The interest in VR and AR during the Covid-19 pandemic

Immersive technologies like VR and AR have shown promising potential, but stayed relatively niche throughout the last years. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced people to change the way they work and entertain themselves. 

As a result, the spotlight points to technology, in which VR and AR play big roles. In this article I will explain the increased interest in VR and AR during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What do VR and AR mean?

In case you’re not that familiar with VR and AR, I’ll start with a short explanation of both terms. VR stands for Virtual Reality and relates to an artificial environment that completely replaces the real world. Users put on a headset and fully immerse into any kind of virtual world that is generated by the technology.

Where VR replaces the real world completely, AR (Augmented Reality) is an immersive technology that adds a digital layer on top of the real world. A well known example of this is the popular app Pokemon Go. To learn more about immersive technologies, check out this article: VR, AR and MR: What do they mean?

So how come VR and AR are becoming more popular as a result of the current pandemic? Well, it’s because people from all over the world are more homebound, but still have to find a way to connect with others. And that’s exactly what VR and AR can do.

Virtual connection

Who hasn’t taken part in a conference call? Companies like Skype and Zoom have spiked in these last months. Looking at Zoom’s statistics, the number of daily participants grew from 10 million in December 2019 to more than 300 million in April 2020. 

While these calls are an easy way to communicate, there is a better connection with your colleagues or clients when you meet in person. Social distancing doesn’t allow us to do so, but VR and AR come pretty close. Immersive technologies make conference calls way more realistic, as if the other people are in the room with you. 

Remote Collaboration applications, also referred to as virtual presence, are a solution to this. Apps like Arvizio, Spatial, and MeetingVR are ready to use for anyone who wants to have productive remote meetings. Have a look at the video below to see how it works.

Remote training

Even though the pandemic forced us to slow down, most businesses are still rolling. New people are hired, and employees need training. But how do you train employees these days? Easy question, the answer is in the title of this paragraph: Remote training. 

You can explain the trainee all sorts of things, but the most efficient and effective way is by visualizing it. VR and AR can create virtual trainings that simulate real life situations. Trainees can access these wherever and whenever they want. Moreover, trainees can be connected to the same training, without being physically together. Examples of companies that provide these trainings are EXP360, 3M and EON Reality.

Home entertainment

The Coronavirus resulted in thousands of cancelled parties, festivals and many more events. Since we are more homebound than ever, people are trying to find new ways to entertain themselves. Companies play into this need and come up with digital forms of entertainment. For instance, the festival of Glastonbury organized a virtual festival this year. 

In order to create a digital experience that comes close to a real life experience, companies use immersive technologies. Augmented Reality has made its way into people’s homes mainly through AR games, or art and culture apps like The Civilizations AR app.

When it comes to VR, a great example is Google Arts & Culture. They published Virtual Reality tours of museums and historic sites. There is no need for a fancy and expensive headset, you can even engage in VR experiences with the Google Cardboard ($15 or €13 only!). 

Health care

Throughout the last years, immersive technologies are expanding to health care. For instance the partnership between Philips and Microsoft’s Hololens 2 which aims to assist doctors in complex surgeries. 

However, during this pandemic the importance of VR and its easier accessibility becomes clear as well. The Dutch Radboudumc and SyncVR Medical created the COVID Virtual Revalidation program. With this program, recovering patients use VR features for the physical and mental revalidation process. They can do exercises which are monitored by doctors, all from the safe environments of their home. 

Online shopping

Last, but definitely not least, during the weeks of lockdown we’ve massively turned to online shopping. As a result, there’s been an enormous increase in ecommerce. People were stuck inside and felt the need to redesign their homes or buy themselves some presents to feel better. As brick and mortar stores were closed, AR comes in very handy here. It allows people to virtually place a product inside the room and try before they buy

VR and AR can thrive long after COVID-19

In a period of isolation and distancing, VR and AR have proved to be technologies that keep us connected and engaged. Steven Dann, co-founder of Medical Realities, states that this pandemic will “significantly increase the awareness of the potential and usefulness of these new technologies in a world where people realize that they do not all have to work in an office or meet people in person, and that it is easier to remotely collaborate and interact with clients, colleagues and friends than they thought possible.”

What do you think of the use and development of VR and AR during the Covid-19 pandemic? Share your thoughts in the comments below or contact us directly.

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