The rapid expansion of technology is opening new opportunities for savvy businesses that get in on the ground floor. Just like those who embraced the web, social media and mobile, early adopters of virtual reality and augmented reality are set to be rewarded.
VR is the use of headsets and/or mobile devices to provide people with a simulated lifelike environment. It’s not looking at the TV screen; it’s feeling like you’re inside it. AR brings virtual elements into the real world to change what people see and feel before them, such as a hologram.
With revenue of $5.2 billion in 2016 and projections of $150 billion by 2020, everyone will be impacted by AR and VR to some degree. Embracing it early is the wise thing to do.
Examples of AR and VR
To understand these emerging technologies it is important to see how they are already being applied. The mobile game Pokemon Go is an excellent example of augmented reality. Smartphone users travel to real life locations and catch and battle Pokemon on their device with an augmented version of a real life map. A local restaurant might just happen to also be a place where you can get supplies in-game. Many businesses have already cloned this concept for marketing – for example, directing users to go to a certain location where they can obtain a digital coupon code.
Have you seen those 360 degree videos and images on Facebook? Those are a simple version of virtual reality. If you use a VR headset or a basic method of shutting out the outside world (like Google Cardboard), you can be fully immersed in a new world. This type of content is perfect for marketing, for example virtual tours. It is also being adopted for video conferencing and allowing people to experience entertainment events remotely.
Training: The application of VR and AR technology within your business is not just about the end consumer. Internally it might completely change how you operate. Imagine the time and money saved on training when it can be done, without mentioning improving the safety for dangerous jobs. The next generation of soldiers may be trained virtually and their tactics might be practised in virtual versions of the warzones they’ll enter. Likewise, training that was once theoretical can now become far more engaging.
Conferencing: First came the telephone, then video conferencing. Now your business meetings can be conducted in a virtual and augmented world where data can be manipulated in front of everyone. The most exciting thing is that you can have a meeting at a location other than the office, eliminating the travel costs of going there in real life.
Remote Work: In the same vein, remote work becomes even easier. A worker might be at home, but still within the virtual office space with their peers.
Online Shopping: Despite being adopted by the masses, one of the key criticisms of online shopping is the inability to truly experience the product. VR and AR will allow for immersive video and imagery of products and the virtual ‘trying on’ of clothing and other items. For example, Sephora has a AR app that allows you to capture a snapchat style real-time image of your face and apply over 3,000 lipstick shades to see what you will look like.
Virtual Tours: The hotel and travel industry are poised for a revolution when it comes to virtual tours, or the ability for customers to experience rooms and locations before making a booking. The days of grainy or generic photos are over.
Design Feedback: Once upon a time, when you were designing a product you would have to create physical mock-up or at least a model on a computer to assess how it might look and function in the real world. This process just got a whole lot more efficient with AR and VR. User testing can also be carried out remotely and in some cases without even needing the real life product. This whole process will also reduce costs.
There are certainly skeptics, as it’s not like every new technology takes off – 3D TVs are dead!
However, data suggests that the public are ready to embrace VR and AR, with 60 to 70 percent of those surveyed saying they see clear benefits to using the technology in their daily lives. One of the main roadblocks so far has been prices at the consumer end, but like all tech this will decrease as demand and available options increase. There are 685 VR and 737 AR startup businesses pushing the technology forward, and around 500 million VR headsets are expected to be sold by 2025.
But it’s not just about additional technology. Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg believes VR will become the next major computing platform – we won’t go to our desktops or mobile devices, we’ll step inside our virtual or augmented environment. The whole world will become one big virtual tapestry that we can interact with.
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The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.