The evolution of XR (Extended Reality)
By the end of next year i.e. 2022, the XR (Extended Reality) market is expected to reach $209 billion – eight times what it is today. Within a decade, the whole way in which we perceive and interact with the world around us through our senses is set to undergo a tremendous shift. The imminent upsurge in the extended reality market and what it will look like by end of 2030 is literally beyond the collective ability of our imaginations at this point.
Even 2020, for its entire rocky ride, witnessed a spurt of growth in virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR)– known collectively as extended reality (XR). What started as a diversion in gaming and entertainment (remember the worldwide fever of Pokémon Go?) has quickly developed into compelling use cases of applications that have tremendous potential in healthcare, industry (especially, in dealing with hazardous or highly complex environments), education and much more.
What does XR or Extended Reality comprise of?
Virtual reality – VR consists of fully computer-generated environments that users access through the help of a headset and is fully immersed in the experience. The technology has been developed to meet design, marketing, education, training, and retail needs of specific professions and businesses.
Augmented reality – With AR, users are very much aware of the physical reality of their surroundings, but there is an overlay or superimposition of digital objects (information, graphics, sounds) onto the user’s view of the real world, through a screen or headset.
AR requires specialized software to see/ perceive the user’s immediate environment. But we see AR implemented much more regularly than VR in daily life – whether it’s though Snapchat filters that add digital features to pictures or, spotting rogue Pokémons as we walk around our neighbourhood.
Mixed Reality – MR really brings the best of both worlds (AR and VR) together to create a new reality that is a combination of virtual and real environments. Users can interact with this new environment just as they do with their actual physical environments.
Extended reality – Extended reality (XR) technology really is an umbrella term used to denote a number of immersive technologies whether they are purely virtual, or a mix of the physical and virtual environments.
Extended Reality Applications for Business
The use cases of XR are virtually limitless and new ones are being developed each day. You can expect to see applications of extended reality on shop floors, in retail shopping (to create ‘phygital’ experiences of customer walk-ins in a physical store), in healthcare, or even if you are just thinking of a trip or buying a piece of property (even in a different country!) Extended reality can literally bring the world within our grasp.
The convenience of digital e-shopping and the personalized charm of store walk-ins are set to merge in the new ‘phygital’ experiences of retail. A simple use case would be a virtual changing room, wherein customers can see a full size virtual version of themselves trying on an article of clothing, checking the available inventory of sizes, colors and even getting advice on matching accessories or latest fashion styles from the store’s digital AI-powered personal assistants.
With XR, retail will also be able to merge the great divide of distances and be able to offer products globally without having the ‘muscles’ and distribution setup of much larger players in the space.
Imagine if instead of animals and cadavers, trainee doctors could actually simulate real-world emergencies, such as, conducting an emergency delivery on a pregnant lady in the back of a van. Would that make them more or less prepared to face the very real pressures of their actual work environment?
The same can be extrapolated to workers learning to deal with highly hazardous environments or materials. Real-life simulations can bring the dangers ‘close’ in a way traditional methods of training and textual knowledge rarely can.
This also has huge potential for businesses wherein there are real shortages of workers with the right skillsets. With extended reality, they will no longer be dependent on locally available talent, but be able to get work done by hiring highly skilled workers from anywhere in the world!
The success of XR in entertainment (gaming, movies and more) has been undeniable. We will continue to see high-level investment and innovation in designing highly immersive entertainment products.
We have barely started to scratch the surface with personalized campaigns and targeted advertising. The future of marketing has to be context-driven and personalized even while deployed at scale. This is something our current mass-marketing approaches depend on great creative ideas for.
With data-driven customer profiles and highly personalized messaging delivered through immersive technologies, marketing is likely to get more personal and intimate rather than rely on an idea to click with large swathes of the population.
Why be limited to buying properties in your town/ city? With VR walkthroughs and intelligent AI assistance, customers will be equipped to invest in real estate anywhere in the world – without ever stepping out of their own homes.
With anywhere operations slowly getting to be the mainstay of businesses everywhere, the technologies available for remote work need enhancement to meet the clarity and ‘feel’ of in-person collaborative environments. extended reality technology can help drive both training and collaboration at a scale current businesses only dream of.
Challenges of XR
Despite the mind-boggling potential of immersive technologies, the industry is still at a very nascent stage and has critical roadblocks and challenges to overcome in their quest for massive scaling. These include:
- High costs
- Data Privacy
- Digital and Technical Challenges
- Development and Design of Devices
- Cost of XR hardware that prevents not just individuals, but also businesses from buying them and developing software/ applications for them without facing prohibitive costs
- The potential of detrimental physical and impact of immersive technologies on people
- By their very nature and design, XR technologies collect and process huge amounts of highly detailed and personal data about who you are, what you do, what you look at, and even your physical state and emotions at any given time. Our sense of ethics and privacy laws are very far away from understanding the impact of these technologies and develop commensurate rules/ guidelines for ethical use of these fantastic tools.
If you’re looking for an IT Services provider or a provider of Managed IT support to help you guide on how you can implement extended reality as part of a digital transformation initiative, NCT can help.
We can help you develop a roadmap for relevant extended reality integration into your business processes that can drive the most impact on your bottom line. Give us a call today to know more.