2019 was a growth year for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR)– known collectively as extended reality (XR). The presence of these breakthrough technologies began to be felt far away from the fields of gaming and entertainment, where they first became popular.
Virtual reality – where users wear a headset and are fully immersed in computer-generated environments – has been developed to meet design, marketing, education, training, and retail needs. Augmented reality – where computer images are superimposed onto the user’s view of the real world, through a screen or headset – is a more complex challenge, as it requires the software to “see” what is in front of it. But we’re getting used to seeing it used for more than adding cartoon features to selfie pictures or spotting Pokemon in the wild.
With global spending on XR technology is forecast to increase by 78.5% next year compared to this year, both technologies will be key trends to watch out for in 2020. We are likely to see a whole load of exciting new hardware offering even greater immersion and realism, as well as innovative use cases as industry gets to grips with what it can do.
Industrial use outpaces gaming and entertainment
Most people’s first experiences of VR and AR today are likely to be in gaming and entertainment. That’s likely to change, as research shows that the development of enterprise XR solutions is overtaking that on consumer solutions. The 2020 XR Industry Insight report collated by VR Intelligence states that 65% of the AR companies surveyed said they are working on industrial applications, while just 37% working on consumer products and software.
This shouldn’t be surprising – although games made the headlines in recent years thanks to Pokemon Go and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the potential to boost productivity and safety using XR makes it an attractive proposition for industry. VR can be used to simulate working in dangerous environments or with expensive, easily damaged tools and equipment, without any of the risks. AR, on the other hand, can be used to relay essential information directly to the user about whatever happens to be in front of them – reducing the time spent by engineers, technicians, or maintenance staff referring to manuals and looking up information online while on the job.