Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things...we’ve all heard the terms over recent years, but what are they and how can they benefit businesses and individuals on a daily basis? And where do VR, AR and the IoT intersect?
The Internet of Things (IoT) has already made a global impact by connecting thousands of devices and their users together with everyday household devices like thermostats, light bulbs, plugs, security systems, and even toothbrushes which are available today.
In healthcare, with developed apps for insulin delivery, monitoring systems for diabetes sufferers, and smart inhalers to name a few, that have the potential to help thousands of people around the world.
While IoT platforms have been heavily invested into by technology giants and OEMs have been busily developing and launching various AR/VR headsets, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have yet to make as major an impact on the market.
How are innovators merging AR/VR with the IoT?
Combining connected things with virtual experiences, made possible by AR and VR opens up unlimited possibilities, when one pauses to think deeply about this.
Virtual Reality removes the user entirely from their real setting and puts them in a whole new ‘digital’ environment with the use of technology. This software generated technology recreates a scenario or environment in a way that a person can feel like it is real.
Augmented Reality is the technology of adding a digital overlay to the user's current environment. Unlike VR, Augmented Reality does not aim to remove the person from reality; it simply adds three-dimensional special effects and features into it. This amplifies the user experience by enhancing the human senses such as sight, sound, touch, and smell.
The use of Augmented Reality is one that can aid us in a myriad of ways by boosting productivity internally within a company and reduce overall expenses, as it allows monitoring contextual in every field of industry, in the manner of the health of bulky equipment, or monitoring the yield of farms, etc.
In these use caes, IoT devices can be used in analyzing and observing the data in conjunction with enriched visualization from AR/VR accessories.
Other clear uses of AR/VR unification with the Internet of Things involve using IoT devices to improve employee and customer interactions with products and services, the ability to gather customer insights to provide a better service for customers, and also as a safe and efficient means for working collaboratively or remotely.
The key benefit to bringing IoT from a specialized function into a fully combined industrial transformation is that all visualization of data by AR/VR devices can happen in real time on increasingly powerful Internet-based broadband networks.
With VR and AR initially targeted to enhance the gaming experience, the technology has the potential to eventually transcend into the larger space of education and training.
inMediaStudio has created the Immersive World Project, its goal being the implementation of immersive learning. "For teaching languages, for example, it is already shown that it is very useful. Progress is being made in environments to get to be collaborative, and then we will be able to get connected to many learners in the same virtual space", says David Fayerman of inMediaStudio, based in Madrid, Spain.
The Immersive World Project allows students to immerse themselves into the environment where they can learn marine technology. It is played using a tablet and the lecturer can activate scenarios that the students can see using VR headsets.
In field service, ‘Assisted Reality’, an extension of Augmented Reality is gaining momentum.
Here, field service engineers are able to see diagrams, texts, checklists, and videos that traditionally require laptops and smartphones. For instance, consider a situation where an engineer or technician arrives on site to fix cellular equipment which may have encountered various errors. In order to resolve the problem, it requires additional knowledge that this person may not have or be aware of, they might have to leave the site to obtain equipment, look through manuals or may even struggle to remember past training. With Assisted Reality; troubleshooting is available within Line-of-Sight (LOS) and the job can be completed efficiently with the assurance of quality.
Field engineers can also be trained for a job that their peers are required to do, with the aid of VR. The task of hiring someone skilled in every aspect of the job is removed as it doesn’t require anyone to assist them; VR manages everything giving the engineer the experience of practical training. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) recently implemented AR glasses in the field for their technicians so that they can converse hands-free with experts via annotated video, which in turn makes repairs faster and also reduces delays.
This approach of using AR/VR can also be influential in the healthcare domain in enabling trainee surgeons to gain invaluable experience within a safe environment.
Virtual Reality allows the trainee surgeon to quickly develop new skills and the know-how without causing any harm to a real patient and receiving real-time feedback as they do so. Performing a surgical procedure on a virtual patient also grants them the chance to try newly acquired techniques or replenish their existing skills.
Another application is remote-surgery, in which the surgeon is in a different location to the patient. An important component in this is ‘force feedback’, the name given to the physical responses to what a person feels when using an interactive device. In robotic surgery, a recent innovation enables the surgeon feels a physical response when managing a device, such as a robotic arm where the surgeon controls the arm using VR, thus enabling the surgeon to perform intricate surgery that would be difficult to perform by hand. Using force feedback; any adjustments to, for example, pressure can be made immediately.
Combining AR with IoT has been a powerful tool, for example with Caterpillar’s electric power generators. When connected to the Internet, technicians and dealers to monitor and observe rental devices, it’s location, usage, and standby time from a central location from a dashboard. The generator is loaded with sensors that are connected to an IoT platform, and AR gauges display the result gathered from the sensors such as pressure and electrical output.
There are many other exemplifications that support the tremendous capabilities of integrating IoT with VR and AR. One is a prototype called the ‘Tele Transport Booth’ which was unveiled by Marriott International Inc. in New York. It looks like a sci-fi teleportation device; it is incorporated with Oculus Rift technology, developed by Oculus VR, a division of Facebook Inc. The Tele Transport Booth gives the experience of traveling to distant lands, virtually. It emits heat/cold and odours to make it feel even more realistic.
Ultimately, the main goal of integrating the Internet of Things and the technology that goes into making it a reality is to unlock the full capabilities of the human potential using humans’ natural behavior patterns. The reason why major tech companies are anxious about bringing the idea of IoT to life, and the reason why Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is so often brought up alongside this concept even though it is being heavily invested into, is because they understand the endless possibilities that it has and the potential to change human life as we know it.
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