Imagine being able to analyse the terrain on Mars without ever travelling there or watching live sport play out on your living room floor. Welcome to the exciting new world of Mixed Reality (MR).
A hybrid mash of the best parts of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), Mixed Reality combines virtual content with the real world to create an interactive and immersive experience.
From streamlining manufacturing processes to revolutionising tele-medicine, Mixed Reality has the potential to transform industries and positively impact wider society.
Picture a spectrum, with virtual reality at one end and real reality at the other. VR immerses the user into a completely virtual and simulated environment, while augmented reality enhances the real world, superimposing virtual objects and graphics onto it.
With AR, the user can experience both the real and virtual world but cannot make them interact.
Mixed Reality however, brings the two worlds together, enabling them to interact in real-time. Through high-level imaging, voice commands and sensing technologies, the user can manipulate both physical and digital objects in one seamless experience.
Just like VR and AR, the experience is created through a head-mounted device, such as Microsoft’s Hololens.
Strapped to your head, the Hololens allows for a completely hands-free experience and projects holograms onto your surroundings. Using hand-tracking, eye-tracking and spatial mapping, you can manipulate and interact with these holograms as if they were part of your physical surroundings.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this technology is just for entertainment or gaming, but Mixed Reality can be a powerful tool for organisations, especially as hybrid working becomes the norm.
A recent report by Harvard Business Review and Microsoft found that most businesses already see its value, with 62% of businesses saying MR will improve customer satisfaction and 55% believing it will enhance work processes.1
With the power to beam colleagues and customers into a shared space from all over the world, it’s easy to understand the collaborative benefits this technology can bring – especially since MR can facilitate conversations in multiple languages too.
Creativity is enhanced, as ideas can be explored without wasting budgets or resources, and the customer experience is greatly improved as problems are solved more efficiently.
For example, if you’re a water company and your customer on the other side of the world has a problem, you can connect an engineer on site to a water technician, showing them the environment and locating the problem, without ever needing to physically visit the site together.
Without the use of technology, this would require days to fix. Instead, it can be completed in an hour, saving travel costs, carbon emissions and maintaining social distancing.
The ability to collaborate and share visuals with colleagues in this way, means that productivity increases by reducing time spent on a task, but it also improves accuracy and gives access to experts beyond the local postcode.
There’s a societal benefit here too. If we look at an industry like healthcare, MR enables the user to request remote assistance from subject matter experts.
This is similar to the trials happening around live, remote-operated surgery, where in the future, patients will be operated on by specialist surgeons living all over the world.
Not only does this improve accuracy of diagnoses, but it brings enhanced medical care on an ever-greater scale, eliminating geographical barriers.
Training is another area that MR can support.
In the UK, our operations field team has been experimenting with educating and supporting new starters and found that mixed reality was successful in guiding field engineers through processes and procedures on our Fixed and Mobile equipment.
Training, and familiarisation of internal processes, can typically take between 3-18 months requiring large amounts of face-to-face time with mentors – involving travel and other costs.
Whilst still required, the experience has shown that mixed reality has the potential to increase self-learning and provide additional support to new starters in a consistent and engaging manner.
When looking at more dangerous working environments, training can take place in a safe space and digitising complex processes can improve employee health and safety, keeping them hands free.
With the acceleration of hybrid working and digitalisation of the workplace, businesses must focus on equipping employees with the tools to collaborate on a global scale, and train up remotely, if they want to foster the digital skills and culture of tomorrow’s world.
As with other emerging technologies, demand for these experiences and capabilities is only going to grow. To stay competitive, understanding how mixed reality can add business value now will help you win big in the future.Learn how to implement Mixed Reality in your business.
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