Use Cases and Industries
Architecture, Engineering, and Construction
The ability to visualize and collectively alter virtual prototypes before they are executed is a key advantage of using XR for collaboration that is particularly well suited to fields such as Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. Many XR collaboration tools enable real-time interaction with detailed renderings of highly complex 3D models (>50 million polygons. This allows engineers to collaborate with others anywhere in the world to build, review, and test designs. An example of the many benefits of using VR in this way is for automotive engineers to be able to test aerodynamics of a vehicle that has not yet been physically built.
Architects can bring clients into virtual models of buildings prior to construction, which can prevent costly changes requested by the client after the building has been built.
In the construction industry, access to 3D plans can be matched against the building in progress, alerting managers to clashes detected between the plans and the actual build out.
Field Support and Security
The combination of industrial-grade wearable XR devices, software platforms, and integration with enterprise solutions is being leveraged to enable a new class of collaboration in industrial enterprises. This type of collaboration extends the reach of experts, inspectors, and customers out to the field where the worker is and the work is being done.
Scenarios where this type of collaboration has been leveraged include physical and cybersecurity inspections and assessments, equipment maintenance and repair operations, construction inspection, and asset management. Organizations using these capabilities have already started to make a positive impact on turnaround times for doing repairs and maintenance as well as seeing reduced expenses and time associated with sending experts and inspectors out into the field.
XR collaboration can prove extremely useful in a military setting, both in training and in battlefield deployment where critical information can be accessed in real-time. In 2019, Microsoft announced a $480 million deal to supply 100,000 thousand HoloLens units to the U.S. Army for training and active combat support, and army chiefs testing the device have since praised the depth of perception in the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), leading to a request for an additional 40,000 XR headsets in the 2021 budget. The ability to collect data (through eye tracking, for example) on trainee performance offers a wealth of benefits and is just beginning to be explored.
The advantages of training with XR are becoming increasingly apparent as more and more companies adopt and test it. XR training can be beneficial in manufacturing, healthcare and medicine, oil and gas, and retail, among other industries.
Digital twins of workplace settings can be created in VR with interactive 3D models a trainee can practice on without the risk of damaging equipment, loss of resources, slowdowns in production, and personal danger. In other words, VR can help with training in situations that fall under the RIDE acronym: Rare, Impossible, Dangerous, or Expensive. Because VR engages the sense of proprioception, it harnesses our instinctive spatial understanding of the world around us. Being immersed in a VR environment also means there are no distractions and focus is improved. Studies have shown that VR can improve knowledge and attention, and the ability to exercise bodily movement can create muscle memory related to the training task.
Collecting data on 3D & AR experiences to capture the interaction between the product or service can assist with understanding of the employee's knowledge. Receiving this data allows employers to measure & evaluate the success of their teams and collaborate on improvements.
Developing VR training can be resource intensive, but 3D models of equipment, including from CAD files, can be used in other business contexts as well. Once the training has been created, it can be shared across multiple sites, decreasing the need to travel to specialized facilities and ensuring consistency. The VR training can easily be accessed when a worker needs a refresher course, and it allows for repetition of tasks, in some cases adapting to the trainee’s performance.
Training with Augmented or Mixed Reality allows for the placement of digital objects such as 3D models in the trainee’s line of sight, reducing the cognitive load required to read printed instructions and mentally translate them into a 3D context. Remote expert functions mean that an instructor or more experienced worker can see what the trainee sees and guide them through verbal instructions and visual aids while the trainee has their hands free to perform a task. This sort of guidance can also be used for field service to support new people on the job and maximize the expertise of experienced workers nearing retirement age.
A number of high-profile companies have had great success using XR for training. Examples include Walmart, which has trained more than 1 million employees in VR and is expanding their XR training programs. Some of Walmart’s trainings include soft skills such as dealing with customers. Training Walmart employees on a new piece of equipment in VR reduced the time required from 8 hours to 15 minutes and eliminated the need for trainers to travel to stores to conduct the training. Boeing found that workers trained in Augmented Reality were able to assemble an aircraft wing section in 35% less time than those trained using traditional methods. And the industrial agriculture company AGCO GSI reduced training time by 60%.
Medical and Healthcare
The healthcare field has taken a strong lead in the implementation of XR remote solutions to address medical care. Using XR technologies reduces health risks when working with patients and in preventative measures through training. Remote solutions allow medical personnel to practice safely and patients to receive care regardless of their health status or remote situation.
