My kid wanted a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles. He wanted to walk with dinosaurs. It’s a harmless pursuit, so I bought him a pair. We won’t talk about how I use them more than he does now, though. What I will talk about is how the VR craze—and digital reality (DR) in general—is moving from a consumer tool to spice up your life to a way for companies to improve the way they do business.
Over the past decade, several factors have made widespread use of DR technologies possible. Mobile bandwidth has increased, device batteries last longer, and application environments support more integration. Also, true to Moore’s law, as the use of technology has increased, prices have come down, and availability is nearly ubiquitous.
So what exactly is DR? Digital reality is the umbrella term for technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality, mixed reality (MR), and other immersive, multi-sensory experiences. All these technologies incorporate varying degrees of reality augmentation or replacement, but the bottom line is that they are built to enrich our day-to-day, human experience and give us new, and uniquely personalized, ways to view and interact with our surroundings.
The Business Side of DR
Digital reality isn’t just for play. Sure, you can walk with dinosaurs and experience an auto race near first-hand, but more and more, forward-thinking companies are using this confluence to leverage DR technologies to change the way they do business. Indeed, DR technologies are changing the game for companies and providing opportunities for knowledge workers to be integrally involved in technology deployment in ways heretofore unheard of.
DR will upend the current worker-technology model. It will change the way we collaborate; it will change how we share and incorporate knowledge; and it will change how we deal with technology itself.
We’ve all used tools to have conference and video-conference calls. It brings us closer together and makes flying to and fro not the necessity it once was. However, DR technologies make these capabilities look positively stone-age. With DR, you can actually “see” and “feel” what your non-co-located workers are experiencing. For example, an engineer for a pipeline company could use DR technologies and see what her workers are grappling with as they struggle to fix a burst pipe. She can direct their every move to get the repair done quickly and more effectively than with a conference call where someone juggles a camera-equipped mobile phone.
Conceptualization is often the most opaque part of the product development phase. Until you’ve built a model, it’s difficult to see how all the moving parts will work. With DR technologies, conceptualization comes to life. For example, wearing DR glasses, aerospace engineers can see—and manipulate—three-dimensional models of an aircraft or satellite’s design and observe simulated testing scenarios to spot potential problems and deal with them before expensive models are built. This saves time and money and lends greater efficiency and accuracy to the development process.
Widespread adoption of DR technologies will bring about a sea-change in the way we store data and integrate applications. DR technologies are data hogs—there’s no way around it. Current VR glasses—with their 360-degree view—take up probably 20 or 30 times the data storage space of a standard video file. As DR technologies morph and grow, that figure will increase exponentially. The solution? The cloud. If you haven’t made the move to the cloud before, you’ll need to if you implement any type of DR tech. You won’t be able to afford and maintain the storage necessary for extensive DR adoption.
DR adoption will also force manufacturers to play nice with each other. Companies wishing to implement DR technologies won’t stand for being told that every time they need to purchase new goggles or other new technology components, that they’ll have to stick with a single manufacturer. Can you imagine if you bought one manufacturer’s PC, only to be told that no other manufacturer’s peripherals would function with it? That’s my point. With future DR technology and system design, DR components will be pan-functional with most ERP, CRM, and other mission-critical systems and databases. It won’t work otherwise.
The Future’s So Bright…
There’s so much that’s possible with DR technology, most of it still years away, but some of it within our current grasp. The bottom line is that the DR implementation curve is trending upward, and it’s safe to say that with its power and powerful—nearly unlimited future—DR technologies are an excellent investment in the future that you can make right now, if you do your research and invest judiciously. Are you in?