We’re already seeing changes in how we work, driven by the widening availability of 5G which allows for technological advancements in collaboration. We’re meeting online, livestreaming, sharing documents and revising them as a group, storing data in the Cloud, automating business processes…..To take these further, VR and AR are set to transform our working practices.
Simulated senses of touch and movement are being brought to us via haptics technology, allowing us to remotely interact with objects and processes. One application where we will see the most immediate benefit is likely to be in the use of haptics in gesture controls, adding an extra dimension to data visualisation.
Here are some examples of how AR and VR can be applied:
We will see virtual meetings enhanced by telepresence robots. These are computer-, tablet- or smartphone-controlled robot that includes a video camera, screen, speakers and microphones. These robots can be used to greet people at a conference and lead them to their seat, they can welcome guests to a hotel and assist with registration, they can show a visitor around an art gallery or manufacturing facility while imparting pertinent information. As needed, people can interact with the robot, seeing and hearing a remote operator and the operator can simultaneously view what the robot is ‘looking’ at and ‘hearing’. Telepresence robots can avoid obstacles, zoom video and mix reality overlays where virtual 3D objects can be added into the video stream to appear as if they are in the real world. All these features contribute to an informative and fully immersive experience.
Prototyping, Testing and Training
Virtual prototyping combined with telepresence robots create safe environments to test and develop new products, methods and knowledge. It will accelerate product design, improving time to market for new innovations. The use of smart devices can also provide preventative information to enable more effective monitoring of work processes and prevention by design. This can also be enabled by communicating and working with robots through VR interfaces and avatars.
Organisations like NASA are already using VR to develop and test new processes and products faster and safer but it can be applied in more familiar environments.
1. Corporate environment
As the workforce because more distributed, there is a growing need for employees to be trained using a simulated experience. Through VR, corporate training in the form of familiar videos, manuals and audio can come together with “hands-on” experience in a digital environment. This is more efficient than traditional in-person training, arguably quicker, and almost certainly less expensive.
2. Hazardous environment
VR and AR can help reduce physical, ergonomic, biological risks as well as avoid exposure to dangerous substances. Big Data and smart devices can feed into AR to help improve risk assessment and management processes. AR can incorporate instructions, which could reduce human error, as workers would not need to refer to separate guidance for example while their hands are needed for maintenance activity. AR can also improve situational awareness by providing contextual information, for example on the presence of hidden hazards such as asbestos, electricity cables and gas pipelines.
In troubleshooting, companies can translate actions in VR to a robot in the workplace, allowing issues to be resolved remotely through smart devices, with robots carrying out manual tasks and communicating with users on the network.
VR can allow prospective employees to virtually experience in a deeply immersive way the workplaces and environments their new job requires which helps them to decide whether this position would be right for them or not. From the employer’s perspective, VR helps with the evaluation of candidates’ skills, to establish if they’re a fit for the role and the organisation.
While it can be clear to see how healthcare, engineering, automotive and other industries will benefit from interacting with digital interfaces in a more seamless way, in general business, haptics combined with avatars used in VR chatrooms for example is expected to facilitate a better work experience, better communication and teamwork, and so enhanced productivity. To some degree or other, we’re already working -and creating - in the metaverse.