Nature has gifted us with five amazing senses: hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight, all of them producing sensations which enable our mind to create its own reality. Our own reality is what makes us special, sometimes limited and other times thriving. Until the emergence of technology our reality was dependable on what our five senses perceived from various non-manmade sources. Nowadays with disruptive innovations rapidly taking off one cannot help but wonder how to take our reality a step further. One of the answers is mixed reality (hereafter: MR).
By projecting pictures, numbers, instructions, simulations, scanning objects in 3 dimensions, MR produces an enriched view which gives the mind a way to compose a new reality.
How can we leverage this new reality? The article is meant to show you how to understand and take full advantage of this technology in your own specific business environment. The opening of the article discusses relevant differences between MR and virtual reality (hereafter: VR). After acknowledging the differences, the article focuses on describing how MR can implicate distinct dimensions of a business model.
MR vs. VR
Technology equipped glasses either partly (mixed reality) or completely (virtual reality) alter our view. As the below photos project, (1) MR glasses add additional objects to the existing view, while (2) VR goes a step further by providing a completely new view, taking the actual surroundings completely out of the picture.
1: Mixed reality
2. Virtual reality – fully digital view
These impressive technologies are becoming cheaper and more applicable every day. The price of a set of MR glasses amounts to 1% of the price from 10 years ago and is still decreasing. In most cases the prices vary somewhere between $1.000 and $7.000.
You might be thinking, this is the stuff only James Bond uses. Well maybe 20 years ago, but today many major companies across various industries experiment how to benefit from such technology. PWC (2017) experts evaluate that the industries with highest investments in MR are:
MR IN A BUSINESS CONTEXT
In a business context, MR has several value points that implicate a business model in distinct ways. To better understand such implications I below outline The Magic Triangle.
The Magic Triangle
Do your customers perceive your company and its offer as innovative? Is your product’s value challenging to explain without good visuals? Does the customer choose product’s colour, shape, size, functionality?
These are crucial questions that will help you determine whether you can use MR to amplify your value preposition. Inspirational examples of customer engagement include:
1. Architects showing the customer their future house/building in 3D
2. Car sellers such as Volvo explaining car features to new customers.
3. Customers visualizing how furniture would fit into their house
Does the nature of your R&D require visualisation skills? Would you like to boost cooperation between engineers and designers? Would you like to transform noninteractive activities into highly interactive ones? Can the field employees benefit from remote interactive guidance?
If the answer to any of the above questions is YES, then you are likely to find a MR inspired solution pertaining to Collaboration:
1. Work Guidance – The glasses automatically lead employee’s work; e.g. ability to see critical information at a glance, like how much torque should be applied to a wrench; guided/supervised sequence of performed activities.
2. Work Guidance 2 – Enable remote interactive collaboration. E.g. senior technician remotely instructing a junior technician.
3. Prototyping – Allowing for better visualizations of future products.
4. Learning – medical students learning anatomy and brain functions
5. Virtual collaboration – workers in different locations can easier engage on the same project
MR is highly suitable for enhancing and transforming value creation and proposition but less suitable when it comes to alternating revenue streams. Nevertheless, everyone considering innovating their business model with MR should contemplate whether such a possibility exists.
Application possibilities are endless and only limited to the firm’s imagination. When properly applied, MR can provide distinct positive effects:
– sales growth stemming from amplified value preposition
– lower costs due to process optimization – remote collaboration and automatized work guidance
– higher quality products delivered at a higher frequency due to innovative prototyping
– better work atmosphere stemming from more innovative collaboration
– higher employee satisfaction due to having advanced technology at disposal
– Boost in brand perception – innovative, digital.
MR can have an amazing impact, but decision makers must evaluate possible negative outcomes as well:
– Employee resistance stemming from the unwillingness to learn how to use MR glasses
– Less social work environment due to less interactions
– Technology works great but does not add real value neither to the end-customer, nor to the process.
HOW TO START?
Now that you have critically evaluated and concluded that MR can provide positive impact to your firm, you are probably wondering how difficult is the implementation. The answer is: it depends.
From the technological perspective, the out of the box version already enables various scenarios such as remote collaboration. The next level of complexity is development of 3D objects. And finally, as you might have guessed, the most challenging to develop are highly interactive applications such as the one from Tyssenkrupp. Starting out with out of the box solutions and giving people time to acquaint themselves with technology is in most cases the best first step. Not to be worried, ideas about more complex and advanced uses cases will start to flow in no time.
To conclude, this technology truly represents the IT’s shift from being a supportive to becoming a primary activity. This statement is presently widely acknowledged, indicating that MR adoption will accelerate at an even faster pace. From the positive futurist’s point of view, I see this technology as a stepping stone leading to a new reality, one that we can only try to imagine.
Best of luck with the new reality