Powering the future metaverse with AR and VR

Powering the future metaverse with AR and VR
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
31 Oct, 2021

The changes that we witnessed in the last year and a half have redefined reality as we know it. The pandemic forced many people to work, socialize, study, and shop from the comfort of their own homes. This period has been a hotbed for digital explosion across all sectors, giving rise to the adoption of newer technologies. 

Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are currently in the spotlight during the pandemic, by allowing us to feel closer to one another, moving us beyond the confines of social distancing, and connecting us to our co-workers and the world at large. Consumers and businesses have begun to see the value of such dynamic virtual environments even beyond the pandemic. Innovation within this space poses greenfield opportunities in industries as diverse as healthcare, education, and media. In fact, a report by IDC states that IT spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) in Asia Pacific is set to grow rapidly at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.7 percent and reach $28.8 billion by 2024. 

In the pre-pandemic era, global technology giants like Facebook, Samsung and Google were already investing heavily in AR and VR. However, the success of immersive technology for a dispersed world has made every sector sit up and take notice. 

Immersive technology on the rise across sectors

Immersive technology works by overlaying a digital layer of experience over our daily reality, changing the way we interact in any setting. Current examples of these include VR-based games, which create a whole new virtual world atop the real one. VR headsets for video games and AR glasses are already being developed by companies like Google and Facebook and are growing at a rapid pace.

The gaming sector was one of the earliest adopters of immersive technology. In 2019, Netflix’s CEO told shareholders that the biggest competition to Netflix was the video game Fortnite. People are increasingly foregoing watching a show and opting to live it virtually through video games. However, the notion that AR and VR is best suited for playtime is now being challenged. 

Sectors like education, healthcare, ecommerce, retail as well as tourism are now seeing an increase in adoption. For example, innovative educational applications are making their way to the classroom, allowing students to engage with their classes and assignments more thoroughly through mixed-reality apps. The healthcare segment proves to be one of the most promising sectors for the growth of AR and VR. Immersive technology can enable medical training through AR models to train and support surgeons and nurses in things medical procedures as diverse as neurosurgery to simple needle placement. 

Several other industries are also pivoting towards immersive technology. For example, museums such as the Louvre and the Vatican Museum, offer virtual tours of their collections, allowing people to sightsee from the comfort of their homes using the concept of a metaverse. In a metaverse, people can interact with one another and digital objects while operating virtual representations — or avatars — of themselves. For example, by donning a VR headset in a metaverse environment, a consumer can virtually travel to Paris for a city tour along with a friend. Instead of browsing through news and videos online, one can actually begin to experience the virtual environment. 

The list of areas being positively impacted by AR and VR goes on. Airplane technicians use AR when installing wiring in airplanes, customer service representatives use VR to boost their on-the-phone soft skills, musicians conduct virtual concerts through VR and KFC has even developed an escape-room VR game to train employees how to make fried chicken! These diverse examples showcase that AR and VR strives to deepen our experiences, and just how valuable virtual technologies can be.

Thriving long after the pandemic

Despite being at a relatively nascent stage, AR and VR have proved their potential for businesses and brands struggling to survive and thrive during the crisis. Whether through the empowering engagement in a virtual classroom, the vital necessity of complex medical surgeries, or the simple pleasures of an online gaming community, AR and VR are pushing to find new ways to help reconnect co-workers, customers, and industry innovators around the world.

In a post-pandemic world, there will be an increase in awareness of the potential and usefulness of these new technologies in a world where people realize that they do not have to work in an office or meet people in person and that it is easier to remotely collaborate and interact. Given the ways in which virtual experiences are providing additional comfort and freedom under the current circumstances, engagement is only likely to grow once the dust settles. The possibilities are endless, and the future of a virtual world is being built now.

Ranga Jagannath

Ranga Jagannath

Ranga Jagannath is the Director – Growth, Agora, a platform for real-time engagement technologies.