Augmented reality uses technology to superimpose a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world. Virtual reality immerses users in a computer-generated world. While the technologies are not new, what is new is how businesses are increasingly using them.
When augmented reality (or AR for short) hit the mainstream in 2016 with the explosive popularity of Pokémon GO, businesses including real estate firms, restaurants and even a cellphone carrier found ways to cash in on the craze. But while Pokémon GO may have introduced consumers and some businesses to the world of AR, it’s not the only game in town.
Businesses now use AR technology to draw in new customers or provide a unique customer experience. Forbes reports that AMC and Next Games have released an AR mobile game for “Walking Dead” fans. IKEA is using AR technology to let shoppers “place” furniture in their home, and last year the University of Nebraska broke ground on a $119 million AR and VR training center for medical professionals. Meanwhile, in the entertainment and travel industries, a London bar offers augmented reality cocktails and an airport in Singapore will use AR technology to help speed up baggage processing. For sports fan, Apple and Major League Baseball plan to debut an AR baseball app this year.
Many business reporters can begin covering AR technology in their own backyard.
Questions to consider as you cover augmented reality
• Who is using VR? Are any local companies testing augmented reality? How are they using it and why? How much money are they investing in this technology and what do they expect as a return on investment? If they’re selling AR as a product or service, is it a one-time purchase or a subscription basis? Are any local game developers or technology studios using it in their work?
• Why now? Have AR games like Pokémon GO opened the floodgates to other applications for augmented reality? Is AR technology becoming more affordable now that some smartphones have this capability? What equipment do users need and how much does that cost?
• What might be the long-term impact? Treating PTSD with augmented reality or virtual reality is said to benefit veterans by exposing them to anxiety-producing scenes while performing relaxation exercises. But how do neuroscientists or safety experts feel about using augmented reality for non-medical uses, say at a baseball game or on a street corner? How might this impact employees’ concentration and productivity in the future? Are there safety concerns that employers need to consider?
• Some colleges now offer courses in virtual reality and augmented reality, so professors and university researchers may be a good resource to tap for context on this growing field. USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies and the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute are two leaders in this space.
• Research and consulting firms are other sources of authoritative information on this technology. For instance, Forrester publishes research on VR and AR and Q Analysts in San Jose, California does augmented reality testing.