A trio of technologies promise to redefine our reality over the next several years by delivering experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds. Welcome to the world of XR tech, a code name describing the intersection of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). While these are separate technologies today, eventually we will describe experiences in terms of degrees of immersion. It’s a dynamic that will substantively shift consumer behavior, not only changing the way we view the world but how we interact with it.
The implications for business in the next decade cannot be overstated, as XR technology elevates consumer experiences beyond online/offline and adds capabilities to fuel enterprise endeavors. We’re only beginning to understand the depth of XR technology’s impact from the massive experimentation taking place across every industry vertical, from manufacturing to medicine.
CTA’s recent B2B study, Exploring Business Use Cases for Augmented and Virtual Reality (December 2018), documents several examples of this activity. For example, one VR solution in automotive manufacturing simulates a paint booth to help new painters develop skills necessary to pass proficiency tests much faster than spraying real paint. Another VR solution that trained orthopedic surgeons saw trainees improve up to 230 percent versus traditional training methods (requiring a cadaver or saw bone model) because the training can be repeated more often in less time.
CTA research also tracked consumer sentiment of XR technologies for three years in our Augmented and Virtual Reality: Consumer Sentiments study (January 2019). While intent to use XR tech remains mixed across use cases, the highest intent for fully immersive VR solutions are in an entertainment or media context. Meanwhile, intent to use AR for shopping and navigation assistance are similarly high. Here, industry is meeting demand thanks to solutions for creating AR apps for mobile devices, like ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android.
Consider Amazon’s AR View or Ikea’s Place apps, which let users view products or furniture in their chosen space before making a purchase. Warby Parker has an AR “try-on” app for eyeglasses using the iPhone’s True Depth camera and face-mapping technology. And Lego’s 3D catalog creates the 21st century version of the pop-up book using an AR app to make its collections rise off the page.
Hardware innovation is moving in parallel with XR software and app development to give consumers and businesses more options to embrace this reality-bending revolution. CES 2019 showcased a constellation of XR headgear, ranging from wireless VR headsets (HTC’s Vive PRO Eye) to AR glasses almost indistinguishable from normal eyeglasses (Focals by North). DigiLens, Dreamglass, Nreal, Realmax, Rokid, ThirdEye, Vuzix and more demoed AR glasses for both B2B and B2C applications.
It all adds up to a market that is becoming increasingly “real” and, more importantly, relevant for businesses and brands. CTA’s research found, on average, 24 percent of U.S. online adults are likely to engage with one or more VR use cases (e.g., entertainment/media) in the next two years, and 28 percent are likely to do so with one or more AR use cases (e.g., shopping) within the same timeframe. The rise of XR tech means the question “what is reality?” is increasingly an open one. How will your business answer?