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VR and AR - Digitizing Presence to Make Up For Its Absence.


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two emerging technologies with huge potential to disrupt how we interact, communicate, learn and perceive things.  New breed of devices starting with Google Glass, Oculus and HoloLens are commoditizing this technology.

It all started with audio, first of human perception (of sound) that could be recorded, transmitted and reproduced paving way to initial breakthrough of modern communication where interaction was possible without being physically present. With advance of time, humans craving for capturing the complete experience and desire for remote interaction has made Technology evolve from Audio, Visual to Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality is a technology enabled digital environment that is perceived as real. Virtual Reality brings digital experience to life as though it physically exists.  The fact that one can experience something without its presence is a game changer. Humans are better at learning, reacting and deciding about something thing when they experience it. Virtual Reality provides this opportunity by transforming the surrounding to something that one wants to experience and be engaged without having to practically develop or create the environment. Imagine lying in the bath tub with a headset and swimming with the Sharks without being its lunch, yes that's Virtual Reality.

A close cousin to Virtual Reality is Augmented Reality (with some of its flavor being referred as Mixed Reality). Augmented reality is all about overlaying your actual surrounding with digital information that enriches it. Imagine watching Eiffel Tower in Paris with your headset and along with the actual Tower, you get to see its actual height, Year it was erected and other information about it, yes that's Augmented Reality.

Though starting initially as an experiment and making its way to Entertainment, AR and VR are today making its inroads to various industries. After early day simulators, Video Game industry was among the first one to leverage VR for providing immersive experience for their gaming fans. A parallel similar set of experience was being created with AR games that were being successful by adding gaming experience to real life environment. Pokemon Go of our times is one of the pinnacle achievements in this area, in fact it was one of the application of AR that touched most people.

In Retail Industry, AR is the next big thing. Retail being all about buying, AR and VR are best when it comes to convincing customer and make them experience how a specific product would suit their needs without having to purchase it in the first place. IKEA's Catalog app  for smart phone is good case in point, it helps its customer to choose the furniture from its catalog and place them virtually in the living room using the Smart Phone camera and evaluate it before purchasing it. On similar lines IKEA has leveraged VR to create Virtual Store where one could visit life size IKEA store and do shopping all sitting on your home couch.  Online retailing giant, Amazon has recently offered its own take with AR, it's gone ahead with marrying AR with a dedicated hardware camera and added a touch of AI to create Echo Look, an Alexa enabled camera that helps you try clothing virtually before you  order it online. On a larger scale here is AR driven Fitting Room to try on clothes without actually trying it, pretty cool right? J.  This trend of AR application in Retail is being embraced by many retailers like Converse, Lego and many more. To summarize in short the Mantra here has been very simple "Try it virtually before you buy it!"

This trend is retail is not only increasing the online business and providing better customer experience, but it also is reducing the return rate of items which usually stems from having brought the wrong product.  The annual cost of retail returns is pegged somewhere around $260 billion, VR and AR have good potential to reduce these numbers.

Manufacturing Industry has been similarly taking great strides in leveraging AR and VR for innovation and customer experience. Ford has been using the power of VR for collaborative design in their Product Development Center located in Dearborn, Michigan.  Ford's VR lab lets designers across the globe to collaborate on design and fully experience it before an actual physical prototype is created. Manufacturing industry has also been using VR in training staff on maintenance of their products. On consumer side of things, AR is helping replace service manuals and provide unique, innovative customer experience. Hyundai's AR service manual is a case in point here.  Similar innovative solutions can replace complicate paper based manuals which could soon be a thing of past.

In Healthcare industry VR is taking things to different level. VR game called SnowWorld is helping reduce burn related pain. VR is also helping doctors in Surgery, both in terms of training and perform robotic assisted surgery.  VR presents unique advantage in rehabilitation of patients as it helps to stimulate the actual environments for patients to train for recovery before actually attempting it, this way reducing chances of injury and further complications.  VR is also proving to be an important tool for telemedicine, especially to provide healthcare for rural places and seniors at home.

For Insurance VR and AR presents both opportunities and threat. VR helps underwriters avoid travel to physically assess location before providing coverage. With telematics and VR, underwriters can actually stimulate scenarios based on various data like traffic, weather and location to better rate risks and avoid loss or over pricing. AR could also help in claim filings and better assessing loss by using AR tools and apps that would overlay real-time loss picture with financial data affected by it. Similarly there is a whole new paradigm that could be explored by leveraging AR and VR in insurance industry. Along with these opportunities there are new threats that comes with AR and VR, those that emit from its application in other areas. A striking example to prove this is point is over 110,000 accidents in USA that has been claimed to be associated with Pokemon Go AR game in its first 10 days. This demands for a change in whole rating model to accommodate the new risks that come up with the application of these latest trends in different areas that indirectly impact the insurance business.

These are some of the applications of AR and VR across the industries, it's just the beginning and human imaginations are going to push this beyond boundaries. From communication perspective we might have discovered the right tools in AR and VR for culmination of our desire for a complete experience until we get an opportunity to turn teleportation to realityJ, so keep evolving!


Great post.......Thanks for sharing this post.

Talk to the customer care executives with the free spirit if some kinds of issues stop you to make the necessary decisions.

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