When most people think about extended reality (XR), they probably imagine someone wearing a headset and fighting zombies.
However, as society has become more familiar with XR, what once seemed too ‘futuristic’ to have real-world applications, is now readily accessible. XR offers new opportunities to both engage and convert customers, and to improve how an organisation operates.
In a world turned on its head by coronavirus, companies are forced to confront new realities about how we work, shop and engage each other and what might have seemed far-fetched now seems like an increasingly viable idea.
Augmented reality goes mainstream
As customers, for the most part, we’re already equipped to interact with one particular flavour of XR: augmented reality. AR broke records in 2019, with the user base of AR-supported smartphones reaching 1.5 billion globally.
As a technology, AR is therefore already widely available and in use, whether we realise it or not. It’s the filters we use on TikTok and Instagram; it’s being able to virtually position furniture inside your home with Ikea; it’s being able to change your Zoom background.
Investment only looks set to grow, with enterprise XR solutions now outpacing gaming and entertainment. In fact, 65% of recently surveyed AR companies are working on industrial applications over consumer ones. A quick Google search will tell you about the therapists using it to combat phobias and anxiety disorders, and tourists using AR to explore ancient Rome.
Creating virtual worlds
Meanwhile, 2019 also saw VR smash new records, with vendors recording the biggest growth in enterprise adoption – at 46%, versus consumer adoption at just 24%.
The healthcare sector is already using VR technology to improve patient care and create environments that stimulate physiological reactions to aid diagnosis. It’s also being used across sectors as diverse as manufacturing and defence to train employees and to manage risk and improve health and safety.
In 2020, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic has skyrocketed the use of VR further – particularly in the absence of a physical workspace, with organisations like Spacial, who create a virtual reality version of Zoom, seeing a 1,000% increase in usage since March.
With many organisations reluctant to open offices any time soon, if at all, adoption of VR to maintain collaboration and proximity looks set to increase.
Building an experience team
The increasing adoption of XR is another example of the way our experiences with technology are happening across a broadening ecosystem of interactions, and highlights how existing technology and devices can be utilised today to deliver them. Smartphones are a prime example: simultaneously, they manage to be a shopping channel, a communication device and an AR controller, right in our pocket.
Designing and orchestrating these experiences is no easy feat. It requires companies to look beyond single products and take an ‘ecosystem’ view that means meeting the end user on their terms, wherever they are.
For a conversation about using existing technology – like XR and mobile – to build interconnected, high impact experiences, get in touch with a member of the team at AND Digital firstname.lastname@example.org
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