Along with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, many discuss virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) as the next technologies that will transform how we live our lives and how businesses operate globally. And one of the only ways to stay relevant today is to keep up with these swift changes sweeping across industries and our daily lives.
At my company, we have a few VR companies in our portfolio and have worked on their go-to-market strategies and infrastructure; I have seen this type of technology gain traction exponentially, open new doors and offer new possibilities to businesses and individual users alike. The merging of AI and VR is more pervasive than it seems. Think of how many times you have seen people pose in front of their smartphone cameras and try different filters on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Although this is a very simple and innocent application of the technology in itself, it’s a great example of how the technology has penetrated and gotten seamlessly integrated in every moment of our lives — even if it comes in the shape of doggy ears or cat whiskers.
The effect of AI and VR doesn’t end there, though; it has the potential to unleash incredible opportunities on a higher level. A vivid example of how AI and VR can transform science — medicine in particular — is a machine learning-powered microscope. Researchers on the project developed algorithms to detect breast cancer metastases in lymph nodes with a high level of accuracy; if successful, it could offer pathologists the possibility to accelerate and improve the process of adoption of such progressive technologies for global patient treatment. Technologies like these could offer a chance to increase the availability of high-quality healthcare to patients around the world.
The AI, AR and VR revolution hasn’t left the learning and workplace training industry untouched, either.
Google Expeditions is a technology that brings the chance to explore the world from one single classroom using AR and VR. According to the Google website, expeditions include explorative content on history, science, the arts and the natural world. Whether the students study dinosaurs in their natural habitat or wander around admiring Renaissance art, the technology offers experiences with a wide range of subjects.
Microsoft has tapped into VR and AR possibilities, too, with its HoloLens 2 — an immersive mixed reality technology that, among other things, is designed to help increase student engagement and retention through 3-D technologies. The technology has been applied for workplace training as well: According to The New York Times, Microsoft’s largest known HoloLens customer (paywall) is the military. The Pentagon reportedly invested $479 million in a contract with Microsoft to provide technology for soldier training on the battlefield to increase skills like mobility and situational awareness.
Other in-office VR applications aim to boost productivity and streamline workflow. Spatial, for instance, can turn any room into a VR-powered shared workspace that remote users can use to collaborate, brainstorm and exchange content. Technologies like these make it possible to share and organize 3-D models, videos, documents, images, and websites through VR headsets.
AI, AR and VR applications have transformed the relationships between customers and brands. These technologies can open the doors for extra personalization and customization of companies’ products, content and messages to the specific preferences and needs of target audiences.
Take, for example, Volvo and its initiative to capture the showroom experience in mixed reality. The automobile company implemented VR to capture the experience of viewing a new car in the showroom, and also created an app that allows people to take a car for a test drive in 3-D video models in such a way that potential buyers can experience it from the comfort of their living room.
Even the film industry — namely, the popular TV show Game of Thrones — has used VR experiences. The “Ascend the Wall” VR experience transported the audience into the show’s scenery. The final product introduced and manifested a whole new way of storytelling and user engagement and demonstrated how traditional brand marketing can be delivered in innovative, technology-driven ways.
You may be wondering if VR and AR technologies can truly generate a positive impact in the corporate space.
Well, according to 2018 research by Capgemini (via PR Newswire), “82% of companies that are currently in the process of implementing AR and VR solutions say the benefits are either meeting or exceeding their expectations.” Additionally, 50% of surveyed executives whose companies weren’t implementing AR and VR as of today will begin exploring them for their business operations within the next three years.
This all sounds promising, but before taking steps to acquire AR and VR technologies for your company, there are a few questions to consider to ensure a smooth transition to a more digitized company.
Consider what the best use cases for such technology are. Do you need to enhance user experiences with your brand? Or do you need to streamline the workflow between employees scattered around the globe? Or maybe your goal is to boost collaboration by allowing your employees to easily visualize their work. In any of these cases (and many others), you have to consider if and where the technology would yield the greatest impact; don’t get blinded by the shine and sparkle of the new technology.
And most importantly, listen to your employees. Make sure they are ready for the transition, understand the benefits of it and embrace the change. This requires working with them to understand where the technology can generate the most positive change and where they could leverage the technology themselves to accelerate the company’s growth. The technology should be there to maximize the talent and loyalty of your employees, not to replace them or diminish their importance.
By Gary Fowler
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