Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality are new developments that are changing the way we see our world. Virtual reality has already been implemented for some years, but it hasn’t been as close to reality as it is now. The three technologies are different but similar in the way that they unite our world with the digital one.
Virtual reality (VR) is when humans are entirely immersed in a virtual world. Until now, engineers have managed to emulate two of the human senses—sight and hearing. In the future, the goal will be to create a digital reality that feels real.
Augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR) is where digital features overlay with the real world. The difference between the two is that in MR, the digital object is anchored to the real world, whereas in AR is just overlays.
All these realities are accessed through a device. In VR generally has to be with a headset, and in MR and AR can be with a smartphone or headset. Who hasn’t played or heard about Pokemon Go? But VR, AR, and MR have a lot of potential besides gaming. These are the industries being disrupted by these technologies.
Entertainment and gaming are the most common applications for virtual, augmented, and mixed realities. Since the early 2000s, people can go to simulators to experience VR. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that this technology has become accessible to everyone.
Many people now can play an AR or MR game with their phone, or just buy a headset and play at home. The Oculus Quest all-in-one headset costs the same as traditional gaming systems, and it offers the full VR experience. Another example is the omnidirectional treadmill for VR experiences, the KAT Walk mini. It allows players to run in real life like they are inside the game.
Also, movies are using more of this technology each year. Who hasn’t seen a movie on an IMAX theater? It makes the experience so much better, and regular movies will never be the same. This technology is revolutionizing the entertainment industry to the point that soon we could be using gaming systems with bodysuits to feel everything that happens in the virtual world.
One of the main drawbacks of online buying was that you couldn’t see the product in real life unless you buy it. It could be smaller or of a different texture of what you see in the pictures. But, this issue has been resolved with VR, AR, and MR technologies. Now, Mobile Developers have created apps where you can use your phone to see what a product will be like and have specific interactions with it.
For example, if you want to buy a new mirror for your bathroom but aren’t sure what it will look like, you can use your phone camera to position the mirror in real-time on the wall. Another usage is for online clothing stores like Nike; they have an MR feature on their mobile app where you can see how the clothes or shoes will look on you in real-time.
Now, customers can make more informed decisions when buying online. And users love it so much that companies in the e-commerce industry have run to embrace this technology in their mobile applications.
The retail sector is making every effort to compete with online stores, so introducing AR and MR technologies is an effort to make the experience more enjoyable to the customer. For example, companies like L’Oreal Paris offer MR mirrors where clients can test products like makeup before they buy it.
Zara is also offering MR for its clients in some of their stores. Customers can point their phone cameras to manikins in strategic points in the store to see how some of the outfits look. And in no time at all, Software Engineers will start making AR dressing rooms for stores and homes.
This technology is just starting to be implemented, but after the Covid-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures, many more companies will probably start using it. You can try out different outfits and buy clothes without touching anything.
Healthcare is one of the industries facing pressure to become more economically efficient. Many places are trying to implement new technologies that will make healthcare more accessible to all. VR, AR, and MR can be first implemented in the training process of healthcare professionals. Not only will it make the procedure safer but also less expensive.
Future doctors, nurses, and physicians will be able to practice as many times as they want on virtual patients and organs. This will lessen the need for trainees to see live patients and operations. This technology can also be used as a tool for healthcare professionals. Using MR and AR, they can monitor the patient’s organs and systems while doing surgery.
In the future, it could even be used for remote operations, where a doctor can control a robot from miles away and see everything that is happening through VR. The potential is vast, but the change could be hard to adapt to for many workers in the health industry.
Another industry that has already been disrupted by VR, AR, and MR technologies is real estate. Agents mainly use it to enhance the customer experience by offering virtual reality tours of the properties. Also, they can use the phone cameras to interact with the property, like showing specifics about the property’s size and materials.
There is also the possibility to use MR to position furniture in a room and see what it looks like. A user can position its furniture using MR to every house they see and decide after that. The end goal is to create an experience that is much more enjoyable for the customer.
The day when the virtual and the real worlds start to merge has arrived. Our smart devices already determine much of our experiences, so it is only reasonable that they will continue to do it. From trying out clothes and makeup without actually touching the product to entering a warzone from your living room, the possibilities are limitless.