World Reimagined: The Rise of Augmented Reality
As work, shopping, socializing, traveling, fitness, and even schooling continue to be a messy and complicated uncertain argh-fest, the need for augmented/virtual reality solutions is only accelerating. Ongoing uncertainty means the shift to the virtual world isn’t slowing anytime soon, so what we need is a lot less watching and more experiencing. That is exactly what AR/VR can deliver.
The past 18+ months have forced much of the world to change how we work, work out, and socialize; instilled a mad desire need to remodel or redecorate; and made travel, until recently, nearly impossible. Functioning in this new world has meant a lot more hours spent staring at little screens versus sitting around a conference table with colleagues. Rather than meeting at our favorite watering hole, we’ve tried to enjoy awkward Zoom (ZM) cocktail hours or virtual high-fives. The passive nature of sitting in front of a TV, computer, or tablet all day left most of us utterly bonkers and cranky, but what could we do?
After the early spring’s enthusiasm for a world reopened, the future is increasingly uncertain (again) as we try to cope with an alphabet soup of coronavirus variants and the impact of global supply chains reminiscent of drunk lemurs with an etch-a-sketch. Amidst all that, more than a few people are seriously rethinking where and how they work.
By providing an interactive and immersive experience that enhances real-world objects in your environment with added visual, somatosensory, and haptic components to simulate an entirely new reality or enhance your current one (pause and take a breadth here dear reader), augmented reality is the logical next step as life increasingly moves into the virtual sphere. Plus, it can be fun - bonus points if you manage to fit the word “somatosensory” in a conversation today.
Back in March, Microsoft (MSFT) held a special event inside its virtual reality community platform Altspace to showcase a new product called Microsoft Mesh that is intended to provide their AR HoloLense platform and VR Windows Mixed Reality platform a shared platform for meetings. It gives users an AR/VR meeting space in which to interact with other users as well as 3D content. Click on this link to get an idea of what is possible.
Instead of struggling to pay attention passively watching a flat little screen, such augmented reality tools could transform an online snoozefest webinar into an immersive and highly memorable experience. From a corporate perspective, investment in such technology is a cost-savings no-brainer. Employees can work together or attend events from anywhere in the world, eliminating travel and venue expenses as well as all the lost productivity due to time spent traveling and the exhaustion that can cause. That’s especially true these days when travel can mean needing vaccine documentation, proof of a negative covid test, passports, tickets, assorted printouts, and so on and so forth. An AR device, which typically costs less than one night in a big city hotel room, makes it possible to travel anywhere and actively learn with anyone. What’s not to like?
But isn’t this all very Ready Player One? Not really. According to eMarketer, 59 million people in the U.S. will use virtual reality at least once per month in 2021, and 93 million will use augmented reality – a 28% increase from 2019. This AR/VR world is encompassing not only gaming, but virtual fitness, collaboration with work colleagues, distance learning, and is expanding into healthcare and customer service. And it is only going to get better with the rollout of 5G wireless service, as the higher speeds are expected to boost the tech’s viability by eliminating technical challenges caused by limited bandwidth.
So, who are the players? We’ve already mentioned Microsoft, and you’ve probably already heard of Facebook’s (FB) Oculus system, but Apple (AAPL), Alphabet (GOOGL), and Samsung (SSNHZ) are all reportedly furiously working on their own solutions. HTC Vive has solutions for both gaming and business use, and then there are obviously Sony’s (SONY) PlayStation VR headsets. Seiko Epson Corp (SEKEY) has developed the Moverio smart glasses, that are intended for a wide range of applications from education to entertainment. Vuzix (VUZI) has designed solutions for both business and education applications.
The bottom line is reality is going to get a lot more fluid, and if we are lucky, maybe a lot more fun.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.