Some examples of uses in the healthcare and medical realm include:
- EMT - Paramedic Services
- Remote Surgery & Surgical Assistance
- Cognitive Neurology
- Remote Rehabilitation
- Post Treatment & Pain Management
- Immersive Medical Training & Education
- Remote Diagnosis
- Fitness Management
- Health Profile & Data Security
- Mindfulness Therapy / Mental Health
Virtual collaboration has been extensively used by physicians and nurses in training scenarios, and is increasingly expanded to include real-time collaboration that enables clinicians to share valuable information remotely. Simulations in healthcare permit practice in surgical procedures as well as in following protocols and improving soft skills with patients.
The ability to scan an actual patient's body parts and convert them to 3D models can give surgeons more clarity on how to conduct the procedure. Such models can also allow medical trainees to gain experience without the risk of harm to an actual patient.
Throughout the pandemic there has been an increased use of remote collaboration to remain safe, remote, and efficient in the process of addressing the healthcare of another person.
Remote Work and Meetings
Remote work is more common than ever, but there is still a need for teams to interact and collaborate with one another. XR collaboration platforms can facilitate meetings among remote colleagues and offer a range of tools that support team collaboration. Platforms vary by features and number of users permitted, as well as by delivery mode, whether HMD or 3D worlds accessed via avatars on a computer. Being in a virtual space with co-workers improves the sense of being with them over traditional videoconferencing and permits breakout or small group meetings. Remote collaboration can also take place in Mixed Reality, and the remote expert function in Augmented Reality is a simple way for two or more heads to come together for optimal problem solving.
Working remotely is setting new trends in the business world with enhanced productivity and cost savings for companies who had high brick and mortar expenses to host and operate the company. Teams are now collaborating daily through virtual communications, connecting to operate the production of products and provide services even with their customers.
Sprint / Standup / Scrum Meetings
Remote agile teams doing daily scrums utilize visualization tools to present their progress on project assignments. It is often difficult to convey abstract concepts in a stand-up presentation, but XR offers interactive tools that combine the sense of presence that arises from physically sharing an environment with the ability to leverage visual assets to illustrate concepts more effectively.
Tools that allow people to collaborate both simultaneously (by meeting at the same time in a shared XR environment) and at different times (by offering a persistent environment that “remembers” individual contributions and serves as a core hub of activity) enable a very broad range of potential use cases where individuals from different teams and countries can converge around a project. It is important with this use case to have the ability to record the collaboration session and make it persistent so that it can be reloaded and reviewed again later.
Remote work in XR can offer co-working on documents, whiteboarding, screen sharing, multi-user access to 3D objects, and sticky notes along with voice communication and text chat.
Maintaining work relationships and social interaction in the age of social distancing will likely be an enduring challenge for societies around the world. In this context, XR is likely to become an increasingly useful tool in the arsenal of employees and contractors alike. It's important to note that one of the most popular historical use cases for VR is social chat/interaction, and such features tend to be fairly advanced.
Even before the shift toward remote working prompted by the global Coronavirus pandemic, the ability to reduce work travel expenses and foster real-time knowledge and expertise sharing offered tangible ROI to enterprise users. As the medium-to-long-term consequences of this crisis and the likely enduring need to enforce various levels of social distancing continue to make themselves felt, XR tools will prove increasingly valuable for business users across all sectors of the economy.
Product design meetings, sales scrums, virtual trade shows, product demonstrations, 3D data visualization, facility tours, employee onboarding, training; the list of potential business use cases is large and growing.
XR can enable high levels of interaction between participants (who can convene virtually from wherever they are in the world), lending itself quite well to workshops, which can be further enhanced with 3D assets. Multi-screen presentation can enable easier learning flow along with access to supplementary support content such as videos, images, and 3D objects.
Even when Covid has passed, the world has been vaccinated, and it’s safe to go out again, things will never quite go back to the way we did things before – and some of that is for the better. When real world events were forced to go virtual, platform developers immediately went to work to enhance the collaboration experience, create efficiencies, and make their platforms easier to access. The monetary, time, physical, and productivity cost of flying somewhere, staying in a hotel, eating out, being on your feet all day isn’t something people will miss. While in-person human interactions will never be entirely replaced by XR, virtual collaboration tools open up a wealth of opportunities for people to gather with others in real time from anywhere in the world.
There remain a number of friction points to interacting in VR, such as awkward avatars and poor text input. There are also technical limitations on how many people can be in virtual space because of the load it puts on both the platform and the devices. Most importantly, XR makes events more accessible to more people who join events who could not afford to or get their company to pay for travel. The sponsorship model for Virtual Events isn’t much different than real world events, but the cost structures are. For advertisers looking to innovate on how to activate event attendees, experiential content opens new potential for creativity, including interactive 3D objects, at a cost often lower and an experience longer lasting than real world events. Best of all, virtual venues are reusable and reconfigurable.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was most immediately felt in the live events industry – perhaps most notably beginning with the cancellation of the 2020 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. A rapid series of trade shows and conferences followed suit as it became clear that it would be dangerously irresponsible to proceed with any manner of large in-person gathering. There have been rapid efforts to transition to virtual conferences, yet industry experts such as Liv Erickson point out that there are still many significant technological and logistical challenges that need to be addressed before large scale XR conferences become viable.
