There are various levels of manipulating reality. Some experiences provide little augmentation, while others replace the real world in its entirety.
Just one of the many AR/VR trends for 2019, recent advances in immersive devices make them a great tool to amplify the effect of immersion. Now the user can shut off unnecessary distractions, making the overall feeling even more compelling.
In this article, we'll cover the following topics related to this technology:
Currently, smartphones or specialized headsets are the most popular hardware used to enjoy immersive content. On the software side, you can use a web application or a native mobile, desktop, or console app. The web application is a more universal solution, as it’s able to run across different devices.
Types of immersive experiences
In this article, we'll cover the more impactful possibilities of cooperation between business and immersive tech. But first, let's review the different types of immersive experiences.
360-degree content is an interactive photo or a video recording shot in every direction at the same time. It enables the user to change the viewing direction at any moment.
In its early stages, 360-degree content comprised of only photos and later 360-degree videos were integrated.
A digital twin is a precise virtual model of a real-life object, process, or system. You can have a digital twin even if the physical object doesn't exist. They are great for displaying detailed data, monitoring, control, and running simulations.
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer simulation. It immerses the user inside a virtual world, allowing them to interact with the environment. VR tries to stimulate as many senses as possible to make the user feel as if they are really there.
Augmented reality (AR) enhances the user's perception of the real world. It does that by adding a computer-simulated layer of information on top of it. The most important benefit of AR is that to the user it feels like a natural extension. AR only adds or hides data from the environment. In contrast, VR completely replaces the user's perception of the real world.
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Mixed reality (MR) tries to bring together VR and AR into an enhanced version of AR. Sometimes it's even called augmented reality 2.0 because MR aims to achieve better immersion than AR. It integrates whole virtual objects into the real world. They respond to changes in the environment and user interaction in real-time.
Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for all the environments that enhance or completely replace reality.
Industry use cases for immersive experiences
Most of us associate immersive technology via consumer tech. While it has great applications in entertainment, it's also showing potential for enterprise use.
Business management is one part of every company that can make use of extended reality. Nowadays, reports from ERP systems are sometimes hard to grasp. With the help of an AR headset, all data visualizations can become easier to understand. In a typical scenario, a user will see only the most important bits of data. The headset will show all the details when the user looks at specific parts of the report.
Teleconferencing and telecommuting are nothing new. They are the terms for remote conferencing or working. They are also a part of business that can benefit from virtual reality. Using a VR headset will make every remote meeting feel much more authentic. It'll also enable remote work for jobs previously thought not suitable.
The following is a list of possible business applications of different immersive technologies in specific industries.
E-commerce is one sector that is already using immersive technologies to some extent. 360-degree content is an excellent way to achieve better visualizations. It allows users to look at the product they are considering from every possible angle. It's also more convenient to use than standard product galleries.
Stores selling products with many variations can make the 360-degree content even more interactive. It can react to changes in options in real-time, giving the user an immediate preview.
Another option is to create a mixed reality app showing what the product will look like in a real-life environment. This way, the customers will have a better idea of what they're buying.
Architecture and design
Visualizations have always been important in architecture and design. The bigger agencies are going to great lengths to make them more immersive.
VR grants us the ability to explore building designs in a 1:1 scale. When we add mixed and augmented reality to the mix, things get even better. AR shows additional relevant information. MR enables making small changes and adjustments in the simulation. Designers are using mixed reality to edit their creations as 3D models in front of them. By providing a comprehensive overall view, it makes the whole process easier.
Engineering, maintenance, and repair
Creating and repairing complex equipment is no easy task. We are already using the help of computers, but immersive technologies are showing great potential for further improvement.
While repairing, engineers can use AR headsets to get useful data right away. A more advanced artificial intelligence system can provide them with suggestions about what's the next best action.
In the design phase, a digital twin could be of great use. It will help engineers see their creations in a virtual environment without the need to build prototypes. When testing the product, a digital twin can serve as a great tool for running simulations and collecting analytical data.
Healthcare is a sector with numerous use cases for immersive experiences. Implementing some extended reality solutions can solve at least partially some of the bigger challenges. Augmented and virtual reality both can make the current state of medical training more effective.
AR can give useful information to healthcare employees when learning how to use new equipment. VR, on the other hand, will enable them to practice more complex medical procedures in the safety of the virtual world, before actually performing them on a live patient.
