What’s in virtual and augmented reality for the real world of business?
Beyond the goggles and games, what is there to know about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that applies to business?
At first glance, virtual and augmented reality user experiences may appear to be limited to the gaming industry. However, VR and AR technologies go well beyond games, and should be seen as a viable and beneficial tool in real-world business usages.
Consider this: CNBC reported that virtual reality could be a trillion-dollar industry by 2035, citing research by Citi that showed VR and AR will have a major impact in both the consumer and enterprise markets. Citi’s analysts forecast that the sector could be worth approximately $692 billion by 2025, with uses across numerous industries.
Before delving too deeply into these promising technologies, let’s clarify the difference between VR and AR:
Virtual reality is a fully artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user accepts it, and interacts within it, as a real environment. Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. It relies on a blend of the user’s existing environment with an overlay of new information, presented in a way that allows both to be equally accepted.
Where VR primarily impacts two of the five senses—sight and sound—AR enhances what we see, hear, feel, and smell, and incorporates more sophisticated efforts involving such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let the user feel the display images.
Haptics is the science of applying touch (tactile) sensation and control as part of a user’s interaction with computer applications. The word derives from the Greek haptein meaning “to fasten.” By using special devices or data gloves, haptics technology offers an additional dimension to a virtual reality or 3-D environment, and is essential to the immersiveness of those environments.
Although this might appear to be new technology, it really isn’t; it just continues to be refined. One of the first commercial applications of AR technology was the yellow ‘first down’ line that began to appear in football games in the late 1990s. Google glass and heads-up displays in car windshields are prominent AR products that have been introduced into the consumer market. More than a year ago, The New York Times distributed 1 million Google cardboard headsets with a Sunday edition of the newspaper, CNN broadcast a presidential debate in VR, and The Washington Post released a 360-degree interactive that takes users to the surface of Mars. This included native advertising. The feedback stemming from those has been described as more visceral and emotional, with VR bringing the users closer to the events.
Let’s think of VR in more practical terms: If your organization owns/hosts an annual trade show, consider how immersive virtual experiences could allow decision-makers, who are potential exhibitors, to move around and interact in the space of a vast convention center’s floor plan to select exhibit space without ever leaving their desk chair. Or consider new construction underway in other countries—the progress viewable from where potential lessees sit in their own location worldwide. Manufacturing, transportation, logistics planning, medicine and healthcare, pharmaceutical, science, architecture, engineering, natural gas and energy, construction, travel and tourism, international relations, and hospitality—these are just a few fields where the uses of VR and AR are either at-hand or are already in use. The possibilities are virtually limitless. How can your company benefit?