So, first things first, what does 'immersive tech' actually mean? If you've ever tried to read up on the subject you'll have no doubt faced a barrage of conflicting definitions - in simple terms, it refers to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Virtual reality enables a user to enter a fully digital world, using a head-mounted display, or headset. For example, users can be transported to the ocean floor or find themselves peering off the top of a skyscraper. Augmented reality on the other hand, places digital objects over the real world. Hands up who’s used a Snapchat filter? If the answer is yes, you’ve dabbled in augmented reality.
That said, there are variations in this type of tech, something which is now referred to on a continuum under the term 'xR' - the x is like a variable in algebra, representing multiple layers.
But acronyms and dog ears asides, xR is having a profound impact on business. Here’s how:
Whether training engineers on top of a wind turbine or honing customer service skills in retail, VR enables users to enter a new world, without leaving the office or classroom. Through VR users can connect and interact with a virtual environment and its objects, enabling teams to train in dangerous environments or even experience empathy, by seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.
2. Engaging audiences
Increasingly augmented and virtual realities are being used within the cultural and heritage sector to engage and inspire a wider audience. VR is being used to construct virtual walk-throughs of historic sites, whilst AR can utilise visitor’s own smartphones to interact with exhibits and artefacts.
3. Product sales
VR’s strength lies in delivering an enhanced user experience - users feel an emotional connection to the experience, a connection that can deepen engagement with a brand or product. As users can interact with the virtual world, they can see a product up close and from every angle without needing to travel to a bricks and mortar showroom.
4. Design and prototyping
Using VR, prototypes can be visualised in real space and from any angle. In the case of the manufacturing sector, engineers can walk around and interact with a prototype and even make changes to the design from inside the model. VR makes it possible to gain a deeper understanding of how a product works and improve a design before it is passed on for manufacturing.
5. Future proofing
Whilst VR and AR are yet to become an integral part of our professional and personal (Snapchat aside) lives, there is no denying emerging technologies such as these are on the rise and if forecasts are true, they’re very much here to stay. By exploring now, businesses can take the first steps in implementing a technology that has the potential to revolutionise just about every industry.
Long limited to tech fantasies, augmented reality and artificial intelligence have finally crossed the chasm into being…well, useful.