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Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality, along with Wearable Technology, are Changing How We Live and Work. What’s Next?

Undeniably, virtual and augmented environments have been shown to have the power to change how we work and relax, but it’s not as new as you might think. 

Over twenty years ago, Professor Bruce Thomas encountered a girl suffering from severe burns at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, and was in great pain most of the time. The twice-daily process of changing her wound dressings was essential but tended to cause immense suffering on her. Professor Thomas wanted to find a way to help alleviate her pain and turned to the new field of virtual computer systems. During her next dressing change, the girl started playing a simple virtual reality game that Professor Thomas had introduced to her as part of his research into pain management. Because the girl was so engrossed in the game, she hardly noticed when the work was finished, therefore this time she barely complained of pain.

Since then, there has been a growing interest in how immersive technologies can impact not only how people work but also how their everyday lives can be enriched. Professor Thomas now serves as director of the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE) but their accomplishments are used all over the world. In this role, he is responsible for supervising a team of over a hundred researchers from various disciplines who are committed to advancing the use of immersive technologies like AR, VR, and MR to better people’s lives. 

The IVE team continues to focus on health as their primary research field, but it is now clear that virtual reality may be beneficial in nearly every aspect of life. From enhancing the in-hospital experience for patients to bringing better healthcare to underserved areas, he thinks immersive technology will keep playing a revolutionary role in the future of health and medicine.

Outside of healthcare, VR is becoming a major tool in personal navigation in a very big way. Many of us use services such as Google Maps to find our way around, the development of VR/AR/MR on smaller devices could take wayfaring to a whole new level of usefulness and locality. We looked recently at developments in building mapping and architectural software, and EyecadVR in particular. This and similar programs are able to help designers create photorealistic models of building, done to the finest details, and from these, generate AR/MR-usable maps that can be directly accessed through a headset or AR glasses to give the user a huge boost to the way that they navigate around buildings or, eventually, almost anywhere on the planet. Imagine, no more getting lost anywhere in the world!

But aside from the obvious activities of negotiating our world with altered reality devices, technology is advancing at such a rate that the possibilities are almost endless. Personal health is a big concern for many today and understanding how it changes and may need to be supported is turning into a massive industry. The Australian Future Industries Institute is aiming to develop a technology solution to the issue of health monitoring by developing a small, microchip type device that will constantly measure health. Currently aimed at the space industry, the chip will use micro-amounts of bodily fluids as blood and sweat – to determine the ongoing state of the subject’s health. Once this kind of device is perfected, it is expected that the advantages would become apparent to many and there will be a significant uptake. This alone would be a huge step forward in preventative medicine and could be the game changer that the World’s Governments need to reign in the enormous costs and waste associated with ensuring people are healthy.

One of the more obvious areas of how technology will expand into our lives is the neuralink project and budding business being driven by Elon Musk. Neuralink seeks to introduce a kind of neural interface chip directly into the human brain, which will allow the user to control outside devices just by thinking. Currently, the only known active example of the fitted link has allowed a human user to manipulate a wireless computer mouse, but the system has the potential to allow users to control much more, possibly up to the point of controlling limb-assistance devices in paraplegics. If neuralink works as intended, we are likely to see enormous growth in this field from many different technology businesses.

Everyday wearable technology – you probably have some already if you are wearing a smartwatch – is expected to grow to a staggering $265 billion by 2026 and as more technology becomes available, tech businesses dream u new applications. Market experts see much of this as being split into five well-defined areas:

  • The creation of gadgets that have a greater range of capabilities thanks to the incorporation of technology into clothing and other soft items.
  • Greater advances in AR/VR and a growing number of possible markets. By the year 2026, it is anticipated that the market for augmented and virtual reality would have reached $50.9 billion, having continued to expand at a global annual rate of 32.3%.
  • E-textiles will soon begin to compete with wearable gadgets that have been dominating the market, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.
  • Artificial intelligence features that are more advanced are being added to goods that are already available, such as fitness apps that are powered by AI.
  • Devices that can act on aural input such as hearing aids and headsets that are combined into a single unit, and that come equipped with sensors that can detect movement, proximity, and biometric information.

Of course, there are many other areas in which these technologies will grow, but many experts believe that these are going to be the main areas of development.

Unity Developers are committed to the development of the best Unity-based apps, including wearable technology. If you have a great idea for an app, why not contact us and see how we can help.