It has been a slow start for reality technologies in industry but there is an increasing awareness and interest for industry applications beyond gaming and entertainment. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are complimenting technologies that are beginning to make in-roads across all industries and especially in education and training, healthcare, transport, manufacturing, retail, tourism, security, oil and gas, and the global marine and shipping industry. Just in the last three years, the growth in the user base of VR technologies has grown multi-fold, towards hundreds of millions of users. The market size for AR and VR is forecasted by P&S Intelligence market research (globenewswire. com) to reach stratospheric levels with a market value USD $94.4 billion by 2023.
So why is there so much interest in AR and VR technologies in business? It’s very much about performance efficiency and managing risk. VR in a commercial operation for example, can be used to practically eliminate almost all design flaws and allow users of this technology to further explore all possible scenarios of usability and experience whether it is a Smart City, Smart Transport or any autonomous operations. Also, VR can help realise the user experience in an interactive capacity, and importantly help to enhance safety, reliability and longevity testing. In an example of a ship’s sailing conditions in different weather patterns and wave conditions throughout its life span, vessels can be tested using the AR/ VR approach through every phase of a vessel’s design cycle. This enables both designers and asset owners to clearly understand the impact of weather patterns on their vessels, so issues can be understood early on before the build structure to minimise costly modifications to the vessel’s design in later stages. Waymo’s 360o experience virtual-reality view of the world is one of the many great reality experiences that clearly identifies the value of immersive technologies entering the market!
But there are challenges in making the immersive experience a seamless, safe and secure environment. Firstly, the human interaction relating to perceived visuals and imagery, auditory perception, and localisation are yet to be enhanced to provide a safe and secure environment without any anomalies. Design challenges are also focused on offering a lightweight device with great aesthetic that is comfortable to wear. And, there are trends impacting the rate of adoption of AR and VR technologies, some of which include:
• 5G will offer seamless Gigabit communication with the latency of less than 1 ms which will make the AR/VR a fully mobile reality, and the UHD video quality stream will enrich the user’s reality experience.
• Easily accessible and affordable 3D content and creation is another factor for AR and VR that will take off in a big way. For example, Cappasity claims it is the first platform with blockchain infrastructure that solves the problem of creating and embedding 3D and AR/VR content and in an affordable way.
• Price points of headsets are of course another important aspect as the immersive technologies are increasingly adopted by users in both consumer and commercial applications, including skills learning and training. Recent price drops of the headsets from Oculus, HTC, Microsoft and others are a good indicator towards the market’s future growth volumes.
• Enhanced cyber security is a critical factor to be considered as more and more businesses are embracing the virtual reality solutions.
Interest by technology giants including Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft is a good lead factor on the future investment of AR/VR solutions to further advance the way businesses innovate and transform their own operations and services they take to market. These technologies have also cleared a major milestone in that AR/ VR start-ups continue to raise major financial investments to improve the performance and knowledge capabilities of the hardware capacities used in AR/VR applications, and the way that content is becoming more readily accessible and available at a reasonable cost to drive mass adoption. Examples such as the mobile-based AR with Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are gaining traction and will help accelerate the development of new innovative applications.
AR/VR technologies are delivering real benefits on how businesses are transforming their own processes, especially from the design stage to field installation/deployment and to field maintenance/service:
• It is exciting to see how Lockheed Martin is using AR/VR fuelled with machine learning to explore new frontiers in sending humans to Mars.
• Stanley Black and Decker is using AR/VR to transform manufacturing as part of their investment in SBD Makerspace.
• Lloyd’s Register (LR) is using AR/VR for ease of communication and collaboration that can enhance the field service at a remote site for example at sea, or in any other harsh environment, to provide increased productivity combined with increased safety.
• The National Museum of Singapore’s DigiMuse initiative includes VR that takes the museum tour experience to a greater level of visitor engagement.
The regional hotspots that are driving new technology initiatives are also advancing. Asia is already showing signs of emerging very fast as a primary market for technology-based reality solutions as China, Japan and Korea take on big advances in the adoption of AR/VR immersive technologies. This trend is supported by Digi-Capital that forecasts Asia, including China, could deliver around half of the global AR/VR market revenue in just five years time.
Continued advancements in computing, sensor technologies, cameras, drones, IoT platforms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and mobile communication technologies are shaping tomorrow’s industries and the mindset of today’s consumers; technology is beginning to transform the way we work and do business with each other. AR/VR immersive solutions in business and consumer markets offer a digital convergence of multiple technologies, and with a vast array of multi-play offerings and solutions that will further accelerate digital innovations across all industries and market sectors. The dawn of a new and exciting technology paradigm is already upon us!
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