Even those who do not know what augmented reality is are likely to have already experienced it. For instance, football matches on TV when the distance for a freekick is shown by a line or circle. Whilst augmented reality extends reality with the help of the computer, virtual reality creates an entirely new simulated reality. Although the technologies are not yet mature and suitable for each and every area, a closer look suggests that a host of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications are already possible today for SMEs.

Use of augmented reality technologies

AR technologies are already quite common, especially in industrial production. Workers receive additional information via data glasses or on the display of a mobile device directly in their field of vision. When servicing complex machines, for instance, they have access to interactive service manuals which guide them step by step through the process. The technology can also be used to give new employees an introduction to production by supplementing the individual working steps with additional information.

Augmented reality could cause a revolution in commerce because this technology can create an entirely new shopping experience. Customers can use the camera of a smartphone or tablet to take a picture of their living room, for instance, and insert a digital image of a piece of furniture into this picture. With this realistic picture, the customer can judge whether the desired product actually fits into the room. This principle can also be applied to other products, such as garments, so that many new opportunities are created for the industry. 

Use of virtual reality technologies

Virtual reality has become an industry-spanning technology, especially in the fields of training and professional development, planning and presentation. The presentation possibilities with VR are particularly suitable for architects and engineers. With VR glasses and the right programming, it is possible not only to view buildings from the outside, but also to present and even access them in different scenarios, such as in the day and at night. If an even more concrete form of presentation is needed, users can select different floor finishes, wall paints or even the complete interior design. The options can be expanded or reduced as required.

Besides presentations for customers, the entire planning team can also benefit from the technology. All the parties involved, irrespective of their actual location, can jointly ‘enter” the draft and develop it further. This not only saves travel time and cuts costs for employees, it also reduces planning time and labour costs. Furthermore, the enhanced presentation can also help to increase the quality of planning and to reduce mistakes.

VR is also suitable for training and professional development measures in cases where the reconstruction of the working environment is too expensive or not readily available. Be it a mining machine or an operation theatre, both scenarios can be created as virtual environments and as learning stations for employees. At their virtual workplaces, employees can learn and test new activities without any serious consequences if mistakes are made. What’s more, the playful element that comes with the use of VR in training applications often increases staff motivation and concentration on their work.