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AR, VR, and MR: What’s Trending?

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Applications of AR, VR, and MR across industries
Figure 3: Applications of AR, VR, and MR across industries

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) offer immersive and interactive experiences that significantly enhance user engagement and satisfaction. Let’s delve into the capabilities of AR, VR, and MR technologies, and their impact on industrial application development.

Technological advancements, particularly in areas like display technology, computer vision, and graphics processing have made augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) more immersive, interactive, accessible, and affordable. These technologies are being used to improve productivity, training, visualisation, and customer engagement, leading to their adoption in enterprises.

The inconsistent use of terms like AR, VR, and MR can lead to confusion. Different sources define and use these terms in slightly different ways, adding to the confusion. Understanding how these technologies work and how they differ from each other needs to be addressed. The concepts of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality are illustrated in Figure 1.

Concept of AR, VR, and MR
Figure 1: Concept of AR, VR, and MR

Further, Table 1 shows how AR, VR, and MR differ from each other.

Table 1: Differentiating augmented, virtual, and mixed reality

Augmented reality (AR) Virtual reality (VR) Mixed reality (MR)
Purpose Enhancing real-world experiences with digital information (e.g., navigation, education, entertainment) Creating immersive, simulated environments for various applications (e.g., gaming, training, simulations) Integrating digital content into real-world environments for interactive experiences (e.g., training, design)
Real-world interaction Users remain aware of the real world Users are isolated from the physical world Real-world interaction is possible
Experience 20% virtual and 80% real 80% virtual and 20% real 40% virtual and 55% real
Gadgets required Smartphone VR headset HoloLens
Control of the senses Partially controlled Fully controlled Partially controlled
Degree of immersion Moderate High, as users are fully immersed in a virtual environment Variable immersion
Use cases Retail (e.g., virtual try-on), navigation, education (e.g., interactive learning), and gaming with real-world elements (e.g., Pokemon Go) Gaming, simulations (e.g., flight simulators), training (e.g., medical simulations), and entertainment (e.g., VR movies) Training and simulations (e.g., industrial training), design and visualisation (e.g., architecture), and interactive experiences (e.g., interactive museums)

Market trends in the AR, VR, and MR ecosystem

AR, VR, and MR are thought to be revolutionary technologies capable of replacing smartphones. It has been a decade since Google launched Google Glass, which marked the beginning of commercial virtual reality headset development. Several companies such as NVIDIA, Siemens, and Microsoft have recently unveiled their strategies for the industrial metaverse, distinct from the consumer-focused metaverse.

Given the growing demand from end users for advancements in augmented reality technology and the increasing reality of the metaverse, 2024 is poised to be a pivotal year for the future of AR/VR/MR technologies (Figure 2).

Market trends and leading companies in the AR, VR, and MR ecosystem
Figure 2: Market trends and leading companies in the AR, VR, and MR ecosystem

How AR, VR, and MR are redefining industries

AR, VR, and MR provide immersive training environments that simulate real-world scenarios, allowing for more effective and engaging training programmes. These technologies enable hands-on learning experiences without the need for physical equipment or spaces, reducing costs, and increasing accessibility. Some of the major industrial applications of AR, VR, and MR are listed below.

Healthcare and medical training: In healthcare, AR, VR, and MR technologies are transforming patient care, medical training, and research. Some significant applications of these technologies in healthcare are:

  • Medical training and education
  • Virtual environments for physical therapy
  • Patient care and telemedicine
  • Surgical planning and navigation

Retail: In retail, AR, VR, and MR technologies enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and innovate marketing. For instance:

  • AR is used for virtual shopping.
  • VR can create immersive virtual stores where customers can browse and shop in a digital environment.
  • MR can enhance in-store navigation by overlaying digital maps and product information in the physical retail space.

Oil and gas industry: In the oil and gas sectors, AR, VR, and MR technologies can be used to improve various aspects of operations, safety, training, and maintenance.

  • AR can be used for maintenance and inspection of oil rigs and equipment, providing technicians with real-time data and instructions.
  • VR can be utilised for virtual training simulations, allowing workers to practice emergency responses in a secure environment.
  • MR can be used for remote monitoring of oil field operations, overlaying digital information onto the physical environment for improved decision-making.

Exploring simulation tools and devices for AR, VR, and MR applications

Simulation tools are instrumental in creating realistic virtual environments for training, education, and entertainment purposes. These tools enable developers to design and simulate complex scenarios. Moreover, the choice of devices for AR, VR, and MR applications significantly impacts the quality and accessibility of these experiences. From high-end VR headsets to smartphone-based AR applications, the diverse range of devices available caters to various needs and preferences. Understanding the capabilities of simulation tools and selecting the right devices are essential steps in harnessing the full potential of AR, VR, and MR technologies for innovative and impactful applications.

 Applications of AR, VR, and MR across industries
Figure 3: Applications of AR, VR, and MR across industries

Tables 2 and 3 provide a quick overview of popular simulation tools and the devices used for the development of immersive applications.

Table 2: Simulation tools for the development of AR, VR, and MR applications

Tool Platform Developed in Features Open source
Unity3D Cross-platform C#, UnityScript Cross-platform development, Asset store  No
Unreal Engine Cross-platform C++, Blueprints High-fidelity graphics, Blueprint system No
Vuforia iOS, Android C# Marker-based AR, Cloud recognition No
ARCore Android Java, C++ Motion tracking, Environmental understanding Yes (GitHub)
ARKit iOS Swift, Objective-C Scene understanding, Face tracking No
Blender Cross-platform Python 3D modelling, Animation Yes (GitHub)
Spark AR Studio Windows, macOS JavaScript Facebook/Instagram AR effects No
3ds Max Windows MAXScript, Python 3D modelling, animation No

 

Table 3: Popular AR, VR, and MR devices available in the market

Device Manufacturer Applications Resolution in pixels Price (US$)

AR
Apple ARKit Apple
Mobile AR apps, gaming, retail and e-commerce 1920 x 1440 99
  Google Glass Enterprise Google Manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, field service 640 x 360 999
 

VR

Oculus Quest 2
Facebook/Oculus Gaming, virtual tourism 3664 x 1920 (combined) 299 (64GB)
  Sony PlayStation VR Sony Virtual tourism, training, and simulation 1920 x 1080 (combined)
299.99
  HTC Vive Pro 2 HTC Training and simulation, healthcare 2448 x 2448 799.99
 

MR

Microsoft HoloLens 2 Microsoft Industrial design and manufacturing, healthcare 2048 x 1080 3500
  Magic Leap
Magic Leap Industrial applications, healthcare 1280 x 960 2295

 

With the advent of AR/VR/MR technologies, the world is progressively transitioning towards an environment where the real and virtual realms can coexist in harmony. This trend is being accelerated by the widespread adoption of the cloud, edge, and various machine learning-based applications.

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