“Immersive technology is great. Take it if you want to make a kid laugh,” said a colleague of mine five years ago. I wonder how he would put it today. “Immersive technology is amazing! Make sure your doctor knows how to work with it before you go to the operating room.”
The technology has gone well beyond its traditional boundaries of media and entertainment. It still amazes people and brings the wow effect to customers. But extended reality (XR) can deliver more value than this. It increases safety at work and in hospitals. It promotes better collaboration among team members. And of course, it revolutionizes retail.
In this article, we’ll dive into experiential, or immersive, technology trends and check out five real-life use cases from different industries.
Experiential technology is a catchall term for real and virtual combined environments. The level of immersion into such an environment and the tools used to interact with it can differ.
Core idea: A human perceives mixed reality but doesn’t interact with it.
Popular use case: A customer gets more information on a product or event by using an AR-based mobile app.
Hardware: A common device for interaction, such as a phone or tablet, or smart glasses and headsets.
Core idea: Mixed reality enables a human to get in contact with digital elements.
Popular use case: A trainee interacts with a manufacturing asset’s digital twin.
Hardware: A wearable device that overlays the digital atop a real-world setting or gives virtual video instruction.
Core idea: VR products blur the line between the physical and virtual worlds.
Popular use case: A worker becomes fully engaged with a digital reality during training or internal communication.
Hardware: HTC-VIVE, Oculus RIFT/Quest, and Samsung Gear based on on-headset computers.
XR looks attractive to businesses, and 91% use or plan to use it in their digital transformation solutions. Yet, many are unsure about how to start and don’t see XR’s immediate value. The image of a headset from a sci-fi movie doesn’t correspond with an everyday routine like task completion or training. But this perception will soon change.
Tech giants have taken incredible steps to make the technology smarter, cheaper, and easier to use. For example, one out of five Meta personnel work in the company’s AR/VR division called Facebook Reality Labs. The Labs focus on creating affordable and powerful AR glasses and VR headsets.
Here’s a handful of real-life examples from five industries where XR has brought dramatic changes to a brand.
54% of manufacturing companies are willing to adopt and develop XR strategies by 2025. A real boom started when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Back then, manufacturers wanted to provide better opportunities for remote work. Now the trend is changing. They see the value of XR for the digitalization of work processes, task automation, and reskilling or upskilling their workers.
Here are a couple of examples of how implementing immersive technologies can impact manufacturing:
Airbus is a pioneer in using the Azure MR environment and HoloLens 2 in their work.
Firstly, XR is used to improve the team’s functionality and safety. A worker with a HoloLens-based device receives overlay text, stats, and other data relevant to their ongoing task. For example, it can be the current temperature of the running equipment or an indicator that the asset is malfunctioning.
Secondly, the company uses XR solutions to accelerate and improve aircraft design. With AR wearables, workers can visualize a finished product and make any necessary amendments.
In the past, only the military and healthcare could afford XR technologies in training. Today, immersive learning is showing up in other industries, from plant work to white collar. The reason is simple: XR-assisted training helps achieve greater information retention.
This has become extremely important in the post-pandemic era. Many teams continue working remotely, and staff finds it too boring to get new information in the form of written instructions or YouTube videos.
BMW found itself dealing with increasing training costs. Another problem was a growing percentage of digital natives coming to work for the company. It was hard for younger generations to digest information in an old-fashioned way.
The company decided to integrate XR. They started with 360-degree videos that allowed workers to immerse themselves in virtual reality. It paid off: newcomers went through training modules a lot quicker. So BMW took the next step. They became a beta tester for Tooling U-SME’s virtual manufacturing labs. Trainees studied in a classroom where XR created a virtual reality for them. Now they can do tests and check how the equipment is running in a safe and interactive environment.
But BMW didn’t stop here. Today, they are experimenting with overlaying and other elements of mixed reality in their training programs.
Virtual training is not the only challenge created by dispersed teams. Communication troubles, lack of collaboration, mutual misunderstanding, work-life imbalance— the list is long. XR offers an alternative solution for this; and no, it’s not just face masks or the ice-breaker games we use during our Zoom calls.
What if we continue drinking coffee, chatting, and completing training sessions with our colleagues in Los Angeles, Mexico, and London—but do it in the metaverse?
The VR company, Spatial, has developed an alternative to 2D images of coworkers on a screen. It virtually recreates an office environment, where workers—their avatars, to be more precise—can talk and interact. The experience is not yet perfect. Avatars may look a bit awkward, and their body movements are not 100% realistic. But the idea is very ambitious and could become a gold mine in the future.
Today brick-and-mortars are more creative and tech-savvy than ever. They have to adapt their businesses to customers who want to socialize, work, play, and shop across the digital and physical worlds.
That’s why offline shops are now home to the widest range of XR use cases.
Lowe’s is a huge American retailer serving more than 17 million customers a week. The company has created a mobile app with XR functionality to help its clients navigate its huge range of stock more easily. A customer comes to Lowe’s with a shopping list on their smartphone. The app guides them to each item using the most efficient route around the store. It also provides product reviews and additional information about each product on the list.
XR is probably the most trending tech in the healthcare industry. We see endless XR use cases in hospitals, primary care facilities, and remote patient monitoring (RPM) programs. Here are a few of them:
NuEyes designs AR smart glasses with a wireless controller. It allows the user to focus, pull back, magnify, and control settings via voice command. It can also make text black-on-white and high-contrast. What’s more, the glasses sync with a mobile phone and provide extra data.
The most touching NuEyes use case was helping a nine-year-old boy see color, faces, and far-away text. The boy can now keep up with his classmates and enjoy normal childhood moments.
Virtual experiences are becoming the new normal due to affordability and tech advances. That’s why brands want to weave XR into more aspects of the professional and personal lives of their employees and customers. Be the first to offer the right product in your industry/niche. Softeq is here to help you build an immersive technology solution from scratch.