Three Steps to Get Started with Augmented/Virtual Reality in Your Enterprise
The history of virtual and augmented reality is longer than you might think. Starting with panoramic paintings in nineteenth century, through stereoscopes and 3D movies, then flight or driving simulators in first half of the 20th century to the very first gaming headsets appearing in the early nineties. With the rise of mobile devices for personal use (mainly smart phones and wearables), virtual reality and its younger siblings augmented and mixed (VR/AR) reality are now regularly making headlines.
As AV/VR is now gaining traction in industries from gaming to manufacturing, maybe you've been wondering: How could I use this emerging tech in my own business?
According to IDC's Augmented/Virtual Reality Spending Guide, overall year-on-year growth in this market is 134.7%. Key verticals are all showing at least by 90% spending growth from 2015, with the highest growth coming from the public sector — a whopping gain of 314%. If you want to be part of this growth, then this article could help you take your necessary first steps.
Step 1: Go and Play
Surprisingly, many professionals that are talking about the AR/VR business have no actual hands-on experience with the technology. The easiest way to fix this is by gaming. In every major city, you can find gaming rooms (traditionally known as "arcades") that will feature some AR/VR games. You should try as many platforms as possible, games, and simulations as possible, in order to get a feel for its ergonomics. Best to spend most of the time with simulations, especially if you can find one with a use case applicable for your industry. For example, I experienced a great simulation of working as an auto mechanic. The game guided me through an actual car repair job, which I completed with my hands. I found this gave me a much better idea of how the technology would be used in business than a game that simulated shooting zombies (for example).
It should be noted that the virtual environment is not for everybody, and some people might feel dizzy or uncomfortable after 20-30 minutes. In my experience, it's best to visit the gaming room in a group of 2-4 people. Then you can share the experience, get immediate feedback, and discuss possible use cases. It could even make a great trip for a small team-building session, or provide an opportunity to meet with colleagues from other departments.
Another alternative is to use your smartphone, provided that it's VR-ready (i.e., has a gyroscope and fast enough CPU) with a special headset. You'll need to install a VR platform, such as Google Cardboard. This is an easy, inexpensive introduction, because the most readily available headset might actually be cheaper than an hour in a VR gaming room. That said, the performance you're likely to get with a smartphone will not match the systems typically found in a good gaming room, so you might feel dizzy just after a few minutes of use.
Experiencing augmented or mixed reality is a little bit more complicated because the required devices are not so easy to find or rent. You could get a rudimentary taste of the augmented/mixed experience with your smartphone — such as an AR tape measure — but it is also advisable to have some experience with miniature filed-of-vision monitors, such as Google Glass.
Step 2: Study use cases
The most valuable uses cases for AR/VR are simulations. If you need to train many people to use a very expensive or difficult-to-access device, like a nuclear reactor or rescue helicopter, you could start with virtual reality training first and save time and money. Everybody is familiar with flight simulators, so why not to simulate the other things like device assembly or heavy equipment operation? Remote guidance through AR/VR could save lives in the event an immediate medical procedure is required or it could mitigate cost of mechanical breakdowns in isolated locations.
Another use case for simulation in the area of healthcare is for trial surgeries and training. With the help of mixed reality, many complex medical scenarios can be created and projected onto a figurine.
Augmented reality is already in use in the areas of construction and warehousing logistics, helping users to locate, identify or get a description of a particular item on a vast site or complex storage facility. It can also aid assembly line workers by recommending which parts are needed at a particular stage of assembly and how pieces are supposed to be joined together. Entire assembly/repair manuals can be built into a wearable device.
Another excellent use case is data visualization of large, complex datasets, where some kind of visual representation is needed to formulate a hypothesis about a structure. In the case of traditional dimension reduction techniques, this would give you one dimension more, which can make a significant difference for data insight.
When hunting for use cases, don’t forget to do sufficient research of important players in the AR/VR platform market. Some platforms have already failed, some are fighting to become industry standards, and others are still trying to deliver on their promises. Enough research is certain to turn up some AR/VR use cases in your industry, or close to it.
Step 3: Proof of concept
If you've done your homework, played and partied in gaming rooms, installed a few AR/VR apps on your smartphone, and studied the market and use cases — maybe you already have some ideas how to apply AR/VR in your business.
If so, all you need to do is to create a proof of concept for your idea. Contact your business analyst to collate all requirements and your architect or developer to design the first solution prototype. Get your colleagues to test it, and potentially discover new use cases based on your experience and feedback. Are competitors doing something similar already? Are your customers going to like it?
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