Remember Google Glass? In 2012, Google unveiled a revolutionary piece of wearable technology that would allow users to see the world around them… but enhanced. Users could browse the internet, take phone calls, and record video — all without picking up an extra device, since it was worn like a pair of glasses.
This venture into augmented reality (AR) was a big leap for the tech world. And while virtual reality (VR) had existed for some time, the mainstream introduction of Oculus’s wearable headset then brought virtual reality into the mainstream. Today, Oculus continues to offer an immersive experience apart from the world in front of us. It blocked out that world while transporting us to other parts of our own world or to imagined worlds, making us feel as though we were really there.
For a quick refresher on what each of these mediums really does:
- Augmented reality is meant to enhance our experience of the real world through integration of digital content. Smartphones and custom glasses are common tools for experiencing AR. (Learn more about the history of augmented reality.)
- Virtual reality creates a new 360° world around the user, separate from their actual physical surroundings. VR headsets are the most common way to experience this technology. (Check out a timeline of the history of visual communication, including VR.)
Today, AR and VR offer immense possibilities for visual communication. Below are a few industry examples to provide a feel for the business applications of these technologies.
Applications in Healthcare
Goldman Sachs estimates that augmented reality and virtual reality in healthcare will be a $5.1 billion venture by 2025. Yet healthcare education has seen the benefits in VR and AR already. Medical students have historically operated on cadavers to learn about surgery, but today there are AR and VR alternatives that can help teach the same skills.
Likewise, medical devices often need maintenance and repairs. An AR headset could show detailed instructions for inspection projected right on the device itself to save the technician time and potential missteps.
Applications in Internal Training
Just as in the medical education example above, any industry can use AR and VR technology to improve their onboarding and training experiences. A software platform called Skylight helped one technician wire a wind turbine 34% faster than if he had used the existing training process (a paper manual) — and it was his first time using the smart glasses. Walmart and UPS are also among the early adopters who have already tested out virtual reality training in their businesses.
Organizations with high-risk operations (due to expense, danger, or otherwise) can see cost savings from adopting virtual training tools. These tools help them minimize risk up front while providing key information for use in live situations later.
Applications in Retail
When it comes to AR and VR usage in retail, Goldman Sachs predicts $1.6 billion in hardware and software for retail use by 2025. The value is already showing in today’s shopping experience.
Looking online for glasses or a new sofa? AR lets you “try on” glasses by overlaying them on your face with the help of your smartphone camera. You can also place that sofa into the camera’s view of your living room to see how it fits in. Taking the guesswork out of online purchases can be a motivator to purchase, since it helps reassure consumers that the purchase fits and looks good.
Augmented and virtual realities are taking hold across diverse industries. How could it improve your customer and employee relationships — and your bottom line?