There may be an attitude among some that virtual reality is a gimmick with little practical substance. Likewise Augmented Reality can be seen as a ‘flash in the pan’ that will quickly wane in a similar fashion to Pokémon Go.
In fact there are very real business possibilities in development that are already beginning to be utilised by companies brave enough to innovate in their fields.
- Architecture - New designs at early stages are experienced from a ‘gods-eye’ view or in first person as an immersive virtual experience to walk through new creations at various stages of development.
- Medicine & Healthcare - Specialists can explore scan results in fully interactive 4D and visualise symptoms to aid diagnosis then visually demonstrate these in full to the patient (they can for example watch an affected area behave under stress and contrast with when it is functioning correctly). Simulations of entire systems can be explored by doctors and students as part of their on-going education.
- Education - Now individuals and students in some concept classrooms can interact with many visual aides. They can watch an entire roman fort be built in front of their eyes, then explore different areas in more detail. Or students can witness landmasses as they developed over hundreds of millions of years, pausing, rotating or zooming to fully understand key events as they happened.
However, the benefits of this technology are not reserved exclusively for specialised areas. General businesses areas can also benefit.
Individual operatives working in the field can on occasion come across situations that benefit from additional experience, or even just a second pair of eyes. Using AR eyewear allows a specialist to assist from base, to see exactly what the remote worker can and communicate directly how to proceed. They could even bring virtual visual aids or 3D models into the field operative’s line of sight to literally 'show' their colleague how to proceed.
Practical training of activities like this becomes a lot more efficient, engaging and memorable when virtual or augmented reality is used. After all, it is easier to train a practical skill if the apparatus is virtual – if a machine has been disassembled it can be reset instantaneously, rather than waiting for it to be reassembled before the exercise can begin again. This can be more cost effective over time and less wasteful too, as physical components do not need to be bought, maintained or repaired. Further, if there are a multitude of different products or variations to be familiar with, all of these can be made available in the same space at the click of a button (or wave of a hand?...)
Retail environments are already beginning to experiment with the possibilities of using future technologies to demonstrate products. Fashion is one obvious example. Watches, shoes, cosmetics and even clothes can be tried on without the need to physically have them to hand – or even in the same building. Using some bespoke software and a camera, a shopper can be shown what the product looks like on them using a digital display.
In fact, the salesperson could even be on the end of a phone or video call, guiding a prospect as they use a tablet to, for example, look around a variety of re-modelling options in their kitchen; or re-furnishing options for the rest of the home. One could even present the interior design features of a several cars – to a couple sitting on their sofa at home wearing VR headsets.
Really, these examples are just scratching the surface of what is possible using augmented or virtual reality technology not only in specialised industry but also in field service, training and retail sectors. As we can see the potential goes well beyond gaming, and could extend into many areas of what could more commonly be referred to as mainstream business.
As the technology becomes more accessible and affordable, we are sure to see a lot of devices become available on the market to bring these possibilities to businesses everywhere. Watch this space as these devices are sure to be seen on this site in the not-too-distant future.