Published: Thu 2nd February 2017
Read Time: 5 minutes
The Future of Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR)
In the first half of 2016, virtual reality (VR) was introduced to the consumer market, with the release of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets. The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift were developed with the intention of further advancing the way in which humans consume video games; VR enables interaction with digital entities through body motion capture – instead of a keyboard and mouse. The headsets cost £759 and £499 respectively – prices that are accessible to most individuals who show interest in this technology. Having accessible prices are paramount to the widespread adoption of this technology.
Where VR surrounds the user in a virtual environment, augmented reality (AR) adds virtual features into the physical world. Microsoft is currently developing its AR headset, the HoloLens. In March 2016, a pre-production version of the HoloLens was made available for developers, at the price of $3000. Outside of gaming, there are many applications of AR and VR that have been conceptualised.
Improved Communication and Collaboration
Supposing AR and VR technology reaches a level that is advanced enough, peers in separate geographical locations will be able to interact with each other through augmented and virtual reality as if they were together in real life. By communicating body language, emotion, and facial expressions of people through AR and VR, peers communicate more naturally and therefore more effectively – compared to current limited solutions, such as cloud-collaboration tools (e.g. Google Docs).
Managers who wish to maintain relationships with business clients in different locations around the world can hold events in VR, which reduces costs such as venue costs and travel costs, whilst retaining the social motive of the event.
Faster and Lower Cost Prototyping
Microsoft also proposes that HoloLens, their AR solution, can be used by designers to realise their 2D ideas into the 3D world. For example, an Ikea furniture designer may have a design idea for a chair. Traditionally, the designer would draw the design into CAD software, send the design to a manufacturer, wait for the prototype to be made, receive the prototype, and then finally assess the spatial aspects of the design. Are the dimensions attractive? Do the legs of the chair stick out too much? With AR, the designer can draw the chair idea directly into 3D space and assess its design on the spot.
Ford, the automobile company, have been using the Oculus Rift headset in the prototyping process of producing a car – they use VR to evaluate the exterior and interior design of the car, to gauge the car’s appeal to consumers before producing it. A full-scale car prototype made of industrial plasticine can cost up to $300,000 to make. Hence, using VR to reduce the number of full-scale industrial plasticine car prototypes can reduce costs significantly. The 2 scenarios given above show that AR and VR not only lower prototyping costs, but also accelerate the process.
Demonstrating Products More Efficiently
In the retail and real-estate industry, products are often examined and researched by potential buyers before making a purchase. In the case of the real-estate industry, many real-estate firms provide virtual tours to help potential buyers make a purchasing decision. Currently, these virtual tours come in the form of 360-degree video. If these virtual tours use VR, potential buyers can not only observe the property, but can also interact with it in real time. This allows potential buyers to make better informed purchasing decisions through the virtual tours, and hence saves time – as it reduces the amount of visits needed to the physical property.
Will AR and VR Make It into the Workspace?
Currently, AR and VR technology is limited to replicating human interactions with real world objects. With VR, users are still reliant on using a controller with buttons to perform actions – such as grabbing an item. With AR, other users that are being projected into the virtual space are represented as cartoonish avatars. The technology still has tremendous scope for improvement, and many concepts discussed above are unrealistic as of today.
On the other hand, AR and VR technology is projected to increase in its capabilities and adoption – In a way similar to that of tablet devices when those were first introduced. The cost of AR and VR is projected to drop as time goes on as well. Therefore, it is very likely that when AR and VR provide enough value at a low enough cost, businesses will be ready to adopt the technology.