Design thinking

Business benefits and trends to watch in VR/AR

Adam Wittsell

We sat down for a chat with two of our virtual reality and augmented reality experts to find out more about future trends and how this technology can create business revenue. Here’s what Adam Wittsell and Lennart Andersson had to say.

What are the top VR trends to watch in the next 3-5 years?

LA: We consistently see VR headsets becoming more compact, which makes them more comfortable and user-friendly. Hardware enhancements further contribute to VR/AR standardization so people will be able to effortlessly create and experience virtual content. Going forward, it will be important for businesses to have a strategy for VR/AR since it’s becoming a natural touchpoint for a wide range of professional and consumer services.

AW: More and more, virtual reality will merge with augmented reality. We already see early steps in the soon-to-be-released Microsoft Mixed Reality headset and the newly released iPhone X. The new Apple device offers a fully virtual experience and expands the traditional AR experience by scanning the user’s surrounding environment in real time. In the next few years we’ll see drastic developments with virtual assistants like Alexa and banking chatbots that interact with people in a physical space.

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How can augmented reality and virtual reality help drive business revenue – both now and in the future?

LA: VR/AR enables consumers to experience previously inaccessible environments and is immensely valuable in industries like gaming and entertainment. It can be used for educational and training purposes – or to operate machines and systems in harsh or remote environments. Healthcare, heavy industry and logistics are also typical targets for VR/AR technology. Prototyping is another area for expansion since creating new situations and environments in real life can be expensive, risky or even hazardous. VR/AR can dramatically cut prototyping costs and speed up time to market. For businesses it’s not only a question of growing revenue but also of retaining it, since entering a market late often makes it difficult to catch up.

AW: We’ll see AR/VR cut automation costs by decreasing the manpower required to oversee warehouses and assembly lines off site. AR/VR will enable more efficient, less expensive employee training sessions and will be used for everything from operating machines to fully simulating scenarios with virtual customers. It’s crucial for businesses to understand and adapt to new AR/VR developments since they’ll affect most, if not all, customer interactions in the next 5-10 years.

What’s the main difference between AR and VR?

VR (virtual reality) is a pair of screens, usually mounted in a headset, that provides “stereo vision” and tracks head movements. The user’s actual movements are simultaneously matched with a virtual (or simulated) space, although in some cases the virtual space is a 360° filmed “real” space. VR offers a high degree of immersion but cuts the user off from the real world.

AR (augmented reality) is usually considered the overlay of visual digital content onto a live camera capture feed on a user’s phone, computer or separate headset like the Microsoft HoloLens. Digital content is placed on top of a real environment using some type of “awareness,” for example, having the user point at labels placed on a street or apply a virtual lipstick to their lips on a selfie feed in a L’Oréal app.

In the coming years, AR and VR will both be available on the same device and it will be up to individual apps whether they use AR or pure, closed-off VR.