VR, AR, aR, XR - the media has been flooded with these terms in the past few years. Though we come across them every day, some of us may find it difficult to fully understand what they stand for. However, there is a good reason why these technologies are among the most trending topics: they are all undeniable parts of our future. No matter the sector or industry, we can be certain that these new "realities" will be present in one way or another, making our work more efficient, and our lives more convenient. In this article, we'll briefly explain what each of these technologies are and what they are used for.
Let’s start with the most well-known one. Probably everyone has heard of VR, aka Virtual Reality, since it has been featured the most in popular culture. We have a basic understanding of what this entails from movies like 'The Matrix' or 'Total Recall', and VR has also been the protagonist of hot topics like the Metaverse project of Meta (Facebook) creator Mark Zuckerberg that lets people socialize in virtual reality.
To get down to the more technical explanation, VR devices basically enable us to interact with an artificially created 3D environment, one that has nothing to do with our actual reality. When we put on our VR headsets, we are literally being immersed into this simulated world.
Though VR is mostly associated with video gaming, there is a lot more potential in this technology. For example, VR technology enables the creation of digital twins, exact replicas of something in our physical reality. This can be anything from a factory to an offshore wind farm thousands of miles away from the coast. A digital twin for these establishments allows technicians to diagnose and identify maintenance issues without them actually having to ship to the physical wind farm in the ocean. Not only is this less dangerous, but also diminishes errors and saves a lot of money for the operators. Similarly, digital twins can be used to simulate human bodies for healthcare purposes: being able to have a virtual replica of a patient's organs enables doctors to plan surgeries and customize treatments better.
AR is another technology we keep hearing about these days. Unlike VR tools, these devices produce a digital overlay and place it on your actual physical environment. In other words, AR does not create an entire simulated world, instead, it interacts and overwrites our existing field of vision. If you’ve ever played Pokemon Go or tried to use a Snapchat filter, you might already know what we are talking about. AR literally takes an image of what you see and adds a layer of computer-generated information on top of it. Another good example is the app IKEA developed to let people check whether certain pieces of furniture would fit in their homes. With this app, you can virtually place any furniture in your living room to see how it would look there before buying them.
XR, or Extended Reality, is basically an umbrella term that includes all of these technologies. It blends the physical and the virtual worlds together and, true to its name, extends it. As we said, this is a broader term, so while an Augmented Reality device is an Extended Reality device, however, an XR device is not necessarily an AR tool. All Extended Reality devices are being used in a wide range of sectors to reduce costs and make workflows more efficient. As opposed to the notion of these futuristic technologies ‘taking people’s jobs’, they are actually helping them be more efficient in numerous ways.
aR or Assisted Reality is one of the technologies that proved itself to be incredibly useful in probably all industries. If you are working in the B2B sector, this part might be very interesting for you. It is especially helpful for the deskless workforce: frontline workers, service technicians, warehouse employees, or surgeons can equally benefit from the functions it offers. aR devices like smart glasses enable workers to access relevant information without having to use their hands or shift their gaze. This information can be anything from a step-by-step guide to assembling or fixing a machine or a remote expert joining them on a video call to help out with their work. Unlike Augmented Reality tools, these devices display information in your peripheral vision without obstructing your view or altering the perception of your surroundings, which makes them a safer option for specific industries.
By using aR devices, such as smart glasses, companies can:
- Reduce costs and equipment downtime: Remote experts can help with maintenance work without having to travel to the actual location. They can simply join a video call with someone on the site wearing smart glasses. Seeing the exact same image through the camera, they can guide them through the work process.
- Increase efficiency and productivity: Smart glasses like the Iristick.H1 are equipped with excellent barcode scanners and optical zoom. Logistics or warehouse workers can use them to quickly sort through and pick parcels (pick-by-vision or vision picking) or scan and find items even from a distance.
- Enhance safety during field operations or manufacturing: Being able to access information or communicate hands-free is especially important for field technicians or industry workers. Using only voice commands, these experts can safely and more efficiently progress with their tasks without having to hold checklists or other documents in their hands or having to go back and forth to access these. Smart glasses like the Iristick.H1 can also be clipped on the front of their PPE, leaving room for ear protection and safety glasses under the helmet for maximum safety.
- Provide more comfort and better focus on the task at hand: Advanced solutions like the slightly tilted central camera and high-end, offline (on-the-device) voice recognition in multiple languages of the Iristick.H1 smart glasses enable surgeons to follow the monitor without having to use their hands or shift their gaze from the patient. Not only does this help them focus more on the surgery but they can also stream the process to medical students for training purposes.
- Be more sustainable and environmentally friendly: Enabling remote consultations through smart glasses not only saves travel costs and time but also leads to fewer carbon emissions.
Iristick smart glasses have been offering assisted reality solutions to B2B companies in various sectors ranging from Healthcare to Manufacturing and Field Services.
To learn more about use cases and benefits of XR technology and smart glasses, have a look at our Use Cases page: