If you follow the latest technology trends then you have surely noticed that interest in virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality systems appears to be fading. Google’s Cardboard glasses with the inserted smartphone turned out to be more of a fad than a serious foray into VR, and advanced VR systems with high-resolution screens, gloves, motion capture system, and other neat gadgets are still too expensive to appeal to a broad consumer market.
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So, are those, who predicted the bursting of the VR/AR market bubble, right?
At first glance it may seem so, as according to a report published by the IDC analytical agency, world-wide shipments of AR and VR headsets fell by 30.5% year-over-year, to 1.2 million units in the first quarter of 2018. However, other statistics collected by IDC point to significant investment growth (as high as 260% in some markets) that is attributed to the enterprise.
In the overall context of growing consumer demand for many types of tech products ( click here for examples and vouchers) – the increase in investment investment contrasted with a short-term decrease in the volume of supplies usually occurs whenever the primary focus is on the long-term (as opposed to short-term) revenue . In the case of VR technology this appears to be is a sign of a drastic change in direction. The focus is shifting away from the consumer and toward utilitarian use ( commercial, medical, educational, etc.).
The interest on the part of retailers lies in the use of VR and AR technologies in their business processes – as a tool (think virtual points of sales) to sell products, not as the product itself. Medical institutions rank second in terms of investment growth in VR tech, followed by educational entities.
For the purposes of this article we’ll focus on the medical field where VR technology has arguably the most potential.
Perhaps the most famous medical application of the augmented reality systems has become surgery. In 2013, the iPad was used for information support during an operation on the liver. The tablet received an image of the operated organ from the built-in camera and immediately displayed it on its screen, supplementing the reference data and the results of the patient’s examination.
In 2014, the staff of St. Louis Medical School used AR glasses of their own design to visualize the accumulation of atypical cells.They used a contrast agent, which was captured mainly by cancer cells. This helped to choose the boundaries of excision of affected tissues more rationally and to conduct a less invasive operation with lesser damage to the patient’s organs.
Clinical use of VR is also rapidly gaining use in the field in psychiatry. At the Stanford University School of Medicine, there is a virtual reality clinic that practices “therapeutic immersion” technology. During the course of treatment, the patient is presented with scenes that cause him a different level of anxiety. Gradually, the patient ceases to be afraid of things that until recently caused them irrational horror. For example, someone who has been treated for agoraphobia learns to enjoy visiting virtual tours through wide-open generated landscapes.
Among other VR applications in medicine, rehabilitation after trauma is another example. Using conventional simulators, restoration of motor skills is much more difficult to achieve than in virtual reality rehabilitative environment. Such environments provide a more complete feedback to the patient and doctors and help the patient regain lost body capabilities in a shorter timeline.
While there are still issues with VR/AR technology – primarily the “sea sickness” effect and lag, that prevent wider and faster adoption – the promise of the technology is tremendous.
The boundary between AR and VR is gradually being erased. The technology and its market for applications is maturing and developers are eager to produce more versatile glasses and headsets. Apple, for instance, is working on the T288 headset, which (according to rumors) can be used in both types of systems – AR as well as VR.
Factors such as these, as well as the increase in investment in the technology make it obvious that augmented and virtual reality tech is not going anywhere – despite the current setbacks in the retail sector.