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Freeman Cebu Business

Extended reality

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos - The Freeman

Undeniably, millions of jobs are lost in the country due to the ongoing pandemic. Logically, if jobs were lost, it’s either businesses have closed or have reduced their workforce. Whatever the circumstances, the consequence is clear, some families are starving and most businesses are on the red. 

Admittedly, however, there are companies whose businesses’ unexpected growths are largely driven by the pandemic. These are companies whose businesses directly address the basic needs of people who are forced to stay at home. These include, among others, virtual reality companies. Zoom is one of them.

Records will show that as the pandemic wreaked havoc and most people were holed up in their homes, Zoom rose steeply to 635%.  This is expected as the need to meet real-time is indispensable. As workloads mount and time zones influenced one’s comfort, other virtual companies sprung up offering apps for asynchronous virtual meetings like Loom and Comeet. Then, recognizing the need to constantly collaborate, an app called Remotion came into being. A kind of collaboration that happens where workmates are all physically present in one workplace though physically they are thousands of miles away.

As necessities are changing, another platform came along that is far better collaboration-wise.  Called “ImmersedVR”, it provides a “platform for co-workers to telecommute into a virtual reality workspace.” It works in combination with a laptop and VR headset (or Virtual Reality headset is the same as those used by video games enthusiasts).

Indeed, technology was able to address some of the needs of businesses and individuals. The question is, will these virtual reality companies stay or will stay profitably when the world achieves herd immunity.

This is a very valid question. To recall, as soon as the availability of the vaccine was announced on November 8, 2020, the following day, Zoom closed 17.4% lower. This is not just a knee-jerk reaction. Knowing that there is no substitute to in-person meetings (especially for Filipinos), naturally, virtual reality companies may take a hit. 

However, we should not limit ourselves to just knowing about virtual meetings, conferences and workspaces. Even before the idea of working-from-home came into being, the technology was already there offering wide ranging benefits. They simple rose exponentially because of the pandemic. 

Apart from the more popular Virtual Reality (VR), the terms Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Extended Reality (XR) already existed. Though used interchangeably, pundits have adequate differentiations of these jargons. 

For instance, they say that, “the whole point of AR is that it’s interacting with your real reality.” It is “merging virtual worlds and the power of computers (like your smartphone) with the world around you.” This comes in the form of “GPS navigation like Google Maps and Waze.” 

Mixed Reality is where “the combined elements of both AR and VR, real-world and digital objects interact.” Microsoft’s HoloLens is “one of the most notable early mixed reality apparatuses.”  Mercedes-Benz (MB) USA is one of the notable users of this technology. Then, in assisting dealerships, “the wait lasts for days or weeks to fix software or car’s transmission’s concerns.” Now, a “technician with a headset at any dealership can connect right away with anyone of several MB specialists.”  Amazingly, “through a remote-assist software, the specialist can see on a desktop or tablet what the technician is seeing using the headset.”  Thus, “they can now fix 60% of complex problems remotely within 24 hours.”

Extended reality “is an umbrella term that includes technologies such as AR, VR, and MR  either to provide more information about our actual environment to enhance our senses or to create completely artificial experiences.” Not long ago, a Forbes article “describes some of the ways in which various types of XR technology could radically transform our lives and work.”  

In the future, for example, “you may do a lot of your shopping with XR apps which enable you to see how a new couch or chair would look in your living room.”

Interestingly, Live Science said that soon, “AR-enabled contact lenses that display information right in front of your eyes might take the place of phone and computer screens.” Even telecommunications researchers predict “that the advent of 5G wireless networks, which will make it possible to transmit vast amounts of data more quickly, will help make XR even more powerful and sophisticated.”

Indeed, what used to be unimaginable, is now real. Embrace it.

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