The application of augmented and virtual reality in business

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MIGGY CASTAÑEDA

If you’ve been looking closely at the technology employed in movies, you might notice the “hard light” holograms that Tony Stark uses, or the smart tables used in the more recent James Bond films. What if you were told that these bits of tech aren’t exactly fictional these days? Would you also believe that such technology wonders are making it much easier now for people to do business?

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The entertainment applications of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR, respectively) have been around for some time, with the mixed reality industry already looking to be worth $150 billion by 2020, according to Manatt Digital Media.

On augmented reality

“Mixed Reality” as a concept means using either virtual or augmented reality software or hardware to enhance presentations, show and manipulate data in real-time, all with a few gestures. Perhaps the best example of augmented reality that has been committed to recent memory is Niantic’s and Nintendo’s Pokémon Go.

The main difference between VR and AR is that the latter allows users to view graphical enhancements to the already present, physical environment, as opposed to VR, which places users in a totally new interactive environment.

Think of the ways AR could change presentation spaces, odds are that these ways are slowly making their way into markets across the globe. Furniture giant Ikea, for example, created an AR space to show how a couch might look in one’s home, or how a rug might mesh with the overall design of a room.

One might be inclined to think that these AR spaces cost a fortune, if simply based on what we’ve been shown on film and TV, but this isn’t the case. Ikea’s AR space was made possible via an app, accessible on both Android and iOS.

In the last five years, AR technology on mobile has evolved into a $5.2 billion industry, and while the gaming and entertainment segments are the largest, they are followed closely by healthcare, social networking, tourism and other enterprises.

There are many ways that AR affects the business sector, particularly since it’s a unique way to show off a product, it ensures brand recall and increased awareness.

On virtual reality

The VR space has been a token trope in many science fiction novels, but recent developments – spearheaded by some of the biggest names in tech like Google and Samsung – saw people across the world viewing a medical operation on a 70-year-old cancer patient in London. Viewers had full control over their vantage points, as if they were actually in the room.

VR as the world knows it today is a far cry from the View Master headsets, and the clunky pieces released by Nintendo and Sega in the 1980s. Consumers in 2017 may be more familiar with the Google Cardboard, or the Samsung Gear, both of which turn smartphones into VR headsets, or the HTC Vive, which plunges users into a new, wholly interactive environment.

It potentially allows businesses to communicate more effectively, or to wholly focus on tasks by being completely immersed in a virtual space. The largest example of this is Oculus Rift’s Virtual Desktop, which works exactly the way one would expect a normal desktop to work, but with its user completely immersed in the environment.

Final thoughts

VR and AR applications in the workplace are also something to look forward to. Imagine being trained by someone a thousand miles away, yet they appear to be in the same space as you, looking at the exact pieces of data you’re looking at. Industry specialists in fields like engineering and retail are already using VR and AR to bring a new experience to consumers.

The technology is still new, and not every business has adapted to it, and not every idea works in the VR/AR space – for now.

Miggy Castañeda writes about personal finance for MoneyMax.ph. He has also contributed pieces to Yahoo! Philippines, ABS-CBN News, and Rappler.com. MoneyMax.ph is a financial comparison website aiming to help Filipinos save money through diligent comparisons of financial products.

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