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Extended Reality (XR) is stretching the boundaries of opportunity – We’ll help you maximise its potential

Matthew Sanderson, SVP & Chief Executive UK, Ireland & EMEA Professional Services, Ingram Micro

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are already familiar terms to anyone involved in technology today. All three are, in fact, branches of a single family – Extended Reality (XR) – and the opportunities they offer are growing almost exponentially.

This disruptive tech is pushing the limits of its potential. In fact, MarketWatch predicts that global XR production will grow by 46.5% per year to reach $346.39 billion in 2026. And Forbes reported that the XR market would be worth a staggering $209 billion by 2022.

Confronted by the unique business challenges we’ve faced over the past two years, XR has helped individuals and companies find ever-more creative ways to collaborate. The result has been a torrent of innovation, delivering much needed immersive experiences that brought people closer, helping to seal the deal when it came to showcasing products and services.

And with the ensuing take-up of hybrid working styles, being able to get together in meaningful ways whilst working apart is a must. Here, innovations in XR are giving colleagues, clients and customers a significant edge, with captivating, enriching ways to bring presentations, demos and experiential opportunities to life.

XR, AR, VR and MR in a nutshell

In simple terms, think of XR as the ‘mother ship’ – the catch-all reference that encompasses each immersive technology currently in existence, plus those yet to be developed.

  • XR, in essence, is where reality and imagination meet. The result is an enhanced version of both.
  • With AR, virtual imagery and data can be ‘superimposed’ onto real-world scenes and scenarios via specialised glasses, as well as smartphones and tablets. Users interact with everyday environments with enhanced add-ins. Commercial examples would include being able to view how a reconfigured office or manufacturing space would look and function following future upgrades, with new equipment virtually imposed on the scene before you. And, of course, the gaming opportunities are extensive… you only have to think of Pokemon GO. Or even social platforms, where selfies can be augmented with props, or faces altered to resemble family pets.
  • VR takes immersion one step further, with users finding themselves entirely absorbed into a simulated environment. We’ve all seen the videos of people ducking away from non-existent flying objects. But the potential for VR goes far beyond gaming and entertainment. Fully immersive digital experiences offered by VR are already giving military, healthcare and even construction industries new ways to test real-world applications before committing to investment.
  • MR – also known as Hybrid Reality – is where real and virtual world objects merge and relate to one another in real-time. Imagine placing an object into a space and being able to interact or move around it. MR makes this possible. But it takes much more processing power than either AR or VR, and users will have to wear a dedicated MR headset. Microsoft HoloLens is one of the leading options available in the current market. These devices scan the environment creating a 3D mesh where virtual objects merge smartly with the real world.

So, where are the real-world opportunities for XR?
Let’s start with hybrid working. XR gives remote workers and colleagues in far-flung places the opportunity to be in the same room together when collaborating – albeit virtually. This inevitably results in better communication and stronger team bonding.

Next… sales and marketing. Just because your customer isn’t in the same room (or even on the same continent) as you, needn’t mean your sales pitch or product demo should suffer. XR can, in fact, enhance real-world scenarios by adding an additional layer of reality and intrigue to the process. Users can point out features of a product, whilst estate agents, for example, can take clients on a virtual walk-though of a prospective property. In retail environments, AR apps give customers the chance to test and try before deciding on a purchase. IKEA is already famous for letting customers virtually position furniture in rooms via
a smartphone.

And, of course, training is a huge area of growth for XR applications. Where pilots once exclusively used simulators to train, XR now offers new tools to make scenarios more realistic than ever. Other areas of potential are in sports, and in the military.

The Metaverse is already showing huge potential for XR technologies, as are Healthcare modelling and training (such as surgery), as well as industrial, and manufacturing environments. Similarly, architecture, engineering, and construction are using XR tech to demonstrate how spaces can be used. And cultural or entertainment scenarios can put XR to good use to bring experiences to life.

It’s clear that XR is now firmly ensconced in mainstream tech deployment. Innovation is moving rapidly to meet growing demand.  And, here at Ingram Micro, we have teams of specialists, with detailed knowledge of XR and specifically Microsoft HoloLens. So, if you’d like to find out how to make the most of the opportunities in XR, simply get in touch with Brian Windsor –

brian.windsor@ingrammicro.com.

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