10 Industries That Will Be Transformed by Virtual and Augmented Reality

10 Industries That Will Be Transformed by Virtual and Augmented Reality

Major technological changes such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) rarely happen without disrupting a number of existing industries. Some of the industries that will be affected are obvious (eg gaming and entertainment). But many industries may not even have virtual reality or augmented reality on their radar today, to their credit. Virtual reality and augmented reality could cause a massive disruption to the industry as they know it now.
All industries must assess how virtual or augmented reality can affect them. The last thing any industry wants to be slow in responding to the changes coming. Even if you don’t see your current domain in this list, that doesn’t mean it will be free of change. When you think about the future of virtual reality and augmented reality, create a wide web and consider all possibilities, no matter how likely they are based on current technology.
Letting your mind wander and thinking about ideas that would seem crazy today is a lot less expensive than not thinking about the possibility and existence of this possibility revived by another company while you are not ready for change.

VR and AR for travel
The travel industry is one of the dormant industries that can experience the most disruption due to virtual and augmented reality. And it can be hard to tell which direction the wave will end in the travel industry. The virtual and augmented reality revolution could become the industry’s biggest boon – or even the biggest threat to it.
On the plus side, VR and AR are opening up a world for potential customers like never before. Virtual reality can give users glimpses of places all over the world, inspiring them to want to visit real-world versions of locations where they have experienced a little taste in virtual reality.
Augmented reality applications are already helping to expose users to information when they are outside and in unfamiliar places. For example, the long-running social review app Yelp includes a built-in feature called Monocle, which provides users with overlays of information about nearby businesses in augmented reality. Other apps, such as Historic Cities of England, act as virtual tour guides, providing information about different tourist destinations and artifacts for users to explore while at the sites themselves.

On the flip side, can VR or AR apps remove people’s desire to travel at all? Google Earth is currently a poor substitute for the experience of actually being there, but who’s to say future generations incorporating virtual or augmented reality won’t be drastically better?
AR apps like HoloTour allow any user with Microsoft HoloLens to tour locations like Rome or Machu Picchu via panoramic video, 3D views, and spatial audio, all without leaving the couch. HoloTour includes a virtual travel guide, which presents historical information along with visuals. And in certain locations, such as the Colosseum in Rome, you can travel back in time to experience historical events in ways not available to you even if you were to travel there in the real world.
Experiences like this will only get better as VR and AR solve more of their current problems with fidelity and motion. At a fraction of the price of a single trip to these locations, the headphones may eventually replicate the “close enough” travel accuracy for many users. Or maybe not. The travel industry must assess these upcoming changes now to stay ahead of the curve.

VR and AR to explore museums
Similar to the tourism industry, museums depend on providing their visitors with an experience that they cannot receive while sitting at home. The advent of personal computers and the Internet has led to the growth and change of museums along with the different needs of their visitors.
Now that the complete knowledge of humanity is a touch away on any mobile phone, museums have been looking for angles to offer a deeper experience to their patrons, finding new and interesting ways to integrate digital technology alongside physical experiences. Many museums have created exhibits that do just that, combining technology and physical interaction in new and interesting ways that patrons cannot experience on their own.
VR and AR offer a new twist on old technological challenges. How can museums remain relevant in a world where virtual or augmented reality provides a sense of presence to users, a place that is currently filled by museums?
The Skin & Bones exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History may provide a glimpse into potential future uses as museums strive to embrace virtual and augmented reality alongside physical exhibits. Bone Hall opened in 1881 and is the oldest Smithsonian Institution hall. The gallery still contains many of the original skeletons the hall opened over 100 years ago, but now guests can use an AR app to overlay animal skins and move onto the bones themselves. The gallery has been given new life as guests can view a bat figure from a skeleton and walk out of the gallery and see the rattlesnake latch on a virtual rodent.
The image below shows the visitor’s view without augmented reality and augmented reality through the Museum’s Skin & Bones app, to be used in the museum to augment the exhibits. Even better, the museum allowed a select number of exhibits to be displayed in the house. Not only does augmented reality give new life to old exhibits, but it serves as marketing material for the museum outside the museum, enticing users to take an intriguing look at the existing exhibit and the promise of a deeper on-site experience.

Museums are constantly looking to stay ahead of the curve in how they deal with upcoming technological changes. The combination of a physical display experience is powered by digital extrasensory information points on how museums work to keep pace with ever-evolving technology.

