The epidemic forces virtual reality to be “more realistic”

Sajjad Hussain
Nov 15 · 6 min read
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In recent years, technological advancement has paved the way for experiencing the real world in a digital environment through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

One of the significant impacts of the 2020 new crown virus epidemic is that it forces most regions of the world to shift to work in a virtual remote environment. This greatly advances the timetable for digital transformation, and as we become more immersed in the digital world, now is a good time to summarize and look forward to the impact of emerging virtual reality.

Just a year ago, employers were still struggling to realize their vision of a digitally connected, networked workforce, believing that this seemed like an unattainable future. Although video conferencing, cloud computing and other technologies have played an important role in realizing this vision, as virtual work becomes a new reality rather than a short-term solution, the world needs more and better innovations.

What is VR/AR?

The common characteristics of the emerging virtual digital world are exponential connection, collective participation, access, and information sharing through people and things. The technical component of the virtual world is supported by devices that use sensory input that combines graphics, video, sound, and smell. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are rapidly expanding to the entire industry, academia and government, and weaving the “physical world” and the “digital world” together.

VR/AR can combine virtual and live work with unprecedented immersive technology. With AR, users can introduce virtual elements (such as directions or three-dimensional objects) into their physical environment, while VR fully immerses them in virtual environments such as classrooms or conference halls.

These functions are well suited to meet the needs of workers running in virtual identities. VR/AR can enable colleagues to meet face-to-face in the living room, simulate hands-on training and promote virtual services such as healthcare and emergency response.

The epidemic spawns new tools

The most famous examples of VR/AR come from high-tech fields with decades of research and development history, such as national defense or space flight. Air Force pilots are trained on complex VR simulators, and NASA technicians replace thousands of pages of manuals with real-time AR instructions. However, potential uses now extend the entire government function from emergency management to direct service provision.

The outbreak of the new crown epidemic has given birth to new tools and new platforms that support VR. For example, George Washington University Hospital is using virtual reality technology to observe patients’ lungs to combat the new coronavirus. In addition, VR technology is providing solutions that support travel restrictions.

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Imeve, a US-based technology startup, has developed an Avatour telepresence platform that uses VR technology. The platform “transports” users to remote locations in real time, providing a sufficient substitute for travel.

In addition, due to the nationwide lockdown measures implemented by some countries and the adoption of the “Work from Home” (WFH) model, virtual meetings have become the preferred communication method for employees. Therefore, from accelerated lung diagnosis to organized virtual meetings, VR is at the forefront of the fight against this epidemic.

Present and future

In 2019, the semi-immersive and fully-immersive technology segments accounted for the largest market share. Developers and hardware development companies are focusing on making VR-infused headsets to enhance the virtual experience, such as increasing the field of view and eye tracking.

One of the major challenges faced by the current VR technology is the requirements for the display unit and the headset, where the processing hardware used for graphics generation is usually contained in the headset. However, the trend of unfettered hardware devices is solving this challenge. For example, Apple plans to launch a new headset with VR and AR capabilities that will not be tied to a smartphone or computer.

Ford uses virtual reality technology to design cars

A report from ResearchAndMarkets predicts that by 2021, the global market for VR/AR is expected to reach USD 55.01 billion. The report also said that technological advancements such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are expected to change the augmented and virtual reality experience in the near future. This transformation will bring unprecedented opportunities in the fields of media, games, retail, medicine and education.

Based on the increasing investment in smart city development and defense security applications in many countries, by 2021, AR applications in education and training will see a huge growth.

According to a report by the research company Valuates, by 2025, the global market for VR/AR is expected to reach an “astounding number” of US$571.42 billion.

Bring changes in these areas

Although there are thousands of applications in countless vertical fields, the impact on several areas of industry, government, and academia deserves attention.

Industries: Provide virtual employ ability

Under the influence of the epidemic, it is imperative for various industries to transform to a digital collaboration and interactive work environment. For companies, providing virtual employ ability can make the workforce more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient. Virtual enterprises are also an indispensable part of the emerging “gig economy” strengthened by millennial.

VR/AR is being integrated into many commercial applications, including finance, retail, entertainment, transportation, security and healthcare. Mixed reality and holographic imaging are used as enhancers for communication, marketing and training. In the new future, artificial intelligence will also appear on the horizon of virtual reality.

Due to the epidemic, the healthcare industry and telemedicine have become the focus of VR/AR technology. This includes training medical staff on new medical diagnostics and telemedicine technologies. A hospital in Tokyo, Japan, even started live-streaming operations for medical students under national lockdown measures.

Government: Virtual government enhances response capacity

In the public sector, the military has been a leader in advanced training using virtual reality platforms and applications. In the civil field of public safety, virtual government can enhance the ability to respond in emergency situations and provide interoperable communication support for emergency personnel.

The services of virtual government in providing citizens with access to .gov websites and data sources are constantly improving. In the United States, many communications related to medical or social security benefits are now automated by federal agencies. Many best practices are derived from the private sector, and the technology of the private sector has been validated in communications and data analysis.

The way the government does business can be changed through virtual government. Virtual procurement can provide suppliers with equal access and accessibility. The field of virtual government procurement can also be more transparent, reducing contract disputes and preventing nepotism or potential conflicts of interest.

Academia: Virtual learning is flexible and monitorable

In academia, there are many benefits of virtual connection and interaction. The epidemic has forced most academic institutions to transform from “physical classrooms” to “digital classrooms” in a short period of time. Many colleges and universities are already providing online learning opportunities for students and alumni, with courses ranging from business, history, physics to psychology.

Virtual learning can involve multimedia elements and is flexible and monitorable. Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford University and other top elite schools are increasingly participating in online education. Eventually, students will be able to visit ancient Rome to learn history through virtual and augmented reality libraries, and explore courses through wearable devices.

The list of virtual digital applications seems to be as large as X and O containing algorithms and codes. Healthcare, finance, entertainment and many other verticals, including the expanding Internet of Things, are now immersed in the trend of virtual communications. As the communication matrix becomes more complex and ubiquitous, the challenges and opportunities faced by industry, government and academia in the new virtual world will increase.

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