Spending on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) has reached unprecedented levels, eclipsing $1.1 billion by March of 2016 according to Digi-Capital. Previously, spending in this area had never surpassed $1 billion in a single calendar year, and the number reached only $692 million in 2015. Goldman Sachs estimates that the AR/VR market will reach $80 billion by 2025, as major tech companies such as Facebook, Sony, HTC, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung are all entering the space.
While most of consumer interest is centered on VR, AR is drawing interest from investors. For example, Magic Leap, a U.S. startup that develops AR tech, has received major funding in the past 14 months with large global companies such as Google and Alibaba investing $1.39 billion in the company.
While it’s well known that augmented and virtual reality are poised to change the entertainment industry, there are other industries where this tech will have tremendous application. Here are some examples of industries that will dabble with the potential of AR and VR.
Virtual reality has been in use in healthcare for years. It’s been used for rehabilitation and wound care by distracting patients. At the University of Louisville, it’s also been used for exposure therapy for patients dealing with phobias of crowds, heights, or public speaking. Virtual reality allows for a safe way to practice being in those environments. In other cases, VR can also help with phantom limb pain, where patients can play a game that involves completing tasks with the VR limb. Just recently, a Miami doctor used Google Cardboard to plan for a surgery on a baby who was born with half a heart and only one lung. The VR tool allowed the doctor to see the 3D images of the baby’s heart in a way he otherwise couldn’t, helping him figure out how to save the baby’s life.
In terms of AR, there are a myriad applications. AccuVein, for example, is a handheld scanner that projects an image over the skin of the veins, valves, and bifurcations underneath making it easier to doctors and nurses to find a vein for an injection, saving time and patient discomfort. And Vipaar, a video support platform, allows surgeons in one location to project his or her hands onto the display of another’s surgeon’s Google Glass during a surgery in order to guide or point.
All levels of education can use and are already using both virtual and augmented reality. At Google I/O in 2015, Google announced the release of Expeditions, a VR platform built for classrooms. Students can also use Google Cardboard to take guided tours of famous cities or inaccessible places like space.
At Western University in Pomona, California, a recently opened virtual reality learning center for medical students has various tools such as digital dissection table. Instead of just reading about red blood cells, students can use virtual reality to travel inside the human body as one.
Marketing is a great area for VR and AR. Major movies such as Star Wars, Jurassic World, Insurgent, the Avengers; Age of Ultron, and many others have released VR experiences to generate interest, excitement, and brand awareness. In the more traditional sense, organizations like The New York Times have used branded Google Cardboard units to create brand awareness.
Journalism and Travel
At the end of 2015, organizations such as Outside Magazine and The New York Times, adopted 360-degree video to tell journalistic stories. Often, journalists struggle with how best to bring readers to places they might not otherwise be able to go or how to make them understand events.
Similarly, travel organizations are finding that being able to visit a location in virtual reality could help travelers make decisions about where they want to visit, or which hotel they want to book. Companies such as the Marriott are beginning to create VR experiences that let users go to locations such as a Hawaiian beach or the top of a skyscraper in London as well as the rooms of the hotel chain in those locations.
In terms of augmented reality, Google’s AR app Wordlens lets users aim their smartphones at signs and automatically translate them, directly on the sign.
For years, house hunters have looked at pictures of properties on sites such as Zillow. Virtual reality can be used to give potential homebuyers the ability to stand inside a house or apartment without leaving their home or office. Real estate agents can use virtual reality to show off homes in 3D.
In the retail industry, augmented and virtual reality can be used in a variety of ways to help companies progress customers through the purchase funnel. For example, the augmented reality app ModiFace allows users to look into a tablet and use the app to change eye color, makeup, hair color, and more.
In terms of virtual reality, Marxent Labs recently partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement to create an app that lets users design a kitchen or bathroom. Visualization is a key area of strength towards VR’s application in retail, by helping customers, for example, match flooring, fixtures, and lighting to help them come to a decision faster and then purchase those materials.