Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are enabling people to experience different worlds like never before. With the help of headsets, handheld devices, glasses, and other largely wearable technology, VR completely immerses users in a virtual scenario or landscape across time and locations. AR, meanwhile, overlays virtual elements on top of real-world contexts, allowing users to experience a blend of reality and fiction.
Combined, AR and VR are expected to reach a worldwide market size of $18.8 billion USD in 2020, up from $6.1 billion USD in 2016. Statista projects that the market will expand even more rapidly in the coming years. Businesses across many different sectors and software developers have enormous opportunities when it comes to these technologies. Just how are businesses using them already — and what can we expect in the future?
AR and VR are used to train employees
Prior to implementing company practices and procedures, employees can have the opportunity to try them out in a low-stakes setting thanks to AR and VR. Workers can practice what they’ve learned through hands-on activities in simulated environments. This often means fewer mistakes and better-trained staff members.
For example, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing used AR to walk employees through a 50-step program to put together an airplane wing. The program incorporated holograms to help train and educate workers. The company reported that trainees were able to finish the job in 35% less time than the previous iteration of the training, which used 2D instructions, and saw a 90% improvement in performance.
The technology allows consumers to try out products before purchase
Last summer, Google released an ad campaign that allowed users to try on cosmetics via AR-based YouTube videos. The AR Beauty Try-On feature enables users to see how they would look with different lipstick shades through their device’s camera.
Google isn’t the first company to experiment with AR and VR in helping customers experience products before they decide whether to purchase them. Many companies are using the technology to allow customers to try on clothes, take a car for a test drive, tour a house or apartment, and even experience a travel destination remotely. This trend will likely grow in the future, with businesses finding new ways to allow consumers to test out products.
Businesses can improve their marketing efforts
AR and VR are great tools for improving your marketing efforts across the board. One of the first major examples of brand marketing using the technology was Pokémon GO, a high-tech, scavenger-hunt-type AR game that captured the attention of people all over the world. Other businesses, from Google and Amazon to 7Eleven, have also used the technology to generate interest in their products as well.
For example, Oreo created a VR marketing campaign that immersed consumers in a journey through a cookie-themed land, including milk rivers, to explore the cookie brand’s latest flavors and creations.
Engage users across industries
Industries of all types are benefiting from AR and VR, engaging practitioners and consumers like never before. In K-12 education, students can go on virtual field trips without even leaving their classrooms and even “travel” through time and space.
The healthcare field is also leveraging these technologies. For example, medical students can perform virtual dissections without having to use real bodies and other resources. VR tools are more affordable than simulators and allow students to experience multiple procedures. Using headsets and motion controllers, they can practice surgical techniques without even touching a cadaver.
In a study presented at the Western Orthopedic Association, students who received VR training for a certain procedure completed it 20% more quickly and 38% more accurately than the group that had used the traditional training method. This, of course, is just one application of many possibilities in the medical world and beyond.
AR and VR do far more than just provide cool experiences for users — they also offer unique, creative solutions for businesses. From training employees to engaging consumers and employees in myriad ways, the technology is proving to be a critical player in the ever-changing and tech-driven business landscape.