Our sense of reality will soon truly be in the eye of the beholder. With Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) about to hit the mainstream, these technologies are set to transform not only the way we game but do business.
SIMILAR BUT NOT
AR and VR differ in the level of immersion of the user’s experience as well as some of the technology that’s under the bonnet. Both rely on the creation of a 3D environment through the use of 360-degree video, and other media in combination with dedicated software to create the sense of “being there”. There are, however, some important distinctions.
Virtual Reality uses software to create an artificial setting that resembles reality so effectively that it makes us feel that it’s almost, well, real. Perhaps you’ve heard of Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR? These systems have been embraced by the gaming community and with good reason. They promise to deliver what Oculus has called the “magic of presence”.
They use state-of-the-art displays and optics designed specifically for VR. High refresh rates and low-persistence displays work together with custom optics system to create an immersive, wide field of view. VR simulates the real world which can be navigated with a head-mounted display.
Augmented Reality is, as the name suggests, reality that has been enhanced. Sitting in between the realm of the physical and the digital, AR allows technology to zhoosh up reality.
AR differs from VR in that it has the addition of computer-generated images that are overlaid on objects within the real world. AR uses smartphones or a wearable device with a webcam with software that recognises an image and then displays this onto an object.
If your business hasn’t heard about AR yet that’s all about to change forever very soon. AR is going to be very big for business. In fact, Juniper Research, a mobile and digital tech analyst firm, has predicted that AR technology used in the enterprise will create a tenfold increase in annual app revenues, representing US$2.4 billion in 2019.
To find out more Yes! Online magazine spoke to several companies that are helping to bring AR to the business market.
First up, we spoke to David Francis, AR and IoT specialist at Kalido, a creative and digital services agency that provides AR solutions as means for businesses to better engage with their customers.
“AR brings about a feeling of transparency. It allows businesses to better communicate the value of their products and services by augmenting their visual point of view with an enhanced version of reality,” he said.
David explained that this has far-reaching benefits in the business world as AR allows us to process huge, context-specific amounts of data, well beyond the scope of a single human being.
“Consider that a computer can gauge distance, volume and depth in context. Soon we’ll be able to capture all of that on a smartphone, and the potential is enormous.
“Mobile phones will be able to see and understand the world around you; make sense of it and be able to depth-map it. This means they’ll offer the sort of computer vision that only advanced robotics allowed,” he said.
AR is already being used in workplace training to teach people how to do spatially-referenced tasks. Plus, David points to the experience of AR at Boeing where AR was used to bring about a dramatic decrease in error rates.
“That virtual environment allows us to develop a kinetic, physical relationship that means you can develop a kinaesthetic memory of how to do a task.
It’s no surprise that there isn’t a major enterprise in the world that isn’t investigating augmented reality,” David said.
LINK TO IOT
AR is set to change every aspect of our lives, according to Glenn Vassallo, Senior IoT Solutions Specialist at ThingWorx, due to the convergence of the digital and physical worlds.
ThingWorx markets a technology platform designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the leading AR platform Vuforia. Glenn believes that the full potential of AR will be unlocked when it’s used in conjunction with IoT.
“AR will not be a separate technology standing in isolation; the real power comes when it is used in conjunction with IoT technologies that connects applications, people and things and with Machine Learning, where data is used to make decisions and solve problems,” he said.
“We’re working on business applications of AR right now for field servicing and maintenance function. The advantages are considerable including reduced field staff training costs; faster repairs and greater customer satisfaction; as well as the capacity for small businesses to service more products with limited specialist field staff and a more consistent level of service.” Glenn said.
Red Cartel, an animation studio based in Sydney that services the gaming and advertising industries, works on various AR and VR experiences such as vehicle visualisation and interactive property visualisations that allow customers to walk through and customise property that has yet to be built.
According to Red Cartel’s Managing Director, Landon Curry, their largest demand is from advertising agencies and property developers.
“There’s also interest from educational facilities, the medical profession for training and psychologists seeking more effective ways to improve therapy.
“Industry is already using AR and VR to train their technicians to repair complex machinery which has led to substantially fewer errors. Doctors can also educate their patients (and students) by interacting with MRI data or demonstrating how a new medical instrument or procedure works.
