The ‘Extended Reality’ (XR) and How Emerging Technologies Such as AR and VR Will Impact Our World
The ‘Extended Reality’ (XR) is a term that refers to both real and virtual-world environments, combined and generated by technology; in doing so, it is accounting for the rise of Augmented and Virtual Reality, and how both are becoming ever more prevalent within the corporate world. As we begin to look to a future where the real-world and virtual-world continue to merge, the rise of the XR and its implications for the Business sector, could be one of the most exciting technological advancements we experience throughout the next decade.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Let’s deep-dive into what these technologies are and the differences between them. Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated environment, entirely computer-generated with scenes and objects that are not real (think ‘Ready Player One’). On the other side of the XR coin, we have Augmented Reality (AR). This is an interactive experience of the real-world, overlaid with sensory information used to enhance the users experience (think ‘Pokémon Go’). In summary, AR merges both the virtual and real-worlds together, whilst VR provides only a fictional reality. From here, we can focus on the impact that VR and AR can have, both now and potentially in the near future.
In analysing market growth, AR, in particular, is beginning to have various, major impacts in the world of Technology, specifically within certain Business sectors. According to MarketsandMarkets, as of 2020, the Augmented Technology market alone is worth $14.7 billion, and is expected to reach over $88 billion by 2026.
With such a growing demand for emerging technologies, fuelled by an understanding of its capabilities and functionality, the big question is, “Which industry sectors are beginning to adopt these technologies, and how could they evolve in the future?”. An interesting article in ‘2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything’ by Mauro F. Guillén, explores how VR and AR applications are already starting to shape the healthcare markets, specifically for the elderly.
A start-up called Rendever currently develops VR applications to help senior citizens overcome their sense of isolation, by specifically creating social situations (such as Bingo, Darts, Arts and Crafts) where they can play and explore as a group. This extends to taking trips to places around the world, both in their own homes and in their care communities. You can imagine that not only is this a fantastic use of technology for a growing market, but it will also aid in improved quality of life, and help combat struggles with isolation.
Where once-upon-a-time the Wii Fit was the pinnacle of VR technology, we are also seeing increased traction in the Health and Fitness industry. Companies such as Ghost Pacer are making AR Glasses that allow runners to compete with holographic avatars, and race them in real-time. From here, you can already envisage the applications that this exciting tech will begin building on, across various sectors.
In the Education sector, we have also seen the trend of merging interactive experiences into real-world environments, and it will certainly bring major change to the way we educate our students. In ensuring online learning processes are more efficient, and more importantly, accessible to all (considering the newly remote nature of some of our education systems), will allow for a more immersed experience in a virtual setting.
Another huge benefit to utilising these technologies, is that they will help in cementing the learning process, by creating a much more involved experience. With students’ learning experiences being at the forefront, enter businesses such as Immersive VR Education, that has created a VR App that simulates a lecture room, whilst also turning all of the subjects into visual and fully-involved experiences. With some companies creating more immersive Museum trips for students, and others that offer monthly content on a wealth of subjects in a virtual learning world, it is clear that the possibilities for this technology, both in the present and the near future, are endless.
In a recent Forbes article that explores the ‘XR Revolution’, it is widely agreed that there are several ways in which this new reality will continue to grow and become much more consumer-focused. Whether it be through functionality, such as making smaller, more compact VR Headsets with improved, additional features (such as Eye Tracking technology), or even more accessories, such as Robotic Boots or Full Body Haptic Suits (we already have the Gloves!), all will enhance the user’s experience. It is widely believed that the end-goal is likely to see XR technology seamlessly merge and integrate with the human body, and much more.
In summary, it is clear that these technologies, specifically AR, are both exciting and already part of our everyday life, and many industries are looking to harness its potential of scale. It will be interesting to see which sectors begin pushing forward with the ‘XR Revolution’ over others, and how quickly the technology will integrate with the human ‘way of life’ in the near future. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that this is sure to happen very quickly, and that 2026 isn’t too far away.
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