A term that’s gaining a lot of traction and heard increasingly often is Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR). The reason for this is because AR & VR are the next phase in the technological advancement that we have achieved. Similar to the smartphone when it first came out, AR/VR tech will start to change the way we do business and interact with the world on a daily basis. This is the future of technology so it is essential to understand how it can impact the way business is done in order to stay ahead.
What exactly is AR & VR?
AR & VR although usually discussed together have significant differences while also sharing similar features.
- Virtual Reality – VR usually immerses the user in a virtual environment using a headset that essentially isolates you from the real world
- Augmented Reality – AR on the other hand projects virtual objects and information onto the real world around you
Even though VR can give you the opportunity to create and explore any number of virtual worlds it is still restricted as far as the user is concerned. For instance the best VR systems (such as Oculus Rift) will not allow you to move too far away from the hardware, and even though there are less immersive options (with smaller hardware) for instance Samsung’s Gear VR, you wouldn’t generally be wearing one around while out and about.
AR on the other hand works while the user moves around relatively free, so information and objects are projected onto what you see. This can be done in a variety of ways for instance the mobile phone (how the popular Pokémon Go app works) or even cutting edge technology like the Microsoft HoloLens (which is a battery powered mixed platform with both AR and VR capabilities).
What impact does it have on business?
A 360 degree immersive experience can significantly change the way people do many things and can especially impact business in several ways. The rapid way that technology advances opens new opportunity for businesses. Just like the people who embraced mobile technologies and social media – businesses that become early adopters of AR & VR tech will be able to leverage this to stay ahead of the competition within their respective industries. Discussed below are some business uses of AR & VR:
- Online Shopping & Product Display: Although a majority of people prefer online shopping because of the convenience (and better deals), the biggest issue for most online shoppers is being unable to truly experience (or try) the product before purchasing it. Now with VR and AR the online shopping experience will be revolutionised – now a customer can engage in an immersive experience of a product or service, even try on clothing to see how it looks or place furniture in your environment to see the size and fit.
- Training: VR & AR technology can not only be implemented as part of your business to improve the customer’s experience. This technology can also be used internally within the business to improve the professional development and training of your employees. For instance VR (or AR) training can be done without monitoring especially for jobs that involve an aspect of danger. Since a virtual experience (very much like the real thing) does not have the aspect of danger involved it would mean minimal supervision thus saving time (and money). In addition to this other training or professional development courses can be improved to be made more practically engaging rather than just theory based. When an employee actually interacts and engages with a learning experience first-hand they are more likely to gain from the experience and remember.
- Virtual Tours: In the future purchasing property or even selecting your next holiday destination can be done based on virtual tours. A customer will be able to take a tour of an apartment even before its built or experience hotel rooms and locations before making a booking.
- Product Design: In the old days when designing a product a physical mock-up or model would have to be created or at the very least a computer model to assess how it would look and function in reality. With AR & VR product design has become a lot more efficient allowing designers to see, interact with and assess a product in real-life situations. Even user feedback can be obtained remotely simply by sharing the virtual experience with potential users.
- Improved brand loyalty: Businesses and their brands will be able to give customers a more stimulating virtual interaction with their products and services thus creating a more educational and entertaining experience which will strengthen their relationships with the business.