Over the past years, augmented and virtual reality have seen a massive evolution of technologies and use cases. Whereas virtual reality use cases are primarily focused on experiencing things differently—such as trainings, virtual versions of real products, tourism or games—augmented reality use cases are mainly used to merge additional information or content into a real-world setting. This results in new value and new possibilities for professionals to accomplish tasks more effectively and, in many cases, do things they were not able to do before.
Virtual reality typically isolates you in some way from the physical world, and it can be harder to utilize when collaborating with other people essential for a given scenario. Augmented reality is the more natural tool to use in collaborative scenarios because it allows for a shared reality between people. This enables a group of individuals to share the same experience and collaborate on something that before may not have been possible. Looking at the construction industry, as an example, collaboration scenarios can allow workers to build things together without paper plans. Furthermore, they enable people to co-create while designing something together virtually. Another example we can look at is in education, where augmentation can be used to train a group to do maintenance on complex machines. In surgery, augmentation can create a visual for a laparoscopic procedure to the surgery team. So many different scenarios exist that show how creating a shared reality can significantly benefit a team. And many of these use cases do not even need complex augmentation technologies, such as sophisticated lenses. It is often sufficient to use tablets or smartphones. Typically, the main technical complexity to overcome is the real-time synchronization of content between augmentation devices—an issue that can be solved in several ways.
"Shared Reality is the evolutionary next step of using augmentation to enable collaboration and complex use cases"
Recently, we’ve seen augmented reality use cases that do not fit into the traditional categories. In these new use cases, an augmented or shared reality is used to make data and processes—too complex to display in a traditional way—visible and understandable for an audience. Here, the physical world is not augmented with value-adding content or information. Augmentation is used rather to anchor complex things in the physical world, make them visible in a multidimensional way, and enable shared collaboration. Just imagine a complex business process flow fully visualized as opposed to just seeing it on a two-dimensional screen or print-out. Or think about a complex technical architecture, animated with data and interface flows instead of the usual representation in multiple two-dimensional diagrams. Understand a complex blockchain process and architecture by visualizing it in an augmented three-dimensional way, so stakeholders can truly grasp how it works. And just think about the next step for interactions within these use cases in the form of augmented user interfaces.
Atour Liquid Studios, we are currently implementing many such use cases with our clients. Two years ago, our focus was more on experimenting and building prototypes. Today, however, more and more use cases are taken to the next level and actually implemented as products and tested in real businesses. Once these pilots are successful, real digital transformation of business models and processes is possible. Clearly, we recommend working on using shared reality to improve and enable processes in your company. We are convinced that this will be an important transformation tool in the years to come.