Increasingly, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are empowering businesses to entice consumers to purchase using truly immersive brand experiences. OLIVER Ireland Marketing Manager, Susan Foley, discusses how these new mediums are impacting our day-to-day lives.
AR and VR engage users in distinctly disparate ways. Virtual reality is about the creation of an exclusively virtual world whereas augmented reality blends artificial intelligence with real-life experiences, converging worlds.
The AR and VR market is forecast to reach dizzy heights by 2020 (an estimated of $150 billion) and businesses are fervently scrutinising how they can leverage technology to grow revenue and profit and improve consumers’ lives. But in their scramble to be first to market with unique AR and AV experiences, are businesses overlooking the potential implications of these technologies for society?
Future technologies will enable us to embark on AR/VR holidays to escape the toils and troubles of our lives. Having been immersed in a truly positive AR/VR experience, will we struggle to return to reality, our normal lives and the challenges they present? Consumer behavioural studies indicate that engaging and engrossing technological experiences can foster addictive tendencies among certain societal segments. From a psychological perspective, dependency is rooted in escapism, denial and fantasy. The burning question is do fully immersive AR/AV experiences promise an engaging and addictive substitute for reality?
In addition, augmented virtual tours will enable us to traverse the world from the comfort of our home but are we likely to substitute the virtual experience for the real deal and what are the commercial ramifications should society migrate towards a sedentary existence, favouring the armchair alternative?
AR/VR proliferation could affect how we interact with each other increasing the distance between traditional and technology based relationships. Empowered by AR the elusive ‘ideal partner’ may soon become ubiquitous reality. In the near future we will be able to create a virtual person fully conversant and interactive through the fusion of artificial intelligence, speech recognition and sensory receptors. Human beings have an in-built need to be loved and to belong and if VR/ AR fulfils these basic needs better than real-life, then who is to say that is a bad thing?
It is important to position the discussion about AR/VR in the context of a broader discussion about how technology is impacting lives. The potential benefits of AR/VR and other breakthrough technologies for businesses, consumers and citizens are enormous and businesses are changing rapidly to extract value from these technologies. However, governments and civil-society organisations may be struggling to understand how these rapid technological changes are affecting society. In order to ensure we prosper from these innovations, we need to anticipate and guard against the negative societal implications as opposed to focusing solely on business applications and potential benefits.