Understanding AR, VR and MR: the stack trio that opens the flood gates to memorable customer experience, high-signal communication and uninterrupted business growth.
- The characteristics of different immersive experiences
- How immersive experiences are transforming business today
- Why immersive experiences are the next big reality in commerce
An immersive experience transports us virtually from our surroundings and transplants us into a fully or partially illusionary environment, generating the perception of being present in a space that doesn’t physically exist. Sometimes referred to as an interactive web experience, an immersive experience allows viewers to engage and interact with digitally visualized elements via content or tools that can include objects, ambiances, situations and even other users. The new code for business transformation across cultures and economies, an immersive experience is typically multi-sensory in nature, aiming to quench users’ innate curiosity through immersive moments that engage consciousness from all angles.
Digitally constructed narratives don’t carry the compulsion of conforming to the physical limitations or cultural regulations of the real world. This frees up makers of immersive technologies to achieve what’s normally considered unthinkable. What does that look like? Bringing abstract concepts into vivid life, upending how we develop prototypes or pitch to investors. Decoding principles and processes for highly efficient learning, teamwork and R&D initiatives. Letting virtual avatars connect socially in artificially fabricated realms. Or, as it is becoming increasingly popular, allowing consumers to ‘try-on’ items to judge appropriateness and fit for smarter purchase decisions.
With digital transformation as the ruling buzzword in boardrooms, organizations and businesses across specialties and sectors are using immersive experiences and allied techniques in a variety of innovative and impactful ways. The big idea is to significantly improve the consumer journey or customer experience by empowering the participant with never-before layers of information and wow moments. Immersive technologies are finding increasingly high-ROI use-cases across an inclusive range of domains such as education and training, healthcare, advertising, sales, art, decor, real estate, construction, engineering, military, gaming, research and development, automotive, events, hospitality, fitness and entertainment. Yes, nearly everybody wants ‘in.’
Immersive technologies are finding increasingly high-ROI use cases across an inclusive range of domains.
What goes into designing a powerful immersive experience?
Yardsticks to design and measure an immersive experience
Be it physical attributes, environments or dramatis personae (characters in the plot), the key to a memorable immersive experience — as with all creative endeavors — is the authenticity of recreation, details and storytelling. Since the physical world we are familiar with is three-dimensional, this process begins with converting 2D assets of an organization like product photographs, manufacturing blueprints and catalog images into 3D formats that are compatible with immersive reality frameworks.
Like any other content form and format, how the viewer accesses or consumes an immersive experience is the next big digital transformation decision leaders need to take. Will users require gadgets (head-mounted gear, controllers, trackers and simulators) or can one dive into the ring without a melange of accessories and equipment? Must one download an app to plug into the immersive universe, or can it be experienced on any device with an internet connection? Does the participant have to navigate a complex series of steps to enter ‘the zone,’ or is it possible to ease into it more effortlessly? There are no right and wrong answers here, but as t he gadget-less and app-less plug-and-play innovation from Enhance 3D and AR Solutions has shown, simple remains powerful.
What are the different kinds of immersive experiences out there?
A comparative look at AR and VR — today’s frontrunning immersive technologies
Relentless breakthroughs across R&D labs and technology studios make it easier than ever for organizations and brands to create customized immersive experiences for their fans and markets.
Of them, the two most popular varieties are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). A third — mixed reality (MR) — is really a blend of the two. The essential difference between AR and VR is simple: While augmented reality (and allied 3D technologies) overlays slices of the real world with additional digital information, virtual reality de-links users entirely from their physical habitats, transporting them into an alternative or parallel universe that is entirely contrived on software.
Despite several overlapping areas between 3D-AR and VR — most notably in the use of similar gadgets and gear, programming platforms and industry use cases — the two versions of business transformation and immersive tech have clearly defined distinctions.
- Augmented reality is partially (but firmly) rooted in the real world, while elements in a virtual reality framework are ‘all artificial,’ as it were. While 3D and augmented reality techniques enhance what already exists, virtual reality amplifies what’s unreal in the first place. This has important ramifications when it comes to the uses and applications of the respective immersive technologies. The unmatched ability of virtual reality to unchain us entirely from the trappings of the immediate physical ambiance opens limitless horizons for simulation and imagination. On the other hand, the unique mishmash of fact and fiction (in the case of 3D and augmented reality) emerges as an unparalleled tool when it comes to helping us rediscover familiar objects in a new light or reimagine routine rituals in ways never thought possible.
- Immersive experiences built on 3D and augmented reality protocols can be harnessed with just a smartphone (although some AR versions do require gadgets), while virtual reality mandatorily comes with headset and device requirements.
- Augmented reality allows users to simultaneously retain control over their real world. In contrast, virtual reality users hand over more control about what they experience to the software and the system.
Brands and organizations using immersive experiences
Revenue leaders and custodians of business transformation globally are turning to the power of immersive experiences to set trends and reset growth.
- Walmart converted its physical retail stores into ‘test stores’ with an app that allowed employees to analyze items by simply holding their mobile device, taking customer fulfillment to the next level by revolutionizing inventory control.
- Ikea’s new Studio app now allows users to capture entire 3D blueprints of rooms and revisualize their design. Ikea’s earlier (and iconic) Place app — built in collaboration with Apple and sporting 98 percent accuracy — already enabled users to virtually place and scale furniture in their own environments.
- Gucci’s ‘digital-only’ sneakers, built to harness the rising phenomenon of virtual influencers and social media filters, are a milestone in digital fashion.
- Amazon Shopping’s ‘View the decor on your screen first’ immersion innovation consistently fetches a 4.9/5 rating on the App Store.
- Burger King famously used AR to enable fans to burn their rival’s ads virtually on their screens by simply pointing their device at a billboard (while simultaneously ordering Burger King’s own product).
- American Express used immersive experiences — a blend of AR and VR immersive experience — to host hit onsite events featuring celebrity sportswomen like Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams.
- Netflix leveraged both 3D and AR to promote shows by allowing audiences to ‘walk-through’ story sets virtually.
- The New York Times regularly raids its VR and AR trove to produce spatial data, real-scale explainers, interactive visual stories, 3D art and immersive environments to enhance readers’ understanding of their world.
- The e-commerce, social commerce and online selling industry is in the throes of fundamental digital transformation: Facebook has decided to start supporting AR ads, while e-commerce giant Shopify has already embedded AR into its platform.
- According to a BRC report, advertising agencies across geographies are increasingly investing in AR to better engage markets and drive revenue for clients.
The future is immersive
Digital transformation is in the air, and the weather vane is pointing towards incremental adoption of 3D-AR, VR and MR tech across commerce and business categories
In a 2020 survey, 80% of businesses and customers agreed that the experience a company provides is just as important as its suite of services and products. Studies further confirmed that brands that prioritize experiences over features and products have a 200% greater chance of garnering referrals and a 25% higher chance of attracting more customer loyalty.
Brands that prioritize experiences over features and products have a 200% greater chance of garnering referrals and a 25% higher chance of attracting more customer loyalty.
As 5G goes mainstream and the appetite for immersive experiences continues to grow amongst the next generation of buyers ( 54% of 18–24-year-olds want brands to connect with them in “new and innovative ways,” according to a study by Verizon Media), the case for immersive formats of engagement gets stronger for companies of all shapes and sizes. The numbers nod: 75% of business leaders anticipate using AR or VR by 2023, while the global market for augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality market is slated to touch $250 billion by 2028.
The next business reality is upon us. It is virtual, augmented and immersive.