Though we’re still only at the precipice of what virtual reality technology is capable of, Covid-19 has forced more interactions online, from work to learning, socializing, shopping and medical purposes, highlighting an array of practical uses for virtual and augmented realities. While we’re not going to be living inside The Matrix anytime soon, organizations around the globe have already started blending the physical worlds with virtual ones to create new ways to do business.
Mixed reality is enabling a host of new retail experiences, like allowing customers to see how furniture will look in their home before making any purchase. Or those who purchase in-store, can see a variety of sample colors or other products not featured on the showroom floor. Virtual reality allows us to also visit new places and interact with our surroundings in ways we would never have thought possible, providing a much needed escape. This has been especially helpful for theaters; art museums and national parks who are among the places that are exploring new ways of creating more immersive experiences by welcoming virtual audiences and visitors.
But how could this powerful tool potentially help business functioning in a post pandemic era? In the business environment, using AR can make a huge improvement in training employees in new procedures by walking them through realistic training scenarios. On a continuing basis, they can also help workers perform complex tasks while working on the opposite side of the world. This is especially useful in the field by replacing manuals with pictures of working environments that are augmented with instructions. Not to mention a new host of possibilities including enhanced team building exercise and most importantly a virtual happy hour.
And while smart glasses have not exactly cracked the level of success of AirPods or smartwatches, they’re still pressing through with hopes of ultimately assuming the smartphone’s throne or at the very least being a part of the conversation. Like earbuds or a smartwatch, they could eventually be a constant presence in everyday life. Aside from being even lighter than most smartphones, smart glasses can overcome the smartphone’s greatest limitation, its screen size. Turning the world into an infinitely large display and creating a heightened visual experience.
Ultimately, what we’ve learned from past augmented misfires is that not every physical experience translates smoothly into a digital experience. But one effect of the pandemic is that businesses have been encouraged to experiment or at least rethink their customer experiences that were only considered to be physical in the past. While the concept itself may remain a novelty for many sectors, we still haven’t seen the full extent of what is possible. The world of augmented reality is already reshaping how everyday interactions are carried out, and we’ll see more of these interactions arise as innovation continues. Whether businesses are able to ride the wave to carve out new competitive advantages will depend on how receptive they are to change, innovation and the possibilities of conducting business in the virtual world.