This article is the first part in a series of articles we will be releasing in the coming months covering different use cases for augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). We believe AR/VR has the potential to be a revolutionary technology and the next step in the evolution of computing platforms. Each iteration has taken the user closer and into more prolonged contact with the digital world, with AR/VR is the next logical step: integrating the digital world with the real, in the case of AR, and fully immersing users in the digital world, in the case of VR. For this reason, we believe AR/VR has the potential to impact almost every industry and facet of daily life, and will likely replace smartphones and personal computers as the primary interface with the digital world.
VR is designed to immerse the user in a synthetic world and a lot of entertainment activities are centered around that goal, like watching movies or playing video games. However, uses outside of entertainment are becoming more prevalent. For instance, in 2017 home improvement retailer Lowe’s launched a VR experience in one of its stores to give customers a lesson in how to tile a bathroom and Sotheby’s has used VR to show luxury homes to potential buyers.
AR technology is designed to overlay information from the digital world, onto the real world. Consequently, any situation where some form of information needs to be referenced in order to do something in the real world, could be a potential application of AR. For instance, Boeing, in partnership with Upskill, a company focused on augmented reality devices and software for enterprises, conducted a pilot program using Boeing wiring harness technicians. They replaced the traditional laptops and technical manuals with augmented reality glasses that can access schematics by voice command and display them for the technician. The results were staggering, with Boeing cut its wiring production time by 25% and reduced error rates effectively to zero. While this is just a single example, it illustrates the power of AR technology to vastly improve a process at an already modern, mature, technology utilizing enterprise.
Much like any new technology the adoption will be driven by the benefits the devices provide to the users. For consumers, VR offers an enhanced entertainment experience and AR glasses could offer users easier ways of doing things such as navigation or referencing a recipe when cooking. In fact, AR glasses could become a widely used companion accessory to smart phones, or even replace the smart phones entirely as the technology progresses.
For enterprises, on the other hand, AR and VR technology adoption will be driven the motivation to improve productivity and profitability. In fact, some businesses are already exploring or adopting the technology for just that reason, as illustrated earlier with the example at Boeing.
As a prelude to future articles on the use cases of AR/VR here is a list of markets/industries and some examples of actual or potential use cases:
Entertainment – Video games, movies, theme parks, etc. Video games are currently the largest use of VR. More recently we saw highlights of the NBA finals offered in VR on the NBA Finals channel in conjunction with NextVR.
Retail – AR/VR looks to be poised as a tool to enhance shopping experiences for customers whether online or in person. We envision the technology being used (and it already has been used previously) to make it easier to shop for an item or customize purchases when you cannot physically do so in person or being used to create new shopping experiences where they did not exist previously. For instance, a retail company could offer shopping to customers with AR glasses almost anywhere there is internet connectivity.
Healthcare – There are myriad potential uses in the healthcare sector from training doctors/technicians through simulations with AR/VR, to creating better visualization tools for MRI data using VR, or enhancing the surgical process by way of AR glasses worn by the surgeon and augmenting the physical view of the patient with other data, such as previously conducted imagining.
Engineering and Manufacturing – AR/VR can be used to make design process and improve design outcomes through simulation, visualization, and virtual testing and prototyping of designs. As with the Boeing example previously discusses, assembly, manufacturing and repair can be improved through the use of AR glasses to provide additional information to the technician.
Military – The military is a fairly obvious user of AR/VR technology given that training is an inherent part of its existence and that there is an ongoing drive to improve information gathering/utilization and integrate information across the entire battle theater. Soldiers wearing AR glasses could use real time information from other sources, such as reconnaissance satellites or drones, to improve battlefield awareness and reduce risk and lives lost. VR and AR could also be used in a wide variety of training exercises from flight simulation to maintenance and repair.
Real Estate – As VR/AR technology improves we believe that you could see it used widely as a method of showing a “first round” of homes to potential buyers. Particularly those located remotely from the property of interest. Furthermore AR/VR could be used to show homes customized for a potential buyer’s tastes, by for instance overlaying a restyled interior over the existing one.
Education – Another fairly obvious use case for AR/VR is the education sector. Virtual lectures, field trips, and training come to mind as do enhancing the existing lecture process by overlaying models, diagrams and simulations onto the lecture view through the use of AR.
There are many other potential areas that AR/VR could impact but these are the most obvious. We plan to discuss these in more detail in future posts. In the end, we view AR/VR as the next step in the evolution of computing and believe AR/VR extend the “reach” of computing and digital information in profound ways. The applications of AR/VR are for the most part only limited by our collective imagination.