The emergence of AR (augmented reality) technology as part of the much-vaunted digital revolution sweeping the globe is set to be a boon for businesses across a wide range of industrial sectors. AR’s potential, especially when combined with other technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), lies far beyond its current applications. In fact, companies around the world are already beginning to utilise AR solutions to gain a competitive edge over less tech-savvy rivals, as they begin to comprehend the considerable capacity of AR to generate business value in novel and innovative ways.
From humble beginnings as a gaming gimmick – the Oculus Rift springs to mind – the rapidly growing AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality) industry looks set to be the next big thing. In 2018, the burgeoning global augmented and virtual reality market was valued at a considerable US$26.7 billion, and is projected to reach approximately US$814.7 billion by 2025, according to Zion Market Research. It is also predicted that there will be 1 billion augmented reality users by 2020. What was once merely a gaming novelty has evolved to become a technology worth billions of dollars, with promising applications across a range of sectors.
For starters, let us get some definitions out of the way. Augmented reality (AR), simply put, is an offshoot of virtual reality (VR), and is a technology that overlays information and virtual objects on real-world scenes in real-time, using the existing physical environment and enhancing – or augmenting – it in order to create a new artificial environment. With this in mind, myriad novel applications begin to emerge. At the most basic level, these applications will provide customers with the unprecedented ability to visualize a product or experience a service before committing to a purchase. AR possesses almost limitless potential, and can create a visceral, vicarious, and yet virtual experience for a user.
Naturally, a virtual experience is a physically safe experience, and with a little imagination, the breadth and depth of AR’s potential applications become readily apparent. In just one example, AR could be a game-changer in the healthcare industry, particularly in surgery. AR/VR will allow doctors to better understand a patient’s anatomy pre-surgery, thus greatly mitigating risks and reducing the likelihood of adverse complications. AR/VR also has numerous other applications spanning retail, e-commerce, entertainment, real estate, and education. What was once child’s play has, quite literally, become serious business.
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