Flatscreen videoconferencing is a poor substitute for live events. There are limited options for individual attendees to interact with one another, no chance encounters when navigating from one session to the other, and the nature of what can be shown or presented is restricted by the 2D screen on which they appear. But conferences that take place in VR worlds can allow attendees’ avatars to wave to one another across the room, navigate together to a convenient spot for private conversation, and even to shake hands or give virtual hugs. As with real events, room sizes can be chosen or created to accommodate the size of the audience, and usually there are options for sharing flatscreen images, slide decks, and videos.
Sometimes when you are participating in a large XR conference event, participants will want to have the ability to quickly self-organize into a smaller group by entering a “breakout room.” Look for this feature in the tools you select if you are planning to run large scale events. Some tools even have the ability to do this by defining a circle on the ground and only enabling audio conversations between users whose avatars are inside the circle. This eliminates the need to move to a separate room and allows rapid ad hoc movement between discussion groups.
XR is redefining the concept of showrooms and product demonstrations and transforming the customer experience. Customers can see virtually how products will look or function in a real setting before buying them, have more accurate expectations, more confidence about their purchase decisions, and greater product satisfaction. In some cases, simulated interactions can be supported so users can do more than simply look at the 3D models of products but actually operate them.
For trade shows, being able to display and demo 3D objects is a game changer. Avatars can navigate a virtual expo hall, converse with company representatives, and not only view the latest product but manipulate and interact with a 3D model of it, sometimes with the ability to choose configurations. The marketing benefits of booth space in an expo hall also transfer to the XR space because avatars can see branded booths and displays as they navigate the space. The options for conferences and trade shows in XR are many and growing rapidly, changing the entire industry and resulting in savings on travel, accommodation, and meal costs for attendees and their employers.
If you are trying to monetize content, you might want to hold a “pay per view” type event. Look for tools that have integrated ticketing features, connections to monetization and payment systems, and event management tools such as email and calendar integration. This will be especially useful for learning and seminars where the content is highly valuable to the audience.
After the pandemic hit in 2020 and lockdown rules laid out a new way of remote learning and working, technologies stepped in with solutions to connect teams, classrooms, and families digitally. While Zoom, Google Meets, and Teams helped trailblaze the remote connectivity solution, XR technologies were introduced to host conferences, speaking panels, and other collective events delivering more than just a video call.
XR takes 2D experiences and elevates them into interactive 3D experiences. There are a variety of XR collaboration platforms that support virtual worlds accessed via desktop, mixed reality glasses, and virtual reality. These real-world experiences are represented by avatars and communications that replace the traditional classroom and workplace.
Virtual worlds will become the new classroom, field trip, design world, empathy machine, and time machine. Access to 3D content opens endless possibilities for discovery and learning. Starting with a platform to host these adventures, schools need to understand the capacity and capabilities of these remote stages to engage and immerse students for their amusement and learning journey.
With these new immersive platforms and communication methods, some education curricula from the past may no longer apply. New methods of collaboration are here, advancing every day and supported digitally. Education is required to embrace the change of remote representation and to bridge the skills gap as schools and the workforce race to adjust to the new normal.
One of the most important reasons we created this publication was to address the global move to online learning. Many of the tools that are useful for running business reviews or large group lectures and lessons provide the features needed for learning from home. Virtual educational tools focus on providing teachers with the administrative, content management, and scheduling features needed to comprehensively offer an educational experience for their students. Integrated support for recognized Learning Management Systems and broad platform support (2D desktop and lower cost XR HMDs) is very important.
The educational sector has experienced a shift toward more widespread use of immersive technology, capitalizing on benefits such as greater engagement and higher knowledge retention rates triggered by experiential learning. Yet, with millions of students – from primary to university level – now finding themselves effectively unable to attend traditional lessons and benefit from face-to-face interaction with teachers and classmates, there is an urgent need for XR technologies to help fill the gap and enable educators to make meaningful connections with learners in ways that replicate those personal and persistent interactions.
Following the initial impact of pandemic containment measures, we can already point to examples of individuals repurposing XR platforms such as games for this purpose. Yet in the longer term, educators should also be confident of having access to consistent spatial computing tools to enable the delivery of educational content. Grove Learning is an example of platform that uses XR management software to allow classrooms to share the same experience on Oculus Quest and Go devices. These so-called "Arcade Management software" solutions are centralized experience distribution systems, and also include platforms such as SpringboardVR and Synthesis VR, which facilitate collaboration by enabling users to conduct classroom training and group experiences through sharing software, as well as providing license management functionality and metrics.
