Industry experts believe that one of the biggest trends in 2019 will be the arrival ‘immersive technologies’ that change the way people interact and perceive the digital world.
In previous eras of technology, certain digital experiences were linked to a single device. For example, web browsing was synonymous with the PC and a mobile phone was the standard way to make a voice call.
But the advent of cloud applications and improvements to mobile connectivity means that digital experiences are now linked to profiles and accounts that work across multiple form factors.
Immersive experiences will build on this by using new technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to change how people interact with the digital world.
Gartner suggests that by 2022, 70% of enterprises will experiment with immersive technologies and a quarter will have already deployed immersive applications.
“Over time, we will shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface (UI) technologies to a multichannel and multimodal experience,” says David Cearley, a Gartner analyst.
“The multimodal experience will connect people with the digital world across hundreds of edge devices that surround them, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors and consumer appliances.”
“The multichannel experience will use all human senses as well as advanced computer senses (such as heat, humidity and radar) across these multimodal devices. This multi experience environment will create an ambient experience in which the spaces that surround us define ‘the computer’ rather than the individual devices. In effect, the environment is the computer.”
The potential for businesses is significant. According to the Capgemini Research Institute, 82% of businesses that have implemented AR or VR say the technology has met or exceeded their expectations. Just under half believe Mixed Reality (MR) will become mainstream within their organisations in the next three years and 75% claim to have obtained operational benefits of more than 10%.
Potential use cases include multi-channel customer service operations that work across multiple devices and offer a variety of interaction methods to improve results. Chatbots are one way of doing this, while the Internet of Things (IoT) and new types of connected devices will enable new applications.
According to Capgemini, organisations are using AR and VR for tasks such as repair and maintenance, safety and efficiency, and for staff training. AR in particular is seen as promising because of how it connects the physical and digital worlds.
An example of a MR in action is Microsoft HoloLens which displays contextual information that can make a user more efficient or give them the ability to work remotely. For example, it can help a physician treat a patient or allow an elevator technician to diagnose a fault in a broken lift.
Advances in networking technology, such as 5G and edge computing, will accelerate this shift. In the future it is thought that local networks will be able to sense physical environments, opening up another tranche of use cases. Networks would detect Radio characteristics emitted by the human body so smart speakers like Amazon Alexa adjust their actions based on the user or alert the police should a person fall or if an intruder was detected.
Capgemini has identified a group of “early achievers” who are gaining the most benefit from immersive technology.
Common themes are that pioneers have a centralised governance model in place to drive innovation and build up awareness, can focus on the right use cases, and are preparing their technology infrastructure to integrate AR, VR and other immersive experiences.
Insufficient back-end infrastructure and a lack of in-house talent were identified as the two largest obstacles.
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