Extended Reality (XR) is a broad term, covering all forms of combined real and virtual environments as well as fully immersive experiences. Businesses around the world are increasingly adopting XR technologies, with Marketwatch estimating global XR production will grow at an annual rate of 46.5% between 2022-2026.
XR technology is enabling businesses to operate and grow like never before, and today this includes Assisted Reality (aR), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of XR, as faced with lockdowns, home-working and limited social contact, businesses welcomed immersive, connective experiences. The benefits of extended reality for business go far beyond this though.
Why Extended Reality for business?
Extended Reality (XR) provides effective and innovative ways for businesses to communicate. Companies are increasingly seeking ways to reinvent customer experiences, connecting people with the world around them and boosting engagement.
As the traditional workplace environment has shifted, with many people continuing to work remotely, XR allows businesses to seamlessly connect and collaborate wherever they are. People can connect with others as though they are in the same room, improving productivity and communication and vastly reducing travel costs.
The flexibility of XR technology also provides opportunities for businesses to operate more efficiently. For example, it allows businesses to train staff safely and effectively, minimising risk while still accelerating training processes in many cases.
Business leaders are looking for the best ways to integrate XR technology into their companies to grow and evolve, meeting the demands of an ever-changing world.
How are industries using XR?
You may imagine XR technologies are used predominantly in industrial and technology sectors. While it plays a huge part here, it’s also transforming the way that other businesses operate.
PWC’s map of VR/AR usage across London shows that professional services, engineering and manufacturing, and retail and consumer sectors are the 3 highest adopters of XR technology – with consumer engagement, and learning and development being the main applications. Here are some other use cases being seen today:
When customers can’t visit a store and view products, how do you reach them? Companies have increasingly turned to cutting-edge XR technology, enabling customers to view and customise items in a virtual world. An immersive, ‘try before you buy’ experience means customers are much more likely to purchase.
Where retailers were once hesitant to adopt XR, it’s now becoming a powerful tool in building the innovative experiences that customers crave. From IKEA’s Augmented Reality Place app, where customers can visualise furniture in their own home, to BMW’s VR test drive experience, XR technology is helping to revolutionise the retail environment.
The healthcare industry is adopting ground-breaking XR technology, transforming the way that medical practitioners work. Powerful XR solutions are enabling healthcare professionals to fine-tune their skills, improve diagnoses and train medical students.
For example, 3D patient scans allow medics to study and meticulously plan surgery to best effect, allowing them to develop an effective operation procedure. XR scanning technology also allows medics to spot health problems right away. Assisted reality, as a less immersive form of XR, is also enabling senior or specialist doctors to support junior doctors more easily by allowing them to virtually attend rounds, seeing and hearing what the junior doctor does to help support faster diagnoses and treatment plans.
The most common use of XR in the entertainment industry is in video games but new technologies offer exciting opportunities for live sporting and music events too. Imagine watching a football match or live concert from the comfort of your own home but experiencing it as though you were really there.
Art galleries and museums have also embraced VR technology, creating immersive, educational experiences for visitors.
Engineering and manufacturing
One of the leading adopters of XR technology, head-mounted devices are increasingly being used by engineering and manufacturing technicians. Enabling workers to view diagrams and other files hands-free, step through digital workflows, and consult colleagues if they need help, XR tech is helping to reduce error and costs, while improving productivity and safety. The hands-free operation of many XR devices enables delivery of the right information, exactly where it’s needed with safety at the forefront.
From initial property planning to viewing a new home, virtual walkthroughs allow potential buyers to explore from the comfort of their own home. Especially convenient for overseas or long-distance buyers.
For marketers, the potential to reach and engage with customers through XR will have a huge impact on their businesses.
The use of cutting-edge 360-degree videos allows potential consumers to immerse themselves in an environment before they commit to buying.
Learning and Development
In one of the most exciting uses of XR technology, companies like NASA are exploring the use of XR to train their space station engineers. Simulated environments allow people to learn in low-risk settings. It also has endless possibilities for remote learning.
Studies have shown that learners forget up to 70% of traditionally delivered course content within 24 hours. With immersive XR learning technology, fully simulated environments allow learners to interact in a realistic way, improving retention. Examples include interactive showcases and hands-on demonstrations. The more interactive the learning experience, the more effective it becomes.
XR devices can also enable employees to access training materials and their mentors while working. This means businesses across multiple industries can put new employees to work faster, learning more on the job, and accelerating their training programs.
The future of XR
There’s no doubt that XR is changing the way businesses operate, improving productivity and transforming working lives for people around the world.
As demand increases and businesses seek new ways to become more immersive, XR technologies will be developed further, taking us into the next generation of connection and innovation.