It’s something about which science fiction movies and video games are made. It’s been in use by the military for years, particularly for flight and battle simulations. And it’s creeping slowly into e-commerce and a few other industries. Yes, we’re talking about augmented and virtual reality.
And consumers who have experienced AR or VR find it fun. They can take a virtual tour of a resort or vacation destination in real-time; in order to see if they are a “fit”, people can also virtually place furniture items in their home (Wayfair); they can “paint” their walls to try out various colors before purchase (Home Depot); and they can try on glasses and clothing (America’s Best and H&M Clothing). More recently, they can use their smartphones and an AR app to watch their favorite wine come to life.
But are these experiences changing our lives in any significant way?
For a person, who has only a general idea of the AR/VR world, the answer would probably be ‘No’. We largely use AR/VR for entertainment purposes, entering this “world” through our computers and smartphones, for example, to play Pokémon Go. We can also purchase headsets for more AR/VR experiences at our homes.
Yet, there are industries in which AR and VR are already making a significant impact. For instance, HoloLens, a mixed reality device, helps medical students study and better understand human anatomy. Leiden University in the Netherlands uses HoloLens to help students study virtual anatomical models that mirror the movements of their own bodies.
Yet, AR and VR are not close to what anyone would call mainstream. Why not? Here are 5 barriers to mainstream adoption of augmented and virtual reality.
For sure, AR apps, mobile AR experiences, and webAR experiences are, in general, mostly free to use. Anyone can access and enjoy technology through their computers and/or smartphones.
Yet, the technology is expensive if we’re talking about headsets.
A high-end headset, especially and AR/MR one, can cost up to $4,000. The technology itself is expensive to develop, and businesses and organizations do not have the expertise in house. And before they go outside to outsource this development, they must see more demand than is currently there.
Pokémon Go is fun, but the average consumer does not see how such technology can impact their everyday lives. When they do, though, the demand will increase, and businesses will be willing to invest in the technologies to meet those demands.
2. The Form Factor
If all of us were into AR/VR, we would be running around with headsets and looking a bit strange. Right now, headsets are bulky and must be “tethered” in some way to a device – most commonly a smartphone, a computer, or a smart TV. Untethered technology is being developed, but, again, it is expensive and not mainstream yet. It will come in the form of wearables that will not involve bulky headsets, which will be left for home use and tethered to devices.
3. Lack of Wide Consumer Demand
As of yet, there is not a huge demand for AR and VR experiences.
According to eMarketer, in 2019 in the US, only 13% of the population uses VR and 20.8% uses AR at least once per month. While this already is a considerable percentage, there’s still no huge spike in the use of AR and VR, at least this year.
While AR and VR are entertaining, the understanding that they have vast implications in a number of industries (education, healthcare, logistics, etc.) has just not “hit” the average person. As younger generations (millennials and Gen Z’ers), who are already comfortable with any new technology, become the majority of screen users, that demand will grow. Students will want to immerse themselves in the life of an ancient Roman citizen; patients will want to “see” how their surgeries will occur; restaurant visitors will want to see how their food is prepared in real-time. And people who want to invest in property will want to tour homes virtually before they make a decision to physically go and take a more intimate look at a potential purchase.
4. Field of View (FOV)
Most current headsets will not provide the field of view that a normal eye has. This detracts from the experience, of course. Is this being addressed? Yes. But it will be a while before untethered AR/VR access, in the form of wearables that are not bulky, will be commonplace and affordable, if only in the form of apps.
5. AR vs. VR – What Do Users Really Want?
Augmented reality puts users into a real-world experience – virtual tours, trying out consumer goods, medical procedures, etc. Virtual reality puts them in a non-real-world experience. One focuses on practicality, the other on entertainment and fantasy. Users want both, but, judging from eMarketer statistics mentioned earlier, AR seems to be the more in-demand experience, while VR appears to be the more developed technology – it’s older.
As we mentioned, AR is vastly employed in education. In its turn, VR has mostly found its role in entertainment. Both AR and VR also help businesses diversify their social media marketing strategy.
Social media giants have incorporated some cool VR and AR experiences. One example is including face filters to help businesses create unique brand experiences, and ultimately, increase sales and boost conversions.
In the End…
Technology marches on at an explosive pace. What has occurred in the past is this: people tend to be exposed to newer technologies at their workplaces. Consider computers as an example. The first use came in the workplace, far before consumers began to see the value of the technology in their own homes. The same may be true for AR and VR.
They may need to enter the workplace first so that people can become comfortable with the technology and understand the value for their personal use. On the other hand, these technologies have already entered the personal/home environment through the screens everyone currently uses. This dual exposure may indeed mean that AR and VR will take hold rather quickly. In fact, many predict that these technologies will be commonplace within the next decade.Guest Post