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AR and VR: The Tech of the Future, Today

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two concepts that, not long ago, were just that—concepts. Now, this technology is not only being used in daily life, but is also being developed and enhanced to push the boundaries of the physical and digital world. From fun-loving applications to life-saving tactics, AR and VR are taking the world by storm.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Augmented reality brings digital assets into the real world by superimposing a computer-generated image on a user's view of the world. This is usually accomplished by holding a smartphone or tablet in front of you. Think: Pokémon Go, the AR game that captured the attention of millions worldwide, or the popular face filters on Snapchat. Each of these applications creates an interactive AR experience that enhances your perception of objects present in the real world.

Virtual reality constructs a simulated experience that can be similar to, or completely different from, the physical world. This virtual world is generally created by wearing sophisticated goggles or headsets. VR can allow users to live out their wildest dreams—from walking on the moon, to flying over the Pacific Ocean, to single-handedly saving the city of Gotham (courtesy of games such as Batman: Arkham). It can also aid in life-saving surgeries, improve education methods, and much more.

Industry Uses

AR/VR technology is coming to all industries, and even though you might not feel the first wave, your business will be impacted.

Education

AR and VR have the ability to tap underserved areas in the education system—such as students who do not learn effectively through traditional classroom methods.

Educators are using virtual reality headsets to combat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), introduce exposure therapy to reduce anxiety, provide heightened sensory-based experiences, demonstrate independent living skills in a safe environment, and more.

According to Ed Tech Magazine, one special-needs educator in Milwaukee used this tech to take her students on “virtual field trips” when they were otherwise unable to attend with their peers.

Experts say that these virtual environments can give children who require extra assistance the opportunity to learn the skills needed to be as successful as their peers.

Healthcare

The future of virtual reality in healthcare is awe-inspiring.

According to the Virtual Reality Society, robotically assisted surgeries (where the surgery is performed by a robotic arm that is virtually controlled by the surgeon) have a lower rate of risk for complications during surgery and provide a faster procedure. The robotic arm is also more precise—meaning smaller incisions and reduced blood loss—leading to a faster recovery.

With advancements in VR technology, these surgeries could be conducted remotely, providing better access to life-saving procedures.

Professionals have also designed a virtual reality gaming device that helps burn victims cope with severe pain.

Enterprise Training

Corporate trainings are necessary, but they are also time-consuming and expensive. What if you could conduct these trainings remotely, without losing the in-person experience? VR could allow users to sign in on their own devices and use avatars in a communal virtual workplace that allows you to interact with others in the room, just like you would in person.

Walmart recently distributed Oculus Go virtual reality headsets to each of its stores in the United States for the purpose of employee training. The company distributed 17,000 headsets with modules that simulate events that would be difficult to conduct as a physical exercise (such as training for the crowds on Black Friday).

Financial Services

The financial industry has also hopped aboard the AR/VR train, and is surging full speed ahead.

Salesforce uses Oculus Rift to immerse users in a 3D environment that makes analyzing large amounts of data more manageable. Also, Fidelity Labs (of Fidelity Investments) has used the Oculus Rift to create a virtual world called “StockCity,” where stock portfolios are transformed into a 3D city. This helps investors visualize mass amounts of data, making it much easier to digest.

Entertainment

In February of 2019, DJ Marshmellow held a concert based fully in virtual reality—all taking place inside the video game Fortnite. Millions of users attended the “live” show within the game after logging on, allowing them to remotely enjoy the experience while their avatars danced along.

In September, singer Billie Eilish hosted a virtual concert. When using Oculus headsets, whether you were lounging on your couch or standing in line at the grocery store, it looked like you were sitting next to people in a crowd as Eilish performed live.

Global Impact

According to the International Data Corporation, worldwide spending on AR and VR tech is forecasted to reach $16.8 billion in 2019, and is predicted to skyrocket to $160 billion come 2023.

The strongest spending growth over the 2019-2023 forecast period will come from the financial industry, with a 134% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Next will come the infrastructure sectors (123% CAGR), while the manufacturing and public sectors follow closely behind.

What’s Next?

The list of enticing applications for augmented and virtual reality technologies continues to grow. Other innovations include:

  • Being able to virtually walk through a house or apartment you're interested in buying or renting that's on the other side of the country.
  • Virtually applying makeup before purchasing the product, like L’Oreal is piloting.
  • Smell-O-Vision: Some movie theaters have brought this tech into cinemas to enhance the cinematic experience. The theater releases a smell during a screening so users feel immersed in the film.
  • The Teslasuit—a full-body computer interface that improves movement, reflexes, and instincts—which allows for quicker, better performance of the human body and mind.

Conclusion

Augmented and virtual reality tech is coming to your industry. Whether they are implemented to improve customer experience, enhance employee work spaces, or increase business success, AR/VR is constantly adapting to fit the needs of the present world.

All of these topics and more were recently discussed at the VR & AR Tech Summit 2019, hosted by Global Startup Ecosystem in New York City on September 9, 2019. If you would like to join VR tech investors, entrepreneurs and influencers as they continue to discuss the advancements and challenges of AR/VR, register for next year’s summit on September 7, 2020.