Immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are making the jump from fun, whether it’s F1 racing round Monaco or battling Martians, to empowering businesses to work more efficiently. In the latest of Lenovo’s predictions we look at how technology is changing to help us all immerse in different realities.
We are heavily influenced by what we can see. A third of the brain is devoted to vision, so the chance to step into a different world, by donning a VR headset or adding a digital layer to the physical environment around us, is tempting.
Traditionally, the technology needed to make these virtual worlds real has been specialised and costly. But with the smartphone opening AR to a mass market the future is very different. VR and AR are making the move from fun to real-world usefulness.
How to make the unreal, real.
Virtual Reality (VR) needs a headset that places you in a virtual world where you can watch what happens and move around, interacting with the people and things within it. The headset, as a gateway to a totally synthetic world, needs to be attached to a powerful computer to produce the best graphics.
Previously the mainstay of gaming, newer headsets offer the complete immersive experience. They incorporate haptics (touch) as well as motion and location sensing plus high-res 3D graphics. VR has already made its mark in training and data visualisation.
Augmented Reality (AR) takes a different approach. It brings the internet into the real world; overlaying a digital layer onto an existing view – whether it’s adding virtual creatures or showing how new furniture will fit into your living room. The display for these can be smart glasses, an AR-enabled headset, high-end smartphones and tablets, and even wearables, like smart watches. AR applications are already enabling workplace efficiencies in training, maintenance and knowledge transfer.
Mixed Reality (MR) is a kind of AR. It doesn’t just overlay virtual objects to those in the real world, it also anchors them – so you can interact with combined virtual-real world objects.
Both VR and AR are predicted to grow massively, with a compound annual growth rate of 71.6% up to 2022. Spending is also forecast to rise to more than $27 billion.1
The bigger demand is currently for AR, fueled by the easy accessibility of smartphone apps. This is likely to be accelerated as the take-up of 5G enables faster, always-on connection speeds. In fact, Lenovo predicts that enterprises will gain most benefit from IT systems that combine AR and VR.
This integrated reality can revolutionise the way we live and do business.
There’s the potential for countless AR and VR applications, across industries, to transform workplace efficiency:
Construction – create walkthroughs of projects or use a smart helmet to give builders site-specific information, as and when needed.
Education – send children on virtual field trips, walking with dinosaurs, or on a voyage through space.
Healthcare – used for teaching, VR lets students watch surgical procedures. Also good for therapies, such as for those with autism. By experiencing life in a virtual world they can learn how to cope with the real world.
Manufacturing – give new factory workers step-by-step guidance on their job.
Oil & Gas – success no longer depends on grunt and guesswork. Office staff can give technicians on rigs the knowledge they need, by superimposing models over machines and the like.
Aviation – Airplane mechanics wearing AR glasses can connect to a remote server to identify parts and pull up schematics.
Challenging the physical world
For AR and VR to solve our business problems in innovative ways needs a more seamless integration between hardware and software.
ThinkReality is Lenovo’s platform to create advanced AR and VR applications. Device and cloud-agnostic, and with prebuilt functions, it is a fast and efficient way to build applications. It also works seamlessly with our light head-mounted display, the ThinkReality A6 HMD, as well as other AR and VR devices.