VR vs AR vs MR: Extended Reality for Business

Updated on:
17.05.2024
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13 min

The future belongs to Extended Reality (XR). Are you ready to reconsider its prospects for use in your projects?

Yes, many of us associate XR solely with the gaming industry and entertainment applications. However, its potential for business impresses with its diversity and efficiency. We are confident that immersive technologies will soon become as familiar as using a smartphone. The metaverse opens a new frontier of innovations for Global Business Services (GBS).

By 2026, the technology market is expected to reach $125.2 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.6% according to MarketsandMarkets  research.

We'll explain how you can use augmented reality to improve processes, increase productivity, and enrich the user experience. Learn how to prepare for the future of XR and take action today to avoid being left behind.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)

The term XR encompasses three main technological concepts: VR, AR, and MR. Comparing extended reality vs virtual reality is incorrect because one is a part of the other. Each of these technologies involves different levels of interaction between virtual and real elements. Let's delve deeper into each of them.

The fundamental idea of AR is to enrich the perception of the surrounding environment by adding information or virtual objects to it. These can be images, sounds, text, or 3D models. The user views the real world through the screen of a smartphone/tablet/special glasses or headset, maintaining contact with reality but perceiving it along with additional virtual elements and digital objects.

How does Augmented Reality work?

The entire process occurs in real time and consists of the following stages:

  • Image capture using the device's camera.
  • Determination of location and orientation in space through built-in sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass).
  • Tracking markers or objects, allows the system to determine where and how to add virtual elements.
  • Environment recognition, analyzing the surroundings to determine spatial characteristics: surfaces, objects, and obstacles to interact with.
  • Visualization of virtual elements, which can be implemented using specialized software libraries and algorithms.

Using AR can evoke various emotional reactions. For instance, users may feel joy from virtual animations, anxiety from realistic simulations, or surprise from interacting with augmented objects.

Example of Augmented Reality 

The ability to overlay digital objects onto the physical world has revolutionized many industries: education, engineering, e-commerce, and medicine. How is augmented reality used in businesses? 

For example, have you ever experienced a situation where a nurse couldn't find your vein during a blood draw? It can be agonizing. However, by using augmented reality and a laser scanner that converts thermal signals, the likelihood of a successful first injection increases by 350%. This technology has already been implemented in the market by AccuVein.

What about easing the pains of home improvement? Companies like IKEA and Wayfair allow us to see how furniture will look in our space before purchase.

Our team also has a case from this field. An application that allows you to "try on" an air conditioner on your wall and see how the air will flow to plan the optimal placement relative to the bed and significant areas. We'll delve into it a bit more below.

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What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Unlike Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) (VR) meaning in business is a technology that completely replaces the physical world with a virtual space. In it, the user can freely move around and interact with objects. That is, the surrounding reality is created from scratch using computer graphics and simulations.

To immerse yourself in VR, you need specific components: a headset (helmet or goggles), headphones, controllers and input devices, motion tracking sensors.

How does Virtual Reality work?

As mentioned above, to provide a sense of presence in the virtual world, the user must wear a headset. The ongoing experience can be described through the following processes:

  1. Virtualization. Computer graphics are rendered on the display in real time.
  2. Reaction to head movements. This allows a person to freely look around as one would in reality.
  3. Use of input and control devices: joysticks, hand controllers, motion sensors. For interacting with objects and the environment.
  4. Creation of acoustic effects (3D sound) for a more complete immersion.

This process provides a unique and immersive user experience that can be used in various fields: gaming, education, medicine, training, and entertainment.

Example of Virtual Reality 

Imagine speeding down a track at 240 km/h. Scary? Not at all! Because it's all happening in virtual space. This possibility is offered by Volvo, allowing potential buyers to experience all the capabilities of their cars. Similarly, using a similar application, UPS trains truck drivers. By simulating various road scenarios and situations, they achieve incredible driving safety.

Have you had a disagreement with your partner about where to go on vacation: Europe or Asia? Visit the major landmarks without leaving the office of a travel agency and make a joint decision.

Overall, the concept of virtual travel is relevant not only to the tourism industry. You can visit Lowe's warehouses or farms where the wheat for your breakfast cereal was grown.

