NOTE: To avoid confusion and to include all real-and-virtual combining environments and technologies — virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, etc., I will use the term Extended Reality in this examination for the sake of simplicity. As we all know they often work together.
We are living in a world where technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives, and with new developments in technology happening at an exponential rate, it’s only natural for humans to apply newer technology to update the way we do things and interact with one another.
The development of one technology has had companies racing since conception to harness its potential in a way that is accepted by consumers: Extended reality, or XR, is an attractive technology because of all of its practical uses and potential to transform multiple industries.
XR in games like Pokémon GO and Snapchat filters is only the tip of the iceberg. XR will gain recognition for a lot more than just games and image enhancers; soon it will have real-life implications. Below are some of the ways in which augmented reality will inevitably impact our lives.
Education and gamification
Students have grown weary of the standard methods of education today, and instructors are frequently thinking of new ways to keep an easily distracted mind engaged with course material. The gamification of learning is widely appreciated in the education world, as it presents new and interesting ways to engage students and promote learning. Through gamification, you can turn a humdrum geology class into series of achievements and digital unlockables rather than tests and grading.
One concern of gamification is that students may be engaged for a while, however, become disinterested when the game is mandatory—making it feel like more of a chore instead. Implementing augmented reality into gamification brings other layers of engagement and interaction into learning, which can prevent students from becoming disengaged.
Imagine the same geology class mentioned above. With XR and gamification, it is possible to take your students on a scavenger hunt field trip, in which they can use their phone camera, walk to augmented markers, and observe the different classifications of rocks. The field trip will become more engaging with a series of achievements coupled with information about the rocks—turning a possibly dull concept for young students into an interactive learning experience.
Extended reality is showing us the ways in which we can immerse ourselves in another world. The way it does this is by placing a computer generated environment over our eyes, requiring us to wear some sort of headset—leaving us in total immersion of a virtual world and blind to the real world. In many instances, it can merge the real world with visual and audio aids, using computer-generated images to enhance our smartphones and tablets, as well as the world around us.
To fully immerse ourselves in XR, we’ll still have to wear something similar to virtual reality headsets, but more along the lines of glasses — as to keep a full field of view with the real world that we simply can’t get with a mobile phone or tablet screen. Wearable technology can, and most likely will, coincide with smart apparel.
XR implemented into wearables can reach a number of markets, and will reach even more as the technology gets perfected. Marketing, retail, and advertising industries are waiting for XR wearables to take off in hopes of new methods of displaying advertising. There are many applications for marketing, such as showing how a new shirt would look on you before you buy it without even physically holding the shirt. Entrepreneurs in the gaming industry are jumping on board as well — as mentioned above, Pokémon Go was a giant step forward for video games.
If you acknowledge how XR can transform education, then you can probably pretty easily translate that to the healthcare industry. Similar to teaching students, extended reality will allow for the instruction of surgical procedures. Probably more appreciated, it allows for the instruction of surgical procedures not to be done on patients, but as simulated training sessions in practices such as ophthalmology to further educational and procedural efforts.
For example, XR could better prepare a prospective ophthalmologist for eye surgery. It would help the immensely if they could see where the veins and astigmatisms are located on a patient’s eyeball and calculate the potential damage of an incision before they find out the hard way. It could also help out during surgery, assisting a surgeon in real time. Medical students can even study, in depth, the inner workings of any human body part they choose to specialize in.
Extended reality has numerous practical applications. Further developments will only bring far more innovative ways to revolutionize how we see and interact with the world. If we can already fathom the significant impact XR can have on the way we learn, what we wear, and the future of healthcare in 2017, there’s no telling how far it will launch us forward in 2018.
Desmond Rhodes is a freelance writer, specializing in Big Data, Marketing, and Social Media.