“We also expect to see growth in virtual showrooms. Car manufacturers will be able to have all their vehicles (and all the options for every vehicle) in virtual showrooms. VR showrooms will have a much smaller footprint and can be set up in smaller locations like shopping malls to expose more people to their products,” he said.
Landon predicts that developments in haptics (tactile sensing) and motion tracking will further enhance the VR experience by adding a sense of touch along with social VR allowing multiple users to share experiences. “The VR tsunami is here, and there are a lot of business and industry’s getting involved,” Landon said.
IMAGE WRIT LARGE
Rapturous Media uses VR technology with photographic imagery to bring physical locations to life. Managing Director, Ondrej Koucky said the company specialises in making “a virtual experience of any physical location that is entirely interactive”.
“We specialise in developing 360-degree content and creating photo-realistic interactive VR experiences. We can help brands to put their customers in the driver’s seat. This seamless blend of photography and technology allows your customer to experience products at their leisure from any computer, mobile or virtual reality headset. Customers can explore destinations, events, venues and any type of business where the location is at the heart of the customer experience,” he said.
“Although most of our business comes from the government, travel/tourism and hospitality sector we’ve worked with clients across other industries. This includes the education sector, entertainment, healthcare and commercial real estate.
“VR devices provide incredible opportunities for sales, marketing and brand activation. Major companies and government agencies instantly recognized the potential of VR technology to promote their business and we currently work on many projects across various sectors,” Ondrej said.
He predicts that all sectors of the economy will benefit from VR. Beyond the early adopters – travel and tourism, real estate, hospitality and education – he thinks news, media and broadcasting, as well as advertisers, will also quickly adopt the new VR technologies.
“VR has immense power to take people to places without physically being there. Once you put the headset on, you think you are somewhere else. The technology is so good that it tricks your brain, and it takes you to another place.
“VR has the potential to change how we perceive the world. There are a lot of opportunities not only for hardware and software developers but also for businesses to use AR and VR for business process, and improved and enhanced customer service,” Ondrej said.
TELL YOUR STORY IN 3D
StartVR is a dedicated VR content and production studio that builds visceral and engaging virtual experiences for virtual reality devices.
Kain Tietzel, Co-founder and CEO calls VR a “computer-generated experience that tricks the brain into believing that what it is seeing is real”.
He predicts that VR will have an impact on every industry in the same way that the PCs, mobiles and the Internet redefined the global economy.
“VR removes the limitations of the physical world and allows us to experience anything. It means you can tell your story in a way that no other medium can. You have 100% of the viewer’s undivided attention and what you show to them can have a profound impact.
“For small business, this means bringing your product to life for your customer. It could be an immersive virtual tour of your factory, showing the care in how you manufacture products or a simulated training experience that places the user in an otherwise impossible or dangerous situation. Companies that provide services could more easily illustrate the benefits of their offerings.
“I believe the main benefit of VR is the ability to completely and thoroughly create a simulated environment that is visceral, engaging and completely believable. And because there are no other stimuli, you have 100% of the viewer’s attention.
“We have a saying in the office: ‘Everyone remembers their first VR experience’. That’s a very powerful memory,” Kain said.
Real business benefits
Virtual Reality Ventures specialises in providing high-quality, custom 360 media, apps and software to drive profit and grow business.
Managing Director, Stefan Pernar agrees that AR and VR are set to transform the business world.
The company is looking into ways to deliver immersive assets to leverage AR capability to bring business intelligence to life.
“The idea is to overlay business information in real time, over assets deployed to aid in asset management and continuous process improvements.
“The potential is enormous. The obvious early beneficiaries are remodelling and redevelopment companies in the real estate and construction space. But other areas can benefit like manufacturing where real time information and measurements can be overlaid over production equipment, colour-coded and tagged with notes for employees to improve safety and efficiency,” Stefan said.
There you have it – the brave new world of VR and AR are about to become a reality for business. Will your business be ready?
READY TO GET VIRTUAL?
2016 will be a big year for VR and AV. Get your bonus Gear VR headset (RRP $159) when you buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. Offer ends 30 June, 2016.