Beyond gaming: The business benefits of mixed reality

Posted by Sam Pearson on October 13, 2017

It’s an exciting time to be on a factory floor. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) are technologies that are increasingly being used by manufacturers. It’s not just for gaming anymore. Companies around the globe are seeing the business potential of deploying these technologies, with the goal being to replace keyboards and flatscreens with new ways of communicating, collaborating and engaging workers. A number of companies are moving beyond pilot applications, indicating that now is the time to get serious about the dynamic new technologies.

As we consider the benefits of AR, VR and MR, it’s important to understand their differences.

AR is a view of the real (physical) world environment that is supplemented by computer-generated sound, video, graphics, and data–it’s modified but still real. VR typically uses headsets to generate realistic environments replicating real world environments or imaginary settings–it exists only digitally.

When AR and VR join the Internet of Things (IoT), where sensors or other electronics are embedded into objects for the purpose of sending and receiving data, the resulting collision is MR–the merging of real and virtual worlds into a completely new environment where physical and digital objects coexist and interact with each other. Take a look at how mixed reality is starting to take hold on the factory floor.

Mixed reality can profoundly affect how people relate to their work and how companies manage a variety of aspects around your company. Some examples include:

  • Employee training, education, and learning programs can deploy highly realistic, virtual work environments that provide information and interactive problem-solving challenges. By immersing employees in these environments, they can safely learn to handle complex or potentially dangerous equipment and scenarios.
  • Increased productivity and streamlined work processes could result from providing field service technicians, warehouse pickers, assembly-line workers, and others with smart glasses that offer IoT applications and digital content tailored to each one’s unique tasks.
  • Communication and collaboration will likely increase as multidisciplinary teams work together seamlessly, regardless of their location. Mixed reality can support next-generation interaction through immersion videoconferencing where workers in disparate locations can interact with the same digital artifacts as if they were in the same conference room.
  • Marketing can build compelling engagement patterns through the convergence of technologies. Customers can handle virtual products and be guided through their experiences with real-time feedback for further personalization.
  • Purchasing will likely be revolutionized through MR capabilities. Customers can walk through before buying, receiving pricing or other descriptive information along with suggestions for similar offerings.

As with any emerging technologies, these new ways of framing and delivering content, experiences, and interactions come with challenges. Security of data and privacy are important considerations, especially since many scenarios involve critical infrastructure and sensitive operations. Also, each of these technologies carries its own cyber risks, with the number of data points exponentially increased.

Ultimately, it’s important for businesses and manufacturers to start with the problems they are trying to solve, such as productivity or quality enhancement. From there, opportunities to drive value through these technologies will arise. Companies should realize that mixed reality is no game, but the time is ripe to make the next move.

Read the full article here “Mixed reality: Experiences get more intuitive, immersive, and empowering. Tech Trends 2017. Deloitte University Press. February 7, 2017.

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