Mixed reality transforms how you work, learn, play, shop, and connect with the world. It’s the perfect way to visualize things that would be impossible or impractical to see otherwise. It is at the forefront of modern technology and business, with major companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple investing large amounts of resources into developing their AR/MR technologies. In 2019 the total market value of AR/MR technologies was estimated to be USD 10.7 billion. Furthermore, the market is projected to reach USD 72.7 billion by 2024.
Throughout the history of MR technology, there's been an increase in product design efficacy and consumer interest. This trend seems to be continuing. More use cases continue to pop up, confirming the effectiveness of this technology. Consequently, it is a no-brainer that tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple are leading the push toward a more augmented world. The questions remain: How can smaller companies get their hands on this technology, and how can they utilize it to increase their work efficiency and profits?
What Is Big Tech Doing with AR/MR?
Microsoft's Mixed Reality
Microsoft has been in the mixed reality game since 2015, when it released its first version of the HoloLens. The HoloLens is a head-mounted display device that runs the Windows Mixed Reality Platform using Windows 10. Microsoft claims that the “HoloLens 2 offers the most comfortable and immersive mixed reality experience, with industry-leading solutions that deliver value in minutes. It is all enhanced by the reliability, security, and scalability of Microsoft's cloud and AI services.” Microsoft hopes to redefine what mixed reality can achieve by providing solutions to problems in various industries. The HoloLens 3 is currently in development and is set to release in 2024.
Apple's Augmented Reality
In 2017, Apple released ARKit, a software developed and incorporated AR technology in apps and games. Many apps on the IOS app store, including IKEA place and Snapchat, utilize this AR technology. Likewise, Apple has also since developed RealityKit 2 and states, “The RealityKit framework was built from the ground up specifically for augmented reality with photo-realistic rendering, camera effects, animations, physics, and more.” It is rumored that Apple is developing a new pair of glasses that incorporate AR. However, this is still speculative.
Read more in our article- Apple AR: Everything You Need to Know
Google's Augmented Reality
Google incorporates its AR technology with Google Lens, which can be accessed on most home devices through Google’s search engine. The features of Google Lens include scanning and translating text on physical objects, identifying plants and animals, and identifying physical buildings and landmarks. Its most prevalent usage is within Google maps, where you can access Live View and know directions overlaid right on top of your real-world view. Likewise, Google has a developer platform similar to Apple’s ARKit named ARCore. More information on these technologies can be found on Google's developer page.
Read more in our article- Google AR: A Comprehensive Guide to ARCore
AccuVein, a start-up company in the healthcare industry, utilizes augmented reality technology to improve nurses' and patients' lives. According to Vinny Luciano, a marketing specialist at AccuVein, 40% of IVs (intravenous injections) miss the vein on the first try, with the figures increasing for children and the elderly.
AccuVein employs AR to show nurses and doctors the location of veins in their patients via a handheld scanner that projects over their skin. The technology has caused a drastic improvement in the accuracy of needle injections in patients. Moreover, these technologies can potentially support and expand healthcare workers' expertise.
IKEA released an AR-based app named IKEA Place back in 2017. As a result, it has profoundly impacted the retail industry. It is an application that allows users to test IKEA's products in real time through the Apple ARKit technology. “IKEA Place makes it easier to make buying decisions in your place, to get inspired and try many different products, styles, and colors in real-life settings with a swipe of your finger," said the leader of digital transformation at Inter IKEA Systems, Michael Valdsgaard in a press release. "Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game-changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster."
AR/MR has even found a place in the art world. For example, in 2020, art mogul KAWS, partnered with Acute Art to showcase his Companion characters. The Companion characters are similar to the large inflatables seen at the yearly Macy’s parade in New York City. However, Covid was in full effect in 2020, so people could not see the Companions in person. The solution Acute Art’s app allowed people to view mixed reality versions of the Companions floating above major cities via the viewer’s home devices. This innovative use of mixed reality technology allowed fans and art goers to participate in a large-scale art exhibit while remaining socially distanced from others.
Snapchat realized the value of augmented reality and invested in the technology in 2016 when it purchased the AR startup Cimagine Media. Cimagine Media is the market leader in commercial augmented reality. They have helped top companies to use AR to accelerate their business. Cimagine now assists companies, retailers, and manufacturers sell more products faster by allowing users to see what they're selling. But Snapchat is not the only major company Cimagine has partnered with. Some of the world's most well-known brands have endorsed Cimagine's proven AR technology. It is already assisting retail at places like Jerome's in the United States and Shop Direct in the United Kingdom. Similarly, they are assisting Coca-sales Cola's staff in selling three times faster and seeing a 20 percent increase in sales.
One of Nike's most recent and inventive ways of improving its business is by putting augmented reality (AR) into its app to assist users in measuring their feet and determining their proper shoe size. For instance, you can measure your foot at home using the app to correctly determine your size and order shoes confidently that you are ordering the correct product. Nike is revolutionizing the shopping industry by delivering this functionality through its app.
How Does Mixed Reality Relate to UX?
Mixed reality can have a powerful impact on a customer’s user experience. One way it can improve a customer's UX is by aligning production visualization with their canonical view. When customers buy a product online, they can only see the product from the angles of the pictures. This is limiting and can even scare away potential buyers. However, you can create an accurate-sized digital rendering of the product with mixed reality. This allows the customer to see the product from every angle. Therefore, they can make a more informed decision when buying the product online.
Likewise, mixed reality is capable of improving the navigation of customers when they are using a company's products. Mixed reality can guide users throughout all stages of a product’s use, such as detailing how to use a product, illustrating how to fix a product, and other involved tasks. For example, improving engineering instructions through mixed reality aids in navigation. MR is incredibly effective at simplifying things. There are endless ways it can improve a customer’s user experience.
In conclusion, mixed reality will change the world. This is proven by Google, Microsoft, and Apple rapidly developing these technologies and their positive track record when utilized by other businesses. Mixed reality is on the cutting edge of technology. Consequently, it can seem overwhelming to keep up with all the updates, innovations, and ways to employ them successfully. If you have any general questions about mixed reality or how your business can utilize it, contact us at www.designial.com. We will be happy to assist you.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.