I can’t say enough about 5G. In fact, my comments on 5G are stirring people to ask me questions about it on social media, and that’s great. That means people are reading, people are doing their homework, and people are making the investments in the future of digital transformation.

The next step into this digital wild ride is augmented reality. AR, as it is otherwise known augmented reality, enables virtual objects or information to appear in the real world. If a technician is using AR to fix a machine, animated graphics and/or text instructions could be overlaid onto the real-life machine or machine part.

VR (virtual reality), on the other hand, is generally more immersive in that it lets you step into a virtual world. Each of these technologies is game-changing. For the purpose of this column, I can just say, let our mind’s eye imagine a world of sports viewing, video gaming, and other entertainment—where we are viewing movies and our favorite shows—might seem so unimaginable thanks to AR and VR.

With the help of virtual reality, we will be able to “be” in different places, experiencing things that are going on elsewhere—whether that’s an art gallery at the Louvre or a political rally in Washington D.C.  One sector that will definitely change is education.

When I was in school, we used what were known as Encyclopedia’s to look at pictures to learn about history, geography, and other cultures. Kids today go online to search the World Wide Web. They have Google and YouTube and all kinds of tools at their fingertips with the help of the internet and internet-connected devices.

A couple of generations down the road may have access to virtual reality and augmented reality applications to help them “see,” “hear,” and learn about new things in a very immersive way.

There is a lot of potential for AR and VR in the enterprise realm.

Retail is in for some big change, for instance. Gartner recently released a study that says 100 million consumers will use AR to shop online and in stores by 2020. AR and VR can augment the customer experience, perhaps by overlaying a graphic of a new sofa onto someone’s living room, so they can virtually try it out before buying.

Retailers are looking for new ways to engage customers in the buying experience. In this new world of on-demand consumerism, AR and VR are going to help retailers make the transition.

Customers still value the ability to see and hold a physical product, but they increasingly also value the ability to shop from home and have products delivered quickly.

Gartner says retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience that encompasses physical stores and e-commerce.

Think for a moment about the ways AR and VR might influence workplaces. Maintenance jobs will change. As I already suggested, AR will give workers the schematics and information they need to work on a part without referencing a manual.

In situations where a specialist’s input is required, VR could bring specialists right to where they need to be … virtually, of course, but still, it’s faster and cheaper than flying them out and much more immersive than FaceTime.

We’ve talked a lot about the future of work in the face of automation and the IoT. Well, in a world enabled by augmented and virtual reality, remote work will be more possible than ever before. These technologies can bring people together without physically bringing them together.

It can help people visualize data in a new way, and the possibilities are endless. The possibilities are especially endless when we consider how 5G will accelerate the adoption of AR and VR.

So here’s another point from Gartner. The firm’s recent 5G enterprise survey suggests AR and VR applications of 5G attract the “highest expectations” for becoming drivers of new revenue across all use cases and respondents.

That’s a mouth-full, but what their data is saying is that the promise of 5G holds a lot of weight for the enterprise, particularly for AR and VR. 5G is going to enhance the VR and AR value proposition in the following ways: First, we have to consider 5G’s low latency.

Interactive content really depends on low latency. If something’s buffering, or if there’s a lag, the applications may lose all or most of its fun or value.

In AR/VR workplace situations like digital twins for predictive maintenance and remote surgery, you can imagine how incredibly important low latency is. 5G is going to open a lot of doors.

5G also offers capacity, which we’re going to need as more people and businesses leverage AR and VR to enhance life and business. 5G can also help ensure a reliable, quality user experience.

For AR and VR to be truly valuable, you need it to work the same for everyone, anywhere, every time. This has been a challenge up to now, but 5G could change that.

Qualcomm put out a whitepaper late last year about how VR and AR are pushing connectivity limits, and it really makes it a point to say that if you’re going for immersion, which AR and VR are, you absolutely have to eliminate lags, stutters, and stalls.

Some enterprise examples Qualcomm gives of 5G-enabled AR and VR experiences include video streaming inside vehicles and remote control and tactile internet applications. 5G is going to be that important for AR and VR.  And as I see it I don’t think we’ve seen anything compared to what we will see in AR and VR once we have 5G at our fingertips. And it’s only just begun.

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