Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality tools are coming to the workplace sooner than you think. With the launch of Apple’s iOS11 and most recent iPhones, what seemed a long way off is now in thousands of people’s pockets—today.
But is your IT manager ready? Is your business ready? Are you ready?
Let our business IT experts explain what is coming and how to prepare.
The Difference Between VR, AR and MR
Augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality tools are currently creating a lot of buzz — as well as a lot of potential headaches for IT managers in everything from networking and security to data retrieval.
The term “mixed reality” (MR) was coined by researchers Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino in 1994 to refer to every sensory environment in between the purely physical and the purely virtual. But over the years this term was replaced by augmented reality—i.e. digital information overlaid over the real world, and virtual reality—i.e. virtual objects in a digital environment.
Over the past few years however, Microsoft has revived the term “mixed reality” to market its HoloLens product, and most manufacturers now use the term to refer to objects projected into space. With AR, the digital overlay usually appears to float on a plane in front of the observer, while with MR it is possible to walk around a virtual object.
Typically VR and holographic MR applications require specialised hardware such as glasses or headsets, but AR is already being built into apps for ordinary smartphones and tablets, as evidenced by Apple’s new iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 plus.
What This Evolution Means for Business
Our IT experts are confident AR will become mainstream for some specific business tasks—most likely in areas like field service, logistics, warehouse, repairs and design—within the next three years.
And with Apple’s ARKit developer framework for easily creating AR apps, it is clear that the company envisions AR having a significant presence on millions of iPhone and iPad users. Initially most of those apps will be consumer-facing, but they will be entering the workplace on employees’ mobile devices whether IT managers are ready or not.
Corporations such as Boeing and Bosch are already running pilot programs with AR, VR and MR. Boeing engineers work on design problems for aircrafts using glasses that let them see a 3D virtual reality image of part of the airplane. In cooperation with Daimler AG, Bosch has developed an app (based on its Common Augmented Reality Platform) that shows first responders where the dangerous parts of a vehicle are. But Bosch’s vision for AR extends beyond information displayed on a smartphone or tablet. In the future all their technicians will have AR glasses, and will get all the information they need to fix a vehicle through that. Boeing and Bosch believe that AR will be the future mainstream interface, full stop.
The Challenges for IT
When businesses adopt any new technology, it puts a strain on their IT infrastructure unless they are adequately prepared. And currently, most companies don’t have the back-office capabilities or external IT help required to support AR, MR and VR business applications. Legacy systems will need to be improved to ensure these new technologies can function properly, and a lot of testing will need to be done to figure out how these new applications are vulnerable to security threats.
For example, what if employees leave their AR device (glasses, head-mounted display or the like) in a public place accidently. How difficult would it be to access the information on it? Moreover, if these devices have cameras that are on all the time, what does that mean for security, or privacy? These are all things IT managers will have to consider as they implement these next-generation technologies. But even with the challenges, the bottom line is AR, VR and MR are extremely exciting spaces—and will no doubt transform business for the better. Smartphones are on their way to becoming geniusphones, and we say—bring it on.
BTA is one of the leading Managed Service Providers in London providing the full spectrum of IT services from technology advice, to hardware and software procurement, to network security and design. To find out how we can make technology work for you, call BTA’s IT experts on 0208 875 7676.