Assessing Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality Together and Separately

Thursday Apr 13th 2017 by Carl Weinschenk
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Augmented reality and virtual reality are almost always considered together, and that is understandable: The names are similar and they both deal with augmenting what is being perceived by the user.

Augmented reality (AR) is in a good position because it has strong potential in both the enterprise and consumer sectors. Though most of the media attention has naturally flowed to the consumer side, substantial progress has also been made on using AR on the factory floor, on the loading dock, at remote worksites and elsewhere.

One of the keys to sustaining and building on the initial progress is the creation of standards. Without a common set of ground rules, industry segments develop in a haphazard, helter-skelter manner that leads to confusion and, ultimately, disappointment. The AR industry wants to avoid that future. This week, UI LABS and The Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA) released functional requirement guidelines for AR hardware and software.

The press release says that the standards aim to support AR performance and efficiency among manufacturing companies. More specifically, they focus on training and safety; factor flow and field services operations; machine assembly, inspection and repair; manufacturing space and product design and other elements.

The push was started by Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar and Procter & Gamble through a UI LABS collaboration called the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. Sixty-five organizations are now on board.

Deloitte University Press’ assessment of the AR and VR sectors starts with some very compelling numbers. The firm found that more than 150 companies, and 52 in the Fortune 500, are testing or have deployed AR and/or virtual reality (VR). Startups and corporations invested $2.3 billion in in the category last year. Five companies unveiled AR and VR hardware in 2016; some was targeted at enterprises. The writers saved the most impressive fact for last on its list: IDC projects the AR/VR segment to grow from $5.2 billion last year to $162 billion by 2020.

A report from Business Insider aimed at generating interest in a much longer study suggests that the success of AR in the workplace will depend upon progress in the consumer sector. The report relies to some extent on comments made by Dr. Matthias Winkenbach to The Wall Street Journal. The fact that commercial uses have emerged doesn’t reduce the need for consumer success:

Although there are already niche industries where the use of AR and VR is being investigated, such as using AR to train surgeons, broader adoption and use cases by enterprises will rely on mass consumer adoption first, Dr. Winkenbach said. That’s because device makers tend to develop and improve hardware for the commercial sector only after its gained traction with consumers — as was the case for the iPhone, for instance. AR and VR hardware makers will likely focus on making the consumer experience better before turning to the enterprise.

AR and VR are different technologies and the emergence of the standards is a good time to begin discussing AR and VR as discrete technologies. The two are almost always considered together, and that is understandable: The names are similar and they both deal with augmenting what is being perceived by the user. However, the differences in what they actually do and their business cases suggest that they should be considered separately.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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