It is said that an artist is never satisfied with reality and thus is born the need to imagine, to create characters and images that do not exist in the real world. Artistic creations are experienced internally within the deeper recesses of our mind. Some may call it a way to escape from the dull throb of the real world and experience a range of emotions that occur within us evoked as they are by works of art. Technological innovation in the form of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality may well bring such experiences to the outside. Powered by new age devices it is now possible to take a walk through an imagery and interact with it. Virtual Reality allows immersive experiences where a user can interact with a manufactured representation of a real world setting or imaginary places whereas Augmented Reality puts a layer of contextual information such as text, images and interactive graphics over a real world setting, creating a device powered hyper- reality.
However, the use of such technologies is not merely confined to entertainment and they are being deployed across various businesses. Here we will undertake a short survey of the disruptive potential of these technologies and how they are likely to recast long standing business practices.
An evolution of interface
Invention of computers necessitated creation of an interface between the user and the machine. Earlier, digital experience was not possible without a piece of hardware such as a mouse or a keyboard. With the advent of smart phones, intuitive and simple interactions; point-click-tab-type gave way to touch-swipe and talk.
AR and VR are the next stages of the interface between user and the device where use of natural modes of human interaction such as posture, gesture and gaze place the user within the experience. So from clicks and swipes used to maneuver smart phones with both AR and VR technologies we move to spoken words, gestures, fidgeting, grabbing, pushing, a nod, or even a blink to get sort of embedded within the interface. From staring on monitors while clicking through a mouse or typing with a keyboard to the use of more efficient and intuitive responses such as touch and swipe on smartphones, the next stage of digital experience will happen as we go about living our routines lives through natural gestures.
Novel deployments of AR and VR
Excitement around AR and VR technologies is increasing with each new deployment. Apart from their usage in gaming and entertainment, the consumer technologies, certain non-commercial prototypes have made the world sit up and notice, such as the use by Los Angeles Philharmonic allowing audiences to immerse themselves in the world of Beethoven. The British Museum is using the technology to create a Bronze Age roundhouse containing both real and virtual artifacts of the period. In psychotherapy University of Louisville is creating exposure therapies to help phobia patients confront and learn to contain their fears. There have been production of first person point-of-view (POV) documentaries allowing audiences to virtually enter a Syrian refugee camp or an African village beset by Ebola.
Role in business
These technologies are set to change the traditional way of business. To effect better communications and collaboration among employees these technologies can be used. Examples include, use of AR to view retail shelf inventory and sales data by Marketing managers and use of VR technology to transform videoconferencing and live chats into immersive interactions featuring real facial expressions, physical gestures, and subtle nonverbal cues that are replicated in real time. High-cost training and simulation environments, that allow rehearsal of critical scenarios without the risk of real consequences, can be made more useful and efficient with the use of AR and VR. In construction industry, building developers can now walk through full -scale computer rendered structures to understand the impact of design decisions. A jet engine’s service hours, component temperature, and service panel details can be overlaid into an aircraft mechanic’s field of vision with the help AR solutions. Experts can guide representatives to corrective steps in real time with the help of VR solutions. In the field of interactive marketing, travel, hospitality, and leisure firms are offering virtual exploration of properties and amenities. In some cases, wind machines and olfactory stimulants are even being used to give guests a feel of the experience that awaits them at the actual property. Meanwhile, the consumer AR/ VR market is awaiting offerings from Samsung, Microsoft, Facebook Google, HTC, Motorola, Sony, and other leading technology brands. Start-ups such as MagicLeap, Lensar, and NantMobile, among others, plan to launch their own exciting products in the near future.
The excessive power consumption needs of the first computer of the world, ENIAC – which weighed almost 50 tons and occupied nearly 1,800 square feet, had led to rumours that whenever it is switched on lights in the city of Philadelphia dimmed. From such gigantic sizes, computer are now shrunk to hand-held and wearable devices. This a journey of bringing the user closer to the interface. Advent of smartphones removed the need for intermediary objects to access the interface. With AR and VR technologies, interface has become accessible through bodily movements that are natural. Talking about the next stage of computer evolution, Peter F. Drucker has said, “The next major explosion is going to be when genetics and computer come together. I’m taliking about an organic computer – about biological substances that can function like semiconductor.” We may still be quite far from the day when talking about people and computers as two separate categories would be meaningless as they would have merged into each other, becoming indistinguishable. May be an age would dawn upon us when computer abilities would get grafted on the human genome. However, for now AR and VR technologies have brought humans face-to- face with the digital experience which they can operate on in their natural stride.