Virtual Reality (VR) is one of those technologies that receives a lot of attention, with attention-grabbing concepts and science fiction-friendly stories and ideas wrapped around it. This year alone, movies like Ready Player One show VR with multiple entertainment uses, and product releases like the Oculus Go have made VR more accessible at a much lower price point. However, for all the hype, I believe VR will have limited impact on business. While an exciting entertainment and consumer idea, it is not a technology that is likely to have wide-ranging business uses.
Related to VR is Augmented Reality (AR). Where VR is the idea of a fully immersive environment that a user can view and interact with, AR is the idea of visually representing virtual data in the physical world. This is performed by using a device with a screen and a camera, like a smartphone, or a dedicated set of hardware such as Microsoft HoloLens. The user views the world through the lens, with data augmenting the view. Objects in the real world are “augmented” by computer-generated information.
Games are a common implementation with AR, but I think we are going to see many more business opportunities with AR than VR. There are simple applications, such as the use of AR in print and video marketing, where an item in the real world becomes a trigger for additional information, such as videos or product information. AR can be used to show what is within a product’s package without opening it, or what a user would look like wearing a particular item of clothing.
The technology has educational applications, allowing for more immersive teaching in topics such as anatomy or astronomy. There are also applications in emergency management and medicine, as well as navigation and military applications.
In the workplace, AR can be used for collaboration among virtual or distributed teams, as well as within product research and development. It can be used for training, making for interactive instruction on performing work, and it can be used to assist users with various tasks.
As with most technologies, success will generally be measured by improvement in business outcomes. Typically/With few exceptions, the successful applications are those where outcomes or performance is improved by the application of the technology. This will be accomplished by the combination of the required devices for AR with the systems and data required to power them.
Service providers will have several opportunities in this space. First, implementation services will be required to install and configure the applications and will include the required training to get users familiar with their use. Ongoing monitoring and maintenance will be required to help ensure the systems are functioning as expected, and users will have traditional support needs.
Finally, as the technology continues to mature, there will be direct uses within the solution provider space. Technicians may even eventually use AR to be guided through repairs or implementations themselves!
As an emerging technology, AR remains an interesting area to watch. While not ready for mass adoption yet, AR seems likely to be useful in a number of commercial applications, and is something solution providers and MSPs should be keeping tracking of.
Dave Sobel is senior director, MSP Evangelism at SolarWinds MSP. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @djdaveet
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