Technologies of virtual reality in business enable companies to provide an immersive user experience, implement new ways of working, and increase their value.

What is Mixed Reality (MR)

It's a symbiosis of virtual and augmented reality, offering an immersive experience by combining the advantages of both technologies.

Virtual objects are integrated into the real space in a way that makes them appear as part of it. When comparing mixed reality vs augmented reality, the mixed one provides a more complete experience. Visualization of objects includes changes in lighting, perspective, shadows, and reflections. Users can interact with "artificial" objects by moving, rotating, and resizing them.

Examples of mixed reality applications include medical training, educational purposes, project visualization in architecture and construction, interactive museum exhibitions, entertainment such as interactive attractions, and much more.

Currently, the market leader in this field is Microsoft with their HoloLens 2 headset. It's a standalone device with transparent lenses equipped with various sensors and cameras. It features a built-in computer that processes data and creates mixed reality visual effects without the need for connection to an external device.

What is the Difference between VR vs AR vs MR?

Each form of XR has its own characteristics. To make it clearer, we have placed them on a table.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Virtual Reality (VR) 

Mixed Reality (MR) 

Definition 

Overlay of digital objects on the real world

Immersive virtual environment

Combining virtual and physically existing objects 

Interaction with objects

Partial. Through voice commands and gestures 

Partial. Using controllers and motion

Complete. Input devices required 

Level of immersion 

Minimal

Full immersion

Partial, customizable

Examples of devices

Google Glass, Snapchat filters

Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR

Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap

Application 

Education, marketing, entertainment, tourism

Gaming, training, simulations, entertainment

Development of high-tech products, medicine, engineering

We hope this table helped you understand the main differences between virtual reality vs augmented reality vs mixed reality and their applications in various fields.

How immersive technologies can benefit your organization

Implementing immersive technologies into a project can be a highly beneficial decision. Yes, it still entails significant investments in software development, equipment, and staff training.

However, the demand for Extended Reality (XR) is showing positive trends across all industries and is crucial for companies with an innovative mindset. Let's discuss how exactly immersive technologies can benefit your business.

Team building and increasing employees productivity

According to a Meta study, 59% of employees who transitioned to remote work after being in the office feel a loss of community, meaning they feel isolated and disconnected from their team, which significantly impacts overall productivity.

Bringing teams together in a three-dimensional metaverse can address this issue. Employees from different departments around the world will have the opportunity to participate freely in every stage of the project lifecycle. This also reduces the risk of misunderstandings and costly errors while increasing overall team efficiency and productivity.

Optimization of production processes

"The main advantage of XR is not that machines will replace humans, but that machines will complement human work." © Sloan Paul MacDonald-Smith, Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Implementation of Extended Reality can take optimization to a fundamentally new level. Simplifying assembly and quality control processes, as well as influencing safety improvement in manufacturing.

Here are several ways this can be achieved, with examples from well-known companies:

  • Airbus employees use AR glasses to view virtual diagrams and instructions right on the assembly line, streamlining the process and reducing the likelihood of errors.
  • Lockheed Martin engineers utilize virtual models and VR simulations to identify potential issues at the early stages of production.
  • Siemens Energy technicians employ AR glasses to receive repair instructions for gas turbines directly at the site of a breakdown.
  • DHL leverages mixed reality to optimize warehouse management processes and order picking. With MR technologies, employees can visualize the placement of goods.

Overall, the use of augmented reality in enterprise reduces training and maintenance costs, enhances efficiency and accuracy of work, and ensures safer working conditions for employees.

Training Employees

In the past year, American companies spent at least $101.8 billion on training and upskilling their employees (according to the Training Industry Report). The use of XR technologies not only helps optimize this expense category but also significantly enhances the effectiveness of training, conferences, courses, and educational programs.

Training Employees

On average, offline learners forget 70% of the content within 24 hours and nearly 90% within a month. Learners in virtual reality are four times more focused than their counterparts, which significantly impacts the outcome.

Among other benefits of virtual reality in business there’s elimination of the need to pay for employee travel or hire training specialists. All of this can be done in the office or at home—productively, quickly, and engagingly.

