Recent innovations have made it possible for everyday people to exist in multiple different realities, mediums and forms. As a result, it’s only natural that the technologies of tomorrow will help bridge the gaps created between these physical and virtual spaces. Enter augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).
Recognizing the space’s growing potential, investors have accelerated their interest in the AR/VR industry, even amid a global pandemic and subsequent economic uncertainty. Thanks to this interest, researchers predict that the industry will grow by more than $125 billion by 2024.
Often associated with gaming, AR/VR has the potential to revolutionize operations across industries. During the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, we’ve witnessed businesses and organizations around the world harness AI to deliver home-bound citizens a variety of new experiences.
But how could these technologies really transform industries? Let’s take a look:
Travel And Tourism
When national lockdowns and restrictions pushed us all into our homes last year, the only respite from our own space was a quick trip to the grocery store, neighborhood walk or visit to the doctor’s office. Despite these inhibiting circumstances, AR/VR technology has enabled people around the world to experience new countries, cities, museums and restaurants from the comfort of their own homes.
For businesses and organizations, AR/VR has allowed them to deliver unique consumers’ experiences. Notable locales such as the Louvre Museum in France, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Bryce Canyon in the U.S. have launched immersive virtual tours. Oculus found that the most popular experience with its Quest 2 headset in October 2020 was National Geographic VR, which takes viewers to different parts of the world.
As vaccination rates improve, people are returning to travel, but I believe AR/VR experiences like these are here to stay. In addition to its convenience, virtual tourism offers travelers a more sustainable, affordable and time-sensitive alternative to traditional travel and is redefining what it means to explore.
Retail And Shopping
Pre-pandemic, retailers were already finding ways to integrate technology into their in-store experiences. Now, however, after a year of accelerated e-commerce growth, digitization is an essential part of achieving success within the industry.
Reflecting this shift toward hybrid shopping experiences, retailers have bolstered AR/VR tools to deliver consumers new ways to shop mid-pandemic. These include Ulta’s GLAMlab, which enables shoppers to virtually try on makeup from anywhere. As a result of its convenience, the tool recorded a surge in usage during the pandemic, with engagement increasing seven-fold so that more than 50 million shades of foundations were swatched digitally with the app. Similarly, luxury retailer Gucci has launched The Gucci Virtual 25 with an exclusively digital sneaker design for an affordable $12.99. The shoes can be worn by virtual avatars in apps such as Roblox and VRChat.
In addition to creating new and interesting opportunities for consumers, AR/VR technology offers retailers real benefits to their bottom line. In fact, Shopify data showed that products having AR content had a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR. This information, in conjunction with a societal shift toward e-commerce adoption, has created opportunities for AR/VR throughout the retail space. As brands continue to explore these opportunities, AR/VR is can be a key differentiator within the industry.
Medicine And Healthcare
I’ve written previously about the important and growing role AI technologies will have in the future of medicine and healthcare. I predict AR/VR will also be critical to the industry’s advancements long-term.
We’ve already begun to see entrepreneurs harness the power of AR/VR to bring life-saving tools and solutions to medicine and healthcare, particularly within medical education. These companies have created VR solutions for surgical planning, training and education and are building tools that will support doctors and surgeons to create good outcomes.
Additionally, AR/VR tools have enabled doctors and other healthcare providers to continue to deliver personalized care experiences to their patients throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, industry investment in the space is rapidly growing with estimates projecting that the market for AR/VR in healthcare will reach a significant $2.4 billion by 2026.
Adding AR/VR To Your Business
Once a foreign and futuristic-sounding technology limited to the realm of gaming and entertainment, AR/VR is now being harnessed across industries to not only improve business performance but create a positive social impact. This, however, doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges.
High-quality data and AI are required to create efficient AR/VR outcomes. And according to Mckinsey Global Institute, 1 out of 3 use cases for retraining AI systems require a model refresh at least monthly, and sometimes daily. Given this necessary foundation of diverse and well-trained data, industry leaders need to create plans and strategies to ensure their AR/VR tech is integrated effectively for a mixed-reality future.
What AR/VR application are you most excited to try out for your company?