Coronavirus - A catalyst for the virtual and augmented world


Coronavirus - A catalyst for the virtual and augmented world in 2020

The Gen-Z information and communication technologies that have an extensive reach, huge potential, and significant technical cap are Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Extended Reality (XR). These technologies, in conjunction with other allied processes, have significantly contributed towards our attempts to struggle out of the COVID-19 situation and played a significant role in carrying out business and personal assignments.

While work on these cutting edge technologies was already underway and supposed to see the dawn little later, the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us into the future quite early. Technologies which were considered futuristic are not only hot topics but also their implementation is at rocket speed. The dwindling economy, coupled with a change in lifestyle and behavioural patterns of the society as a whole, have made the technology sector to change gears rapidly and fast-track real-life implementation in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

While Virtual Reality is a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world, Augmented Reality adds digital elements to a live view by using a camera on a smartphone. With Microsoft’s HoloLens addition which has created a combination of AR & VR and helped to develop the MR so that the real-world and digital objects can interact with each other. On the other hand, when we talk about the XR as an umbrella of AR, VR & XR, creating an unreal, simulated world for us to experience.

Though AR/VR is creating a buzz and we can find it in almost all fields like gaming, entertainment, travel, advertising, retail, automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, military, aerospace, or in the space of architecture. Though applications through AR/VR is endless, the essential implementation in specific fields is helping companies solve some critical problems seamlessly. Such as Remote Inspection process in Oil & Gas – Refineries and FPSO, Remote Maintenance & Repair in Automotive – Commercial & Farm Equipments, or through MR experience in real estate and home improvement by providing an interactive walkthrough or instant delivery of information via Mobile AR applications.

The remote working is the need of the hour, and for that, Mixed Reality has played a crucial part. For the Remote Asset Inspection where the physical presence of the site technician and Technology Specialist was required, such a significant challenge at the time of COVID is resolved through Augmented Reality. Not only this helps with the inspection and repair process but also helps in the employee’s safety.

Unlike a traditional user interface, VR is a technology by which computer-aided stimuli create immersive illusions. Virtual Reality represents a paradigm shift in the way humans understand the digital aura. Though Virtual Reality as a concept is not new, it was also not very common among the masses. That was until now. Now, with the circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, the implementation of VR technology is rapidly moving from the “nice-to-have”/”futuristic” zone to “must-have”/”current” zone. While access to the external physical world was restricted, the demand for technologies such as AR and VR that acted as enablers to mimic the physical world saw a steep rise. Digital activities such as work from home, home-based fitness, online education, home-based entertainment, online shopping, have taken over their outside world counterparts. This stay behind the door situation has caused companies to restructure their services and products around COVID -19 situation and virtual Reality.

The catalyst changing the Reality

While AR/VR saw its record growth in 2019 and not only in gaming industries but also the adoption of a new application in other sectors. While the commercial support for AR/VR smart glasses is rising through big tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google, they are making serious commitments to improving the reach of Smart glass technology to the users through supporting mobile applications as well.

The innovative trends in the market related to AR/VR are growing and shaping the future well, some of the key trends to watch are in the following sectors -

  • Virtual Shopping:Consumers in the fashion industry always look for an easy shopping experience, with the pandemic going when the physical shopping experience has reduced tremendously, online channels have opened their gateways. With Augmented Reality, where a company like Lacoste have developed virtual fitting rooms to try-before-you-buy, a company like IKEA has developed an app for customers to identify the right product fit in their home without even visiting the brick-and-mortar store.
  • Entertainment:The entertainment industry has also jumped into the VR world with music concerts now being streamed through VR platforms for a greater reach and more immersive experience.
  • Businesses for the virtual visitor:Every meeting has shifted to virtual desks now. From conferences to the product launches, digitalization is rolling its dice with VR technology to check their fullest potential. This shift in behaviour caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to outlive the virus itself.
  • Education and healthcare:Education is expected to be impacted by augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality. Education is a field where the digital transformation concepts can be readily accepted without a second thought, as it stokes curiosity. Masses have adopted the virtual way of study during the house arrests all across India.

With the introduction to Apple ARKit 3.0 and Google’s ARCore, the rapid growth of AR/VR opportunities can be seen in other industries as well. The market evolves and remains open to innovative business-driven solutions through Virtual and Augmented Reality which is enhanced by Artificial Intelligence. Through AI and ML, computer vision can be improved by bringing Mixed Reality. Likewise, by pairing consumer profiles with AR/VR and AI, retailers can identify customer needs and provide necessary recommendations for point-and-shoot retail AR solutions.

Deloitte Research concludes that augmented Reality and artificial intelligence will transform the traditional healthcare business model offering AR/MR-enabled hands-free solutions and AI-based diagnostic tools. While gaming will remain dominant in the AR/VR world in terms of Revenue and innovation products, other industries applications are also expected to pick up steam.

Experts predict the AR/VR industry to reach more than $25B by 2025—and the growth will continue steadily. That’s the bright future of Virtual and Augmented Reality, and it is defined by the investments and adoption rate which has increased tremendously after the pandemic struck us.

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