VR and AR in space
Space exploration is currently at a crossroads. On the other hand, national organizations like NASA have seen a steady decline in their budgets as a percentage of the federal budget over the past two decades. On the other hand, a new generation of entrepreneurs is stepping in to fill the void left by NASA. New companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, Orbital and Virgin Galactic are looking to make space mining, space tourism and even flights to Mars viable in the near future.
SpaceVR is looking to align itself with the space tourism movement. The platform, billed as the first of its kind to create “live virtual space tourism,” plans to launch a satellite capable of capturing fully immersive high-definition live video and transmitting it to any existing VR device, from portable VR headsets to the Oculus Rift. Depending on the level of interest, a whole cottage industry of virtual space tourism can be created.
It’s possible to imagine a space tourism company, years from now, landing on Mars while millions watch from here on Earth. Not huddled around a TV like we were in 1969, but instead with our VR/AR headsets, a fully immersed, 360-degree live video feed of what the first astronauts saw upon landing on Mars.

VR and AR in retail
The retail sector is already undergoing a radical transformation of its own. Malls struggle to fill up their storefront space, and many traditional, traditional brands are finding their storefronts too expensive to keep operating, opting instead to keep their holdings online only.
Shopping malls may meet an unexpected savior, virtual reality. Currently, free and roaming virtual reality experiences are being widely rolled out as location-based experiences, or “VRcades,” in malls and other traditional locations everywhere. These types of experiences cannot be replicated in most users’ homes, so shopping malls may be the ideal places for many users to experience cutting-edge virtual reality right now.
HTC has announced plans to open 5,000 VRcades in the near future, and companies like VOID and Hyperspace XR are also exploring location-based extended reality experiences. This type of location-based entertainment likely won’t support malls indefinitely, but it may provide a short-term pause.
Major retailers such as IKEA, Amazon and Target have already started using augmented reality to allow customers to see what furniture might look like when placed in users’ homes. Find the product you want, put it by default in your space!
AR has made its way into the fashion world as well. Major retailer Gap has unveiled an experimental app called DressingRoom, which uses augmented reality to help users “try on” clothes through their smartphone, placing a user’s 3D avatar in their physical space to display what the clothes look like on them.
Augmented reality apps like this make you think: Could augmented reality eventually be the collapse of traditional stores? If the resolution of visuals in VR or AR reaches a point where realism is close enough to the real world, will there be a reason for users to go to these physical storefronts at all?
The Internet has changed the way people and businesses buy and sell products. Companies that have been able to adapt to this new reality have been largely successful. Those who could not adapt were left behind. Perhaps hard to imagine now, virtual reality and augmented reality could be driving a similar technological leap in the retail space, making it imperative for those in the retail industry to think about where they are and how they plan to adapt to this changing retail landscape.

VR and AR in the military
The military has always been supportive of evaluating cutting-edge technology. They have always looked for ways to integrate technology in order to cut costs or improve the way departments are managed. This openness to new technology and a willingness to experiment should serve the military well moving forward. It can provide a blueprint for other industries, and lay out the appropriate way to tackle emerging technologies.
Although few companies have the time or budget that most militaries have, any company can emulate the experimental mindset that the military has adopted for emerging technologies. Rapid experimentation and prototyping is important. Choose a solution, test it, keep what works and ignore what cannot be done by any company, big or small.
Today, the military has already introduced virtual reality into its training protocols. Companies like Cubic Global Defense create VR military training experiences such as the Immersive Virtual Environment (IVSE) for ships, which put trainees in simulated “real-life” experiences, simulating scenarios that would be prohibitively expensive to replicate in real life.
But the biggest change that virtual and augmented reality can bring to the military is tangentially related to the military itself. Virtual reality is often referred to as an ’empathy machine’. It provides an intimate relationship to the viewers that no other medium can match. As such, can virtual reality help nations better understand each other? Can it help end conflicts between countries? Some businessmen think so.
Karim Benkhalifa, a wartime photojournalist, has always wondered if his photographs convey the reality he is experiencing on the ground. What is the point of images of war if they do not change people’s attitudes toward armed conflict and the violence and suffering that results from it? Khalifa asked. “What’s the point if they don’t change anyone’s mind? What’s the point if they don’t help bring peace?”
With these questions in mind, Khalifa set out to create The Enemy, an experience that combines both virtual and augmented reality, with the goal of informing users of a number of conflicts around the world. Users can wear a VR headset and explore a digital environment where combatants on both sides of the conflict share their stories and experiences. They can download the AR app and listen to a fighter share his story; Then they can rotate 180 degrees and find the “enemy” of that fighter standing there, waiting to tell his side of the story.
Some people would say that relying on virtual or augmented reality to end conflicts is a far-fetched dream. But technology and information dissemination have long been a powerful tool for breaking down barriers. By almost all accounts, we live in a time that is more peaceful and inclusive than our ancestors ever did, and technology has played no small part in making this happen. As Khalifa’s experience claims on the project website, “The enemy is always invisible. When he becomes visible, he ceases to be the enemy.” Virtual reality and augmented reality can help bring out opposing sides.