Telemedicine is another business use case for immersive tech. It utilizes virtual or mixed reality to remove the need for patients and practitioners to be in the same location. For the patients, it means getting diagnosed in a more comfortable setting and having more accessible medical services. An augmented reality headset can give such information to every patient in a hospital, keeping their mind busy instead of worrying.
In some cases, a virtual reality solution can reduce anxiety in patients, help them with sleep or just serve as a positive distraction. Augmented reality can also help with visualizing patient data and treatment assistance. Currently, several different devices spread all over the room display patient stats. An AR headset can show only the relevant information directly on the patient's body or give suggestions as to what's the best medicine for the case at hand. When doing surgeries it can outline the most optimal cutting path, give warnings about potential problems and help with additional information.
The travel industry is one that will probably benefit the most from the adoption of immersive tech. Businesses operating within the travel industry are selling real-life experiences. Currently, the next best thing is immersive tech.
360-degree content and virtual reality can provide customers with the option to try before they buy something. It'll allow them to check out the destinations they want to visit to make sure that's the right choice. Later, they can “walk around” the hotel room they intend to book to see if it's to their taste.
An augmented reality headset can serve as a personal tour guide, available to you at all times. It can provide additional information in real-time, making sightseeing easier and more informative. It'll also help with finding cafes, restaurants, hotels, inns and landmarks.
Showings are an important part of the real estate business. They are also an inconvenience for the buyer, the real estate agent and the seller.
Immersive experience technology allows us to do virtual showings. They allow the potential buyers to check out the properties remotely, in time, that's convenient for them, without the help of a real estate agent. In a later phase, when doing physical showings, mixed reality headset can help by providing additional information about the property, decoration options or furnishing suggestions.
Real businesses using immersive experiences
While immersive technologies are still in their infancy, there are businesses that use them. Here's a list with some of the pioneers in their field.
Augmented reality in DHL's logistic centers
For DHL, error-free, timely delivery is what makes clients happy with the service. According to their report, warehousing operations account for about 20% of all logistics costs and picking tasks - for 55% to 65% of all warehousing operations.
DHL wanted to reduce warehouse costs. The solution was to integrate AR smart glasses in the picking process. The smart glasses show a list of stuff to be picked, reducing lookup times. They also calculate an optimal route to lower travel time. Lastly, the headset reads barcodes and determines if the current location is the right one. If it isn't, they guide the worker to the correct location. DHL found out that through the AR glasses alone, they gained about 25% increase in picking efficiency.
Automakers testing with MR
Mixed reality is an effective tool for testing. It allows automakers to easily simulate extreme situations. The sensors in the headsets enable precise measurement of reaction times and other important safety factors.
When designing features for the cars, automaker Volvo uses VR headsets in the testing process. Their immersive application lets designers enter a virtual car and simulate different scenarios.
BMW Group is using a VR solution in workstation planning that significantly reduces the amount of manual labor needed. It allows BMW planners to walk around new workstations and assess processes completely virtually. AR headsets are helping employees there to do engine assembly units training three times faster.
Adidas uses VR to enhance workflow
Adidas' VR solution can be described as a virtual team collaboration space. They use it when different teams have to work together. The immersive application gives employees the ability to be in the same virtual room and share 3D models and other content. Using this technology allows different departments to work better together.
Walmart and VR training
Walmart is using VR headsets in realistic employee training. They want to create a more immersive experience so that their workers are better prepared for different real-life situations. The training application has different scenarios, including a Black Friday one.
XR in the building industry
Autodesk Revit Live and IrisVR both provide immersive architectural and building visualizations. Businesses are using these technologies to create immersive experiences for their clients to explore before even starting the building process.
Immersive data from Virtualitics
Virtualitics is a company creating virtual reality data visualizations. Displaying data in such an environment allows for multiple people to view it and interact with it.
The list of immersive tech users goes on
Companies from different industry sectors are starting to integrate immersive experiences to solve typical business problems. While XR can't deal with every issue there is, it has undeniable strengths. It removes a lot of guesswork, it creates better, immersive visualizations and helps with immediate information and feedback.
Nikolai Tenev is a software developer, a blogger, and the founder of DigidWorks. With 10+ years in the field, he's passionate about helping businesses better utilize technology to achieve their goals. Outside of work, Nikolai enjoys archery, gaming, and going to the gym. He hopes he won’t take an arrow to the knee!