Alex Dzyuba is CEO and Founder Lucid Reality Labthe world’s top developer of XR training and simulations for the healthcare, medtech and pharmaceutical industries.
As immersive technology continues to be a major technological development, industries such as healthcare, medtech, defense, aerospace and manufacturing have made major leaps in embracing it, particularly in the adoption of extended reality (XR).
XR—the umbrella term for the remaining three realities: augmented, virtual, and hybrid—now allows organizations in these industries, and beyond, to improve their capabilities in training and education, visualization and modeling, planning and production, and security and awareness.
While estimates of the size of the XR market vary, the more optimistic forecast is that the global XR market will reach $1.1 trillion by 2030, with growth accelerating as technology advances and wider consumer adoption. Since we are almost three-quarters of a decade away, I wanted to take a look at the near future of XR in this article – starting with existing use cases and benefits, and further exploring the following milestones, potential, challenges and before mass adoption limits.
The Benefits of an Immersive Experience
Immersive experiences can provide many different benefits to many different organizations, depending on the purpose and industry. For example, one study found that training with immersive technology reduced employee errors by nearly 40%. Walmart found that immersive experiences helped employees achieve higher test scores 70% of the time. Other studies have found that first responders perform tasks 29 percent faster after completing VR training.
In educational institutions, immersive experiences help improve students’ attention, information comprehension, and retention. It can also help reduce the time it takes to learn something. Wiley research has shown that with the help of AR projections, the accuracy of liver biopsy needle insertion was significantly reduced by 50% to 30%. Another study found that students’ test scores improved by 30% due to VR-based training. The National Training Laboratory found that VR-based learners had a retention rate of 75 percent, compared with only 10 percent for reading and 5 percent for listening to lectures.
Likewise, for consumers, immersive experiences can be used as highly engaging storytelling tools. They can also enhance brand and product recognition, remove barriers to being on-site, and help simplify decision-making. For example, Snap Inc., Alter Agents, and Publicis found that consumers’ decision-making confidence increased by 80 percent with the help of immersive technology. Deloitte also found that in-store customer traffic increased by 30% after using on-site immersive AR experience enhancements.
Challenges of Adopting Immersive Experiences
That said, one of the main challenges will be overcoming the limitations of realism before adoption becomes more widespread. While some immersive headsets today are capable of human eye resolution, the technology still needs to evolve to make the experience fully lifelike. XR can already overwhelm users, but it still needs to fill in the gaps where users can distinguish the real from the unreal.
Likewise, users may not be ready for an immersive experience. While the number of immersive experiences and XR devices continues to increase globally — 50 million AR and VR headsets are expected to be shipped in consumer and commercial markets by 2026 — it’s still far from the speed at which we can talk about global adaptation .
As XR technology is further developed, the form factor of headsets should gradually become lighter and the immersive features more advanced, enabling XR devices to be used for a long time in daily activities, including work, study, collaboration, entertainment, etc. Wait. That, along with increasing competition for the consumer market, will drive headphones to become more affordable, which will help the market overcome another challenge: affordability.
Significant leaps must also be made in hardware and software components, and the next generation of immersive devices will ideally incorporate autofocus capabilities that replicate the way our eyes focus in real life. Adding Specular Dynamic Range will provide more depth- and light-contrast-based realism to XR experiences.
We’ve already seen all of these possible features at the 2022 Meta Prototype Show. The central question remains: how quickly can you pack all this functionality into a single headset? At the same time, the software side is also expected to achieve a major leap, accounting for the improvement of hardware capabilities. The software outcomes of the experience—visual fidelity, realism, user interface (UI), and user experience (UX)—combined with hardware form and function are critical to meeting expectations.
The Future of Immersive Experiences
Even though we have immersive experiences with great visual fidelity today, we still need to achieve a level of realism that resembles real life. We can already create digital twins of almost anything, fully immersive spatial sound, and hyperreal avatars that can capture and transmit emotions and facial expressions in real time.
The next big step could come with advances in haptic technology that replicate the sense of touch for users, not just sight and sound.
The haptic technology market is expected to reach at least $23.8 billion by 2030. If this can be achieved, the next generation of immersive experiences will be truly extraordinary from a visual and sensory perspective. Haptic technology will be a major inflection point in what we think of as immersive today, enabling immersive experiences that resonate with all the senses and expanding the boundaries of what we now think of as real.
Today, we can still define what an immersive experience is, and it’s relatively easy to tell whether an immersive experience is real or not. Over the next few years, the quality of immersive experiences will surely surpass what we have experienced so far, becoming more sensory, hyper-real and virtually indistinguishable from real-life interactions.
Of course, it will bring challenges, but it will undoubtedly bring significant advantages to industries, enterprises and individual consumers.
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