VR and AR in Education
VR and AR companies are already targeting the education business. And for good reason. The functionality of VR and AR does well – presenting a plethora of information in new and engaging ways – perfectly aligned with the needs of educators looking to inform a growing generation of tech-savvy students.
What might begin as a traditional lecture about a historical event like the sinking of the Titanic can transform instantly as the lecturer turns the class itself into a virtual setting for the ship hitting an iceberg. Or perhaps the lecturer changes the viewpoint to one of the submarines, exploring the depths of the wreck in a realistic virtual environment.
On a larger scale, almost entire classes can now be created. Children who were unable to go to school for various reasons (illness, distance) can attend approximately the same classes. Class size and school location can play a much smaller role in the school a child attends. A virtual experience can also offer a much deeper experience than books or computers alone.
As we move forward with technologies such as VR and AR, it is important that we as a community think of ways to ensure that these technologies are available to everyone, regardless of ability or socioeconomic status. One of the principles of Google Cardboard has been the ability for everyone to experience virtual reality. Finding ways for VR and AR to make it into classrooms, libraries, and other public spaces to ensure that everyone can experience these technologies should be something to keep in mind as we go.
In the world of augmented reality, it is easy to imagine augmented reality replacing many of the online lessons that are currently paired with textbooks. Put on your AR headset and watch the WWII history lesson come to life on the pages of your textbook. The prevalence of augmented reality on mobile devices means that within the next few years, this type of experience may become the most popular way students experience interactive textbook content. Point your mobile device at a tracking tag in your textbook and an interactive experience appears.
Taking things even further, is it possible to completely remove books and replace them with a pair of augmented reality glasses? Many schools are already requiring students to purchase laptops as early as middle school. It is not out of the question to imagine that, within the next decade or so, students will be required to purchase hybrid AR or VR/AR glasses. These glasses can present information in attractive ways that go far beyond traditional printed materials, with the added benefit of removing the need to purchase textbooks for each semester or field of study. One pair of augmented reality glasses can be all a student needs, and each course can provide curated lessons for this device.

VR and AR in entertainment
Entertainment is an industry where the links to both VR and AR are clear. The use of VR in games is currently over-represented compared to its presence in most other industries, and VR in film is just another tool in the toolkit of filmmakers for showing off the stories they want to tell.
A number of VR movie studios emerged in the wake of the release of the Oculus DK1 in 2013, such as Kite & Lightning and Limitless. These studios are pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling, not only by subverting 2D filmmaking into 3D 360-degree films, but also by beginning to explore a level of interactivity within these experiences, making the experience a step beyond the 2D films that are often used in 3D movies. Negative consumption.
Likewise, AR gaming and entertainment are already fairly prevalent throughout the AR market. The most widely downloaded AR app was Pokémon Go. Many augmented reality games and other entertainment applications exist, with big brands like the Harry Potter franchise looking at how to use augmented reality to keep fans engaged with their franchise outside the walls of traditional media.
But aside from these “traditional” uses, what kind of seismic shifts could the future of entertainment with these technologies go through? For example, live entertainment may soon experience a revolution thanks to virtual reality technology. A number of potential clients for live events have already traded the experience and hassle of attending a live event for the comfort of their sofas and big TV screens. What happens to these live events when virtual reality takes the next big technological leap forward?
Will attending these live events become a relic of the past? Instead of a stadium filled with 50,000 spectators, will you be equipping the stadiums with 360-degree cameras, each offering a different “package” of tickets for spectators to sign up for? Some people assume that with enough cameras and enough data, you’ll be able to extract enough information from the scene to actually view it from sites without cameras and watch it from literally any angle you want.

Perhaps there are broader implications here. Can the TV itself disappear? As augmented reality glasses become popular or even far away, augmented reality contact lenses or even brain computer interfaces begin to appear, the need for a standalone video display device may disappear.
Want a 100 inch TV to display video on your wall? Pop the augmented reality glasses, and spread your hands to make it so. Would you like the image to instead appear in a small far corner? Not a problem – just “grab” the image and zoom out or move it around. The standard 2D screen limitation for video viewing may be removed sooner than you think.
It is entirely possible that the current generation of kids is the last to actually be exposed to 2D TV as we know it. Television may survive to witness its 100th birthday in 2027, but don’t be surprised if it hasn’t been able to get much beyond that, its demise has been hastened by AR.
The brain-computer interface (BCI) is the creation of a communication path between the brain and the computer. BCI can have the ability to augment your cognitive functions directly via your brain and remove the need for additional devices such as glasses in order to augment your reality. It has the power to change everything we know about what it means to be human. It is possible that even decades will separate us from considering BCIs a remote possibility.

