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What to Expect From AR/VR in 2021

The growth of AR and VR systems is kinda exponential; now that we have established usable – and fun to use – systems, their scope and usability is growing enormously and if current trends are anything to go by things, to paraphrase the old D:Ream song, can only get better.

Global pandemics are generally not good news for anyone but, if anything positive is going to come out of the last year, it is our resilience as a species and how we use technology to maintain social and work fabric and continuity. Zoom and Microsoft teams have joined Skype as being platforms that allow teams of workers or even just social groups to meet in safety, but there is a growing enthusiasm to make these kinds of meetings increasingly interactive. Video conferencing is okay, but supposing you could share 3D models or schematics that could be viewed in different ways or manipulated? AR & VR make that a reality.

But what else can we expect from our virtual and augmented devices? Well, with untethered AR headsets and AR glasses being readily available, and 5g connectivity now a reality, superfast speeds are possible almost anywhere in the world and these factors are going to revolutionise how we connect.

How about the rise of remote expert assistance? Have a technical problem with your car, or in-home tech? Need an expert to help you solve a problem? AR and VR offer the potential to have an expert virtually join you and help you fix it. Augmented Reality remote assistance is an emerging technology that enables brand agents and product experts to collaborate with customers and field technicians and guide them through any technical problems they may be having. We are all aware of the pain and frustration when we call or chat to technical services through a portal, but imaging if you were able to have a virtual guiding hand right next to you, showing you what to do. These types of services are already up and running in some industries and as AR and VR capabilities grow, it is going to become the normal. Having that virtual helping hand is likely to increase the efficiency of help desks and customer interactions.

Training is always an area of consternation. If it is being carried out at a company’s premises, then a suitable room or venue needs to be secured for use. If the training is being carried out off-site then an appropriate venue needs to be found, and that can cost serious amounts of money, and that’s not even allowing for the need to be socially isolated to some degree. Imagine then, that a better form of training can be delivered via the virtual world, complete with the ability to connect with meeting organisers and fellow participants from almost anywhere.

When German construction company AST needed to be able to train a number of their staff in the use of industrial equipment, rather than try to get them all together in some muddy field, they decided to use VR, and went to VRDirect to get it. Donning VR headsets, the trainees were supplied with the right level of training, but from the comfort of their own area rather than some windswept building site. This is the real power of VR/AR and by the end of 2021 we are certain to be seeing an increasing number of companies offering similar training options.

What else can we expect from virtual tools this year? Well, if training is easy, how about interactive user manuals too? Kings of the user and instruction manual Ikea have developed the AssembleAR that can be used to help you assemble the company’s products in a virtual way before you actually get to grips with the real pile of MDF and screws. Ikea are also pushing other virtual apps that allow you to place their products in your home and see what they will look like. In the same way, companies like Brandlab Fashion are using MR to allow users to try on new fashion clothes without having to buy them first.

This year will be a foundational one for many interactive apps, but it will be important because it will establish a baseline for how we go forward. By the end of the year, it is likely that AR/VR worlds are going to be accepted by an increasing number of users, driven by priced-to-own equipment and a great array of useful apps. Growth, then, is the only option; welcome to the virtual world – it’s going to be big!