Industrial manufacturers have long led the way in adopting augmented reality (AR) solutions, with engineers and service technicians leveraging wearables to access information hands-free. But extended reality (XR), the catch-all phrase for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality and mixed reality (MR), is emerging in retail, consumer packaged goods and other sectors as a tool to freshen up the customer experience and train employees.
AR and VR both leverage digital information, but use different interfaces. AR solutions include software on smartphones or heads-up displays, such as smartglasses, to overlay digital information, including images and text, atop physical objects in the real world. Conversely, VR is about immersion, with users typically strapping on headsets loaded with applications that replace the real world with a virtual environment. MR lies somewhere along the continuum between AR and VR.
The consensus among experts is that XR will mature as technologies improve and become available at a lower cost, and as enterprises find ways to scale XR in pursuit of business value. But market maturity is still 5 to 10 years away, according to Gartner.“Businesses already experiment with VR, but hesitate to fully commit,” says Gartner analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen. “On the other hand, customers are fascinated by the new entertainment possibilities, but do not want to invest in head-mounted displays as long as the offering is so small. This is going to change during the next five years.”
Travel companies are using virtual reality to allow customers to visit places and determine if they wish to visit in real life.