VR and AR in real estate
The primary motto for real estate has always been “location, location, location”. A ramshackle one-bedroom apartment complex in a coveted location like New York or San Francisco can run you hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. Meanwhile, a beautiful seven-bedroom mansion in rural North Dakota might cost only a fraction of that price. However, if virtual reality becomes compelling enough, could it possibly render everything we know about real estate outdated?
It seems impossible to think that anyone will be giving up a beachfront property any time soon. Certainly, some sites will not be able to offer the same amenities or activities as others. But the Internet has already started in this direction. When hiring, companies in large cities no longer limit themselves by hiring employees within commuting distance from their offices. Distributed teams and remote work are commonplace, and they will become more than that. Companies like Pluto are exploring ways to enhance meetings and communication between distributed users in virtual reality. Although it is still a very early technology, these VR communication tools provide a sense of presence beyond today’s video conferencing levels.
If virtual reality can offer a user a sufficiently realistic experience without having to leave their home, could some users choose to leave today’s expensive “desirable” locations in favor of larger, cheaper accommodations elsewhere, where they can make reality as they see fit?
Likewise, is the size of space no longer as important? If someone could wear a VR headset and haptic gloves or an exoskeleton to virtualize movement and feel as if they had a confined space, would that experience be powerful enough to ignore their real-world surroundings, no matter how small we might be?
These ideas may increase their credibility today. But these questions have long been explored in media outlets such as Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. In a world that is becoming more and more virtual, an industry that relies largely on physical location must take a closer look at itself and wonder where it might fall in this new virtual world order.

VR and AR in Advertising and Marketing
Advertisers and marketers are often quick to join the bandwagon of what could be the next big thing. Whatever new technology is adopted at the mass consumer level, marketers want to make a plan to use this new platform to advertise and sell to consumers.
Not surprisingly, Google, with its reliance on advertising income, has already begun experimenting with what an embedded VR ad might look like. Similar to banner ads on websites, Google’s current iteration displays ads as small 3D objects in a scene. If the user interacts with the ad either by direct interaction or a look, a video player opens in a 3D space that can be closed.
Similarly, tech company Unity has begun its own explorations of advertising in virtual reality, proposing the creation of “virtual rooms”. The virtual room will be a new VR location that the user can access via a portal from the main experience, leaving the existing VR app and entering the brand’s virtual room experience.
You can visualize similar types of ads being shown in virtual environments. Virtual ad space can be sold to advertisers to do what they want, and deal with it as they want, through static ads, animated ads, or even ads that allow user interaction. VR ads can target fans who are watching a live concert or sporting event through VR. This advertisement can allow the viewer to engage much deeper than advertisements targeting those who attend the event or watch the event on TV.
Perhaps the most interesting (and perhaps outrageous) to think of augmented reality ads. With augmented reality glasses or contact lenses reaching critical mass, the advertising industry will explode with augmented reality. Consider the possibilities: When any and all surfaces in the physical world become a potential ad serving area, companies will struggle tooth and nail to present their brands to users.
The image below shows a still shot of Keiichi Matsuda’s short Hyper-Reality, where every surface of the user’s reality is digitally bombarded with extrasensory data. Shown through the hero’s point of view via an AR device, every surface of the real world appears to be covered in digital ads. Everywhere the protagonist travels is a grueling collection of flashing videos, infographics, and static ads. Even the interior of the grocery store offers no respite — ads for coconut and weight-loss supplements appear, and the entire interior of the store is lit up with virtual billboards like Times Square. In the movie, when the intensely colored AR experience is disrupted for a few moments, you see the real world as it is, faded, gray, and covered in AR tracking marks.

This dystopian view of the future is heightened to jar the viewer, but in the near future you can count on advertisers looking to get their brands in front of potential customers using this new technology in any way possible. If we aren’t careful and don’t demand that advertisers and marketers use this newfound power responsibly, a view of the future similar to this may not be far off.

Unknown VR and AR applications
Every large-scale technological revolution or technology wave has inadvertently created entirely new industries. Some examples:
The rise of personal computers led to the creation of innumerable hardware and software companies, from Microsoft to Apple to gaming companies to applications and utilities.
The Internet’s invention provided a plethora of new industries and companies as well, from Amazon to eBay to Facebook, from e-commerce to social media and social websites to blogging, from online file sharing to digital music, podcasts, and video streaming services.
Mobile phones’ rise in popularity created an entire industry of app developers and re-birthed the popularity of microtransactions. It gave way to the rise of numerous social networking companies and applications, all based on the ability of users to connect on the go.
Predicting the industries that VR and AR will create is next to impossible. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote illustrates just how difficult it can be for us to imagine the unknown. we can be limited by our knowledge, and we’ll almost always ground our predictions within those known boundaries, which can make it difficult to imagine those truly great leaps forward that change the way we understand the world.
With the rise of VR and AR, new industries will be birthed alongside them — industries we may not even fathom at the moment. Perhaps years from now, it won’t be out of the ordinary to see “VR environment repairperson” or “AR brain technician” as job titles. The possibilities are endless!