Enhanced User Interaction

Personalized virtual shopping, gamification, virtual fitting experiments, virtual presentations of new products and services— the use of Extended Reality has become a new attribute of wow-marketing. Due to hyper-engagement and transitioning to a new level of loyalty, companies significantly increase sales volumes. And users get an unforgettable unique experience.

Seamless Data Access and Analysis

On the other hand, augmented reality mechanisms easily gather actionable data during immersive experiences and prepare these data for further analysis and making the right strategic decisions. And, as we know, customer data is like oxygen for business.

CASE: How a Mobile AR Application Transformed the World of Climate Control Technology

The WEZOM team was approached by a company that manufactures climate control equipment, which is among the top ten market leaders in the USA. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the brand name as the project is under strict Non-Disclosure Agreement conditions. However, we are proud of the elegance of the decisions made and would like to share the available information with you.

How a Mobile AR Application Transformed the World of Climate Control Technology

The pain

If you've ever purchased an air conditioner, you know how difficult it can be to choose the optimal location for its placement. On one hand, you want to avoid direct exposure to cold air; on the other hand, you want to experience the maximum cooling effect in places where you relax, such as near your bed or desk. Our client wanted to simplify this decision-making process for their customers.

They also aimed to optimize the workflow of their technical specialists. When a customer selects an incorrect or illogical installation location, the specialist's task is to adjust this choice for efficiency and safety. Disputes, doubts, and searching for new solutions can take up to several hours. Using the application would help eliminate such costs.

The solution

After an active brainstorming session, we proposed to the client to create an additional section within their existing mobile application. This AR functionality would allow users to virtually try out the air conditioner on their wall and visually assess how it would look in their real space. It would also help determine the optimal placement considering ventilation (displayed airflow) and aesthetic preferences.

Here's how it was supposed to work:

  • The user would use their device's camera to see how the selected air conditioner looks in their interior. The overlaid image could be moved, scaled, and rotated.
  • Based on marker or object tracking, the system would provide recommendations. For example, if the user wanted to install the equipment above a bulky cabinet and other furniture would obstruct the free distribution of air.
  • The technology would draw a map of airflow in the space to assess which areas would be maximally cooled and whether there's any direct airflow onto the sleeping/working area.

There was also an idea to visualize the equipment in different lighting conditions (natural/artificial light), but we later abandoned it. It didn't resonate with the focus group; most respondents considered such a feature unnecessary.

Technology Stack

For this client, we were developing multiple products simultaneously. Therefore, one of the challenges was to ensure their complete synchronization.

Technologies were chosen with compatibility and speed in mind. The application was built on the Flutter framework, the website was developed using Laravel and React.js, and the admin panel was created as a single-page application (SPA). We also utilized GraphQL to organize the backend functionality. For creating the augmented reality application, we preferred frameworks developed by Apple and Google. Some specific tasks were implemented using the Unity toolkit.

As always, the development process followed the SCRUM methodology. The standard sprint duration was 2 weeks, and the client received a report after each sprint.

Development Results

The mobile application we created became a crucial element of the brand's new digital ecosystem. The AR feature revolutionized the user experience in the field of climate control technology. The company received a huge number of customer reviews, and also:

  • Reduced the number of product returns by enabling users to make more informed decisions.
  • Expanded its customer base without significant marketing expenses (news of the technology implementation went viral).
  • Reduced the average time technical installation specialists spent on-site.

Currently, we are continuing to work on improving the application's performance and adding more features.

The Takeaway

MR, VR, and AR technologies offer numerous benefits for businesses: increased efficiency, cost reduction, improved customer interaction, and enhanced competitiveness. They find wide application in various industries including education, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, marketing, and construction.

No matter which segment your project belongs to, you cannot ignore the popularization of XR. Shortly, they will become a key factor for success. And those who pioneer these technologies will reap the rewards. If you are ready for innovation and seek new, non-trivial, modern solutions for your business, our experts will find them for you.

Serge Guzenko
How do you think augmented reality could improve customer experiences in your industry?
The potential of XR technologies extends beyond gaming and entertainment, offering innovative solutions for various business sectors. Imagine enhancing customer interaction through immersive experiences—this could be a game-changer for your company. Let's talk about how you can integrate XR into your business strategy.
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