Enterprise Innovation in Mixed Reality: Creating Intuitive and Immersive User Experiences

In my first article, Innovation — Behind The Buzzwords, I made a tongue in cheek reference to “innovative” startups creating establishment-disrupting products that revolutionize the Internet of On-Demand Things in a virtual, or augmented perspective of today’s world. While my original intent in that article was to expose the overuse of buzzwords, it does bring to light an interesting point.

How is Mixed Reality being leveraged across different industries and what roles will these new mediums play in shifting how we interact with the world around us?

At the enterprise level, corporate innovation leans on expanding knowledge of emerging technologies by observing and projecting where the startup interest in the sector is going. At Sidebench, we’ve found that by understanding challenges startups face on the ground, where we see the market heading, and the various applications of new technology, our product team is able to take learnings and experimentation from rapid prototyping sessions and apply that knowledge to our larger enterprise client engagements.

More than Just Fun and Games

In becoming more involved in the ecosystem and speaking with more of our brand partners, we’ve noticed that both Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) for enterprise brands will be about much more than just game experiences. The potential for AR and VR applications in the workplace will represent an inherent paradigm shift towards creating new ways for customers and internal teams to communicate and collaborate, bringing a major shift in the way users engage with digital products.

The convergence of AR, VR, and Internet of Things (IOT) are creating a Mixed Reality (MR) of connected devices that are enabling a new standard for human digital interaction. Partnered with other emerging technologies with decreasing barriers to entry like Machine Learning, Blockchain, and Computer Vision, enterprise brands are able to leverage a connected world of opportunity for technology innovation to rethink current business processes and applications.

Designing for User Experience in Mixed Reality

MR represents a new standard in human device interaction. The virtual and real world are coming together more than ever before, creating environments in which users need to interact with both digital and physical objects. This coexistence through technology creates a shift in how users are engaging with design interfaces allowing more natural and behavioral based design. It’s now becoming more practical to imagine users across all industries being immersed in virtual worlds testing design prototypes, logging flight hours, or even performing trial surgeries through connected devices in mixed reality.

MR is the next step in the evolution of interfaces from keyboards to trackpads to touch-screens. Its interfaces adapt to natural human movements rather than demanding that humans adapt to artificial device interfaces. It offers natural interfaces, including voice and gesture interfaces, through wearable, hands-free devices like the lenses or glasses of VR & AR. MR devices will even be able to interface with users through where they are looking. Devices able to detect where the user’s eyes are focused and adjust the view accordingly will start to allow even more natural gestures such as reaching out to “touch” and manipulate the virtual elements they see.

As the technology mediums evolve, the way we design for the best user experience is inherently ever changing. Rapid prototyping for emerging technology platforms will require specialized skillsets that it won’t always make sense to build dedicated internal teams for. Innovative consulting firms specialized in experience design in these new mediums are able to work together with established players in their respective markets to rethink practical applications AR, VR, and IoT in their industry.

Practical Applications of Mixed Reality Across Industries

MR already is being widely used as a tool for collaboration. Individuals viewing the same virtual elements can work together to adjust those elements — and each other’s adjustments — in real time. This makes it a perfect tool for testing and perfecting designs before building a prototype. What makes MR so exciting, however, is what it could do beyond design in a wide range of activities across industries

In the construction, integrating wall-penetrating radar with MR systems could allow contractors to avoid costly mistakes by showing them what’s inside walls instead of opening them up to see. Also, through MR, a technician stumped by a problem could contact a more experienced one to remotely troubleshoot the equipment and provide detailed three-dimensional instructions to walk the on-site technician through the solution.

In healthcare, surgeons will be able to revolutionize the way they practice and study. This is sometimes called Simulation Based Learning (SBL) By integrating special sensory equipment with MR systems, they could practice the procedure virtually, gaining valuable muscle memory as they get the physical sensation of performing the procedure, as well as feedback on how their actions are affecting the “patient.”

And many many more… Military training in heads up displays (HUDs), Flight training in aviation, prototyping in CAD design, or even empowering remote workforces to interact “in person” across the world.

A Mixed Reality Future

The potential continues to grow as innovative companies are faced with new challenges and opportunities to leverage emerging technology platforms as they mature beyond proof of concept applications.

Mixed reality creates the potential for AR, VR, and IoT technology to connect the best of digital and physical realities through intelligent data collecting devices. MR allows users to engage with digital content relative to the space around them. As MR becomes an enterprise standard, today’s most innovative brands are finding ways to embrace new technologies and opportunities to release new disruptive products in the marketplace.

— Jay Chang, Partner & Head of Product Innovation at Sidebench

Jay is a Partner & Head of Product Innovation at Sidebench, an LA based Corporate Innovation Lab, and an advisor to the USC Blackstone Launchpad Incubator. He’s also an avid foodie, chef, & Instagrammer publishing as @BehindTheKnife on Instagram. At Sidebench, he’s worked with with enterprise companies like Red Bull, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Sony, NBC, Cedars Sinai, Oakley, Facebook, and Andreessen Horowitz. Jay graduated from the University of Southern California with a BS in Business Entrepreneurship focused on technical entrepreneurship and marketing. Throughout his multidisciplinary product focused professional career, he’s developed a deep understanding of user first experiences and business case driven approach to technology consulting.