We’re living in a world in which our very realities are being enhanced all with the help of a little technology called the IoT (Internet of Things). AR (augmented reality) and of course, its VR (virtual reality) sidekick are quickly becoming relevant once again in more use cases than ever before.

Ironically, even though we are hearing more about AR/VR today, and although many might think VR is new, it’s not. VR, in some form or another, has been around for more than 50 years. But today, the technology is becoming more advanced, and it’s become a lot more affordable. And what’s more, as we take a closer look at AR/VR, we will quickly see how reality-as-a-service solutions are gaining ground for the enterprise.

There are many interesting use cases for digital-reality technologies. For instance, in the government sector, if there is one common denominator that’s encouraging growth of AR, VR, and other IoT technologies across other sectors it’s the idea that many industries are trying to do more with less.

They are trying to find ways to leverage data to improve their use of resources and to offer better products or services. If we look at government, budgets are constantly under strain.

Governments are almost always being called upon to do more for their constituents.

In an interview with Deloitte Research, one government agency described how it benefitted from a digital-reality pilot program that employed telepresence technology to link experts with technicians who were onsite performing equipment maintenance.

It’s a genius way of using technology to bring the expertise to the problem in realtime, thereby decreasing equipment downtime and even providing on-the-job training for technicians. This scenario isn’t unique to government use cases. Similar digital-reality deployments can be extremely useful for just about any industry that relies on field-service technicians.

So let’s just segue this column now into field service. Technologies like augmented reality can really improve field service. For instance, with an AR headset, a technician is able pull up a 3D interactive service manual to help complete the task at hand.

If we are dealing with a complex process that the technician would otherwise have to complete while referencing a book or even a smartphone or a tablet, having the instructions and maybe even animated examples overlaid onto the physical environment is going to make the job easier.

We already touched on the training aspect of AR in field service, but another use case to consider is how AR could provide key data about a product’s lifecycle. This could also assist a service technician working in the field.

Customer service, too, is going to benefit from employing digital-reality technologies. As we all know from experience, the traditional phone call to customer service includes the customer trying to describe a problem over the phone, and then the customer-service representative has to try and walk the customer through a bunch of steps that are usually a bit difficult to follow.

It usually ends up with frustration on both sides. Upon a closer examination, we might ask ourselves: what if there was a better way? Using VR, remote troubleshooting could suddenly become much smoother. If a customer-service rep could have a VR interaction with the customer, each party could see what the other was doing.

This past December, ABI Research released its latest numbers on the space, saying the total AR market will be worth $116 billion by 2023. AR is just one slice of the digital-reality ecosystem, of course.

We must also consider mixed reality, the blend of digital content with the real world. MR, or mixed-reality, solutions create environments in which the virtual and real worlds can not only coexist but also interact. One can’t cover mixed reality without mentioning Microsoft and its HoloLens technology.

Last year at Connected World, we talked a lot about Servitization and how IoT services are going to propel the IoT forward, not necessarily just IoT products. Here’s a good example of that. Microsoft and others have their AR, VR, and MR headsets, but now we’re seeing these companies bring reality-as-a-service offerings to the table.

In Microsoft’s case, it’s partnering with JTRS and offering a mixed-reality-as-a-service subscription in Europe. Basically, companies can get their hands on HoloLens devices and services for a monthly package price, and they can tailor that package to fit their needs.

VRoom Technology offers something similar here in North America with its enterprise (VRAAS) (virtual-reality-as-a-service) solution.  What the as-a-service option does is it helps remove some of the risk and the cost barriers to entry for companies that want to leverage digital reality. This opens the tech up to more businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses that wouldn’t be early adopters of AR, VR, or MR ordinarily.

Looking long term that means there is a lot of potential for the digital-reality ecosystem enabling enterprises to step outside what is considered the normal bounds of reality and imagine the world in truly unexpected and unimaginable ways. Ultimately that means AR/VR have the potential to impact the global economies and maybe even create new paradigm shifts in corporate thinking.

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