XR is a powerful tool in democratizing access to education, enabling students to access content and interact with teachers in ways that would often be limited by geography, finances, or venue capacity in the real world. While many teachers have jumped into use videoconferencing tools as a stop gap approach to address the need to support learning from home, students will require more advanced functionality in coming years, and collaborative learning will become an important use case for XR collaboration tools, especially when integrated with Learning Management System platforms.
A large number of VR collaboration platforms have been successful mainly through user demand to have a place to engage with others in a social or casual gaming context.
Getting socially connected with others is important – especially in XR! As a result, some tools offer special features designed to enable people to connect socially. Sometimes this is realized by connecting users using third party platform APIs such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Some XR collaboration tools are starting to lean in on social media platform integration and provide a significantly integrated user experience.
The sense of presence afforded by XR fosters social interactions outside of work and educational settings. However, the tipping point for social use of XR collaboration is further along than for enterprise and education, as consumers will only engage with it once a meaningful number of their social circle is likewise able to join them in these virtual environments. It is likely that this will only be pervasive once devices become significantly more affordable and user-friendly. This is another area that will be further addressed in updated versions of this resource.
What is a 3D world? It is a place that you can go in an immersive experience, it surrounds you, you can move around it, even fly, yes fly in it if it lets you. Mature Social VR platforms like AltSpace, VR Chat, and ENGAGE allow the creation of bespoke worlds that people can gather in. Events such as Burning Man in VR proved that, even in our isolation, we can gather together virtually, sharing experiences that create memories that are as cogent as in real life. Moreover, these experiences can be fantastic, defy physics, and allow you to do dangerous or impossible things from the comfort of your living room with no travel expense.
Where single-user experiences like informational content and some games are no longer novel the second time, multi-user experiences in virtual worlds with people you know or strangers you just met can be compelling. A common complaint about public virtual worlds is that they are overrun by children. But consider that children are attracted to them because they know something you didn’t, that this is the future of gatherings. Advertisers with the vision to invest in virtual worlds for their target demographics will be creating places that can be expanded and morph and be redecorated for every occasion. They can place Easter Eggs and make experiences fun. Virtual Worlds are a broad new creative medium for shared experiences that few have even begun to make use of. It seems like a no-brainer, but we still don’t see a lot of 3D worlds sponsored by advertisers ... yet.
Advertising and Commerce
The future of advertising and commerce lies with AR and VR. The big surprise for XR in 2020 was the huge demand for mobile AR and Web VR solutions to connect brands to consumers and recreate impulse-led interactions and shopping. Consumer behaviors have forcefully and abruptly changed, and future interactions between brands and consumers will continue to be modified. Consumers are now often unable or unwilling to go to a store and are more cautious about germs, crowds, and travel. They are rediscovering and adapting to a life lived much more at home. This means that product interaction, brand interaction, and impulse buys have to be available anywhere, anytime. The definition of omnichannel is expanding to fully include immersive technologies like AR and VR, delivered seamlessly through AI-powered applications. Consumers need to try on, try out, or at least feel like they can interact with products virtually – from make-up, to shoes, to cars, to clothing, to furniture. They need to step into a brand’s world and get a sense for what it represents without physically walking into a perfectly set up flagship store.
Since XR devices and the infrastructure needed to deliver immersive experiences are still not mainstream, the ecosystem is rushing towards the production of cross-platform solutions in learning, communication, shopping, and gaming. The purist view of XR – that true AR or VR is only delivered via dedicated face-worn devices like the Quest or HoloLens – is giving way to the quick integration of AR/VR in Web and mobile. And consumers are responding very well, being more than willing to give up a deeper level of immersion in exchange for using a more familiar and accessible device. AR and VR, first thought of as separate tools or disciplines, are merging with more traditional digital solutions and are becoming commonplace. We now expect AR elements and functionality in communication tools through filters or lenses, in any gaming app, when shopping for furniture (Wayfair), when trying on make-up or hair colors (11 beauty brands offering AR try-on), or when trying on sneakers of any kind (Gucci). We expect to purchase from an AR pop-up store while communicating with friends on Snapchat (American Eagle). Similarly, we expect Web-based VR functionality when browsing through a store (Dior), watching a virtual concert (Travis Scott on Fortnite), or virtually attending a fashion show (Balenciaga).
Brands need to be able to compete in this environment. To start, they need to create a 3D library of their unique assets – products, stores, and manuals, but also manufacturing facilities and machinery – then use and distribute the assets internally for product design, training, and digital catalogs as well as externally for ads and commerce on entertainment, sports, or social media properties. Easy-to-use