Earlier in the year I wrote about the top augmented and virtual reality hardware to look out for this year. Now that we are well over the half way mark through the year, I feel it is a good time to talk about the applications that have really taken off this year and seen a lot of attention.

Medical applications

Over the course of the year I have been seeing more and more updates about how the technology is being applied in general and specialist medical procedures. 

Virtual reality has been credited for being used in supporting patients with dementia, through the use of reliving past experiences and visiting places that where they have strong associated memories. VR has also been used heavily in phobia therapy, putting people in experiences designed to slowly get them used to that situation and reduce their fear over time. VR has also been used as a form of alternative pain medication during procedures, by distracting the patient. By immersing the patient in an experience that requires them to focus on it, VR has the ability to limit their perception of pain. 

Augmented reality has also played a hand within actual surgeries. This works by allowing the surgeon to have information displayed, or model overlays of the part of the body they are working on, giving them data on where incision need to be made, or pins need to be placed etc.

Retail/Sales

Retail has embraced augmented reality in 2018. Particularly popular is the ability for customers to be able to view a product as a 3D image, overlaid into the customer's own home. This lets them see what that item would look like before making a purchase. 

This has also been taken to another level by the use of VR, allowing people to have virtual tours of homes on the market, or virtual test drives of cars or detailed customizing of the car they are interested in purchasing. All of this combines to give the customer a much better understanding of the product before committing to a purchase, giving them the information they need to make a confident decision. 

Education/Training

This had always seemed like a natural fit, and unlike the first two applications, training has been using VR for a good while.

Hi-risk industries have taken to VR training with great strides, with the obvious benefits being safety and quick ROI. Rather than training staff on site, or building a physical test site, companies can create virtual training scenarios. VR scenarios can be easily monitored and recorded by trainers not only for end of training testing, but for initial trailing of if a person is suitable for a high stress/danger environment.

The education sector is now taking AR and VR more seriously as an alternative resource to engage and inspire children instead of traditional methods. AR and VR are capable of immersing students into new, safe environments to teach a variety of subjects from science to history, geography and more. It allows students the ability to interact with the environment or experience what it would be like to be in that situation as it unfolded. It also enables access to more learning styles with less friction, being inclusive of audio, visual, and practical elements to really allow a student to maximize their ability to learn and develop.

Other areas - still maturing

Other areas that have seen an increase in interest are the television and film industry, with virtual reality being the natural next step from 3D experiences. Large scale sporting events have been using VR for the first time this year. This has seen a slower adoption - mainly because the methods to film in VR are currently not out of their infancy, resulting in longer and more costly production times.

Cultural and heritage sites are beginning to adopt VR/ AR technology as an alternative method of allowing visitors to interact with artifacts, without the risk of the original being damaged. This is done by 3D scanning the original artifact and creating a digital twin. Again this technology, although more mature, is only beginning to be adopted by these sites of interest. I suspected we will see this area continue to grow, as it can be a powerful and impactful tool to give visitors a real feel for what it was like to live in the site as it was.

Given the final acceptance of the technology in wider industries and it truly maturing as a platform - as well as much of it entering its second generation - I think that new applications of AR/VR are bound to happen. This will coincide with the rise in awareness and adoption. With current applications continuing to become more mainstream and established as a good investment, industries will be more likely to research into wider applications of the technology without hesitation.