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Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. John Lennon’s sentiment is shared today by researchers working in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These so-called immersive technologies will redefine how individuals interact with one another and with intelligent devices. They’re easy to tell apart: AR systems add relevant, computer-simulated overlays to the physical world (think Pokémon Go), while VR systems create a completely artificial world independent of the user’s actual surroundings (think The Matrix).
The use cases for immersive technologies are varied and imaginative. At trade events, an aerospace company showcases a new add-on assembly for cargo storage in commercial aircraft. By using AR to display 3D hologram-like replicas, the company avoids thousands of dollars in freight costs, union labor, and logistical support required to send the actual equipment. Retail store architects use VR to show precise sightlines and lighting patterns to optimize layouts before stores open.
The enterprise is starting to identify the potential cost and time savings of immersive technologies. A great example is augmented reality service, in which technicians are guided through repairs systematically and visually via AR headsets. Using immersive technologies, developers can add value to existing products and enhance the user experience faster and at less expense than would be required to create an entirely new offering.
While most enterprises are years away from viable immersive products and services, CIOs need to prepare now. Engage with VR/AR vendors to keep abreast of what’s commercially available. Identify at least one ISV with VR/AR expertise and include them in strategic planning sessions. Launch a pilot program using immersive technology. You’ll gain valuable experience regardless of the outcome. Consider the requirements of potential immersive initiatives when evaluating digital technology platforms. By staying informed of developments in this rapidly evolving field, you’ll pave the way for business leaders to capitalize on VR and AR opportunities.
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