Digital Reality explained... in under 100 words
Zurich, 8.00 am: The Deloitte Insight Lab opens its doors for anyone wanting to discover the world of Digital Reality, the Internet of Things and Analytics. Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Augmented Reality (AR), Robots and Machine Vision are just a few of the experiences that are ready to be applied in daily (business) life: immersion, collaboration, as well as education, live at the office or on-site at the client. But, what exactly is VR and how is it different from MR or AR?
Digital reality refers to the wide spectrum of technologies and affordances that include Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality that simulate reality in various ways.
Imagine you are a service technician. During a maintenance task, you use your iPad to scan an AR code from a machine and see 3D-animated KPIs through your display.
Next, you use your MR glasses to repair a complex item of machinery by video-calling an expert, who sends animated 3D hologram instructions on to your device. The next day, using a headset, you undergo mandatory safety training and certification in a VR simulation.
Here's Katharina Finger & Elvedin Mesic explaining Digital Reality in 2 minutes
The market has been growing and expanding steadily over the last few years. Key drivers have been the growing mobile and smartphone market, and also falling hardware prices. These have made both hardware and applications available to a wide consumer base. With an estimated growth of more than 400% in 2016-2019, the digital market has also experienced an influx of investments, technologies, and companies for new ideas. And this trend will not stop in the near future with an ever-growing expansion of mobile technology, ease of access to the internet, and improved network connectivity.
Unlike other technologies using flat screens (e.g. a computer or television), Digital Reality immerses you in the content providing you with a first person perspective that allows the user more agency in terms of choosing the perspective and control of the media in their field of view. There are several different technology features related to digital reality: these include AR, VR and MR.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR overlays digitally created content into the user’s real-world environment. It uses transparent optics and a viewable environment in which users are aware of their surroundings and themselves. An additional advantage of AR is its inherently three dimensional nature of media which means it can be viewed from all angles by multiple audiences simultaneously.
At the Deloitte Insight Lab, you can take an iPad, hold it over the trigger – a custom made poster map - and see for yourself. A factory appears in 3D, and holding your device over the poster you can experience a fully operating production line manufacturing rubber ducks. The scenario is ready to be observed from all angles by moving around it to learn more about the concept of the ‘Digital Twin’.
AR is used in various industries and consumer-facing products. For example, IKEA uses AR for their Place app, which allows users to position items of furniture in real size in their own living room, with just a few clicks.
+ Easily accessible (via tablet, smartphone, etc.)
+ Collaborative experience
- Limited interaction with the content
- Requires a pre-set code or information map
- No immersion
Virtual Reality (VR)
Using VR head mounted displays, such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Sony PlayStation glasses, users find themselves in a 360° video or computer-generated world. The digital space fully replaces your real-world environment. VR takes also full advantage of body- and motion-tracking capabilities, with many arguing that this leads to a greater sense of presence and immersion. Combined with headphones and special audio as well as touch-sensitive haptic controllers you are able to interact with virtual objects and immerse all senses in its environment, including smell with Bluetooth beacons.
So far most applications of VR are in the gaming industry. However, the range of training scenarios and architecture and engineering applications is increasing rapidly.
Examples of the use of VR include Alibaba’s Online Shopping and Macy’s in New York, where users can buy directly in a virtual store.
+ Full immersion
+ High interaction with the content
+ Open and free design of the virtual world
– Mainly single user experience
– Specific hardware is required for access (e.g., Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
– Limited range of movement in the real-world
Mixed Reality (MR)
The best of both AR and VR in one package? Possibly, but unfortunately limited by the hardware.
Using MR devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens or the Magic Leap you can project 3D holograms into your field of vision on top of a see-through lens.
It seamlessly blends the user’s real-world environment and digitally created content in a way that allows both environments to coexist and interact. MR utilises advanced sensors for room mapping with a depth sensor and simple gesture recognition.
You can interact fully with the content – move, twist, and rescale – as required.
Applications for MR are almost all of those for AR and VR technologies. Currently the most prominent advanced are in research & development, education, architecture, and engineering.
An early application is a holographic workstation for financial trading. The workstation enables a trader to increase their efficiency by overlaying 2D and 3D holographic charts and workflows over their real world desk.
+ High interaction with the content
+ Virtual objects interact with real world spaces
+ Free range of movement
- No full immersion and limited holographic vision field
- Currently a lack of mature tools and applications
- Specific and expensive tools needed for access