, they have been used mostly to gamify consumer experiences. However, over the past few years, the technology has rapidly matured. Off-the-shelf-chassis that enable putting together solutions using readymade building blocks, and the emergence of 5G are allowing businesses to leverage AR and VR to solve actual business problems and generate return on investment.
How is AR different from VR?
AR enhances a real-life experience. Which means that everything happens in real-life, except that there is an additional layer enhancing the experience. VR, on the other hand, is a complete immersion experience. You are disconnected from the real world to be transported to a different ‘reality’.
Some business applications of AR
AR enables medical practitioners to perform day-to-day tasks more efficiently and accurately. Proximie is a tool that projects anatomical cross-sections onto a patient, or shows 3D visualisations of internal organs, so that the surgeon gets a ‘see-through’ view during the surgery planning, enabling great precision. Applications like AccuVein enable doctors to precisely locate veins.
Industrial applications for assembly of complex equipment are one of the best use cases. Whether it’s aircraft engines, car motors or MRI machines, shop floor staff are using AR headsets and glasses that provide them with useful, real-time information indicating what part needs to go where and how. This enhances efficiency since workers don’t need to keep referring to manuals. This use case will only continue to get stronger as machine-to-machine technology grows and feeds information directly to AR headsets.
AR offers opportunities to increase efficiency and could enable cost savings across business logistics. This includes route optimisation, warehousing and transportation. DHL has implemented smart AR glasses in some warehouses that display to workers the shortest route within a warehouse to locate items that need to be shipped. Providing workers with more efficient ways to go about their jobs is one of the best use cases in today’s business environment.
While technology like tablets have spread across schools and classrooms, educators are now enhancing students’ learning experiences with AR. For instance, the Aurasma app brings textbooks to life by rendering 3D images. Students learning astronomy, for instance, can use the app along with their textbooks to see a full map of the solar system and move it around to get a 3D view of our universe.
In the event of, say, a fire, firefighters can use AR glasses to quickly identify danger zones as well as possible exit routes, guiding people to safety quickly and efficiently.
Emerging applications of VR
Billions are spent on defence systems. Now, VR is giving military personnel a real-life experience of what it’s like to engage in missions, thus minimising danger. These technologies create simulated environments in which troops are given intense training about real surroundings. From combat training to navigating the enemy line to analysing troop movements, wearable glasses and headsets are aiding decisions that save lives.
Several universities, colleges and schools are implementing VR technology in their learning schedules. For instance, students can enjoy virtual field trips across the globe. They can be transported to Paris, the Great Barrier Reef or any corner of the world, even to the International Space Station and the human body. Students can explore and ‘feel’ objects; interactive elements like pop-ups help them get a better understanding of the subject. It can simplify complicated concepts and make cognitive learning easier and faster.
The process of buying property has always been cumbersome. VR provides a huge advantage. Imagine being able to walk into a space and getting an almost exact preview of how it will look when ready. Even features like paint, curtains, lighting, placement of furniture, view from the balcony, etc, can be added to help consumers experience the yet-to-be-ready space. While the buyer gets a hands-on feel of the project, builders seal deals quicker. VR also provides potential buyers with the most convenient view from the comfort of their homes through virtual headsets and smartphones.
Designers are creating immersive designs and delighting clients with dazzling options, which in turn are transforming homes and offices. VR provides a unique opportunity to create apps using images and objects, and enable users to interpret and interact with them. The design process is quick, and the final product is fascinating. This saves a huge chunk of money that goes into the development and designing of spaces. Designers can make real-time improvements and changes as per suggestions and guide the user’s attention.
AR and VR are no longer about just interesting consumer experiences bordering on entertainment. It is expected that there will be close to a billion users by 2022 and this will be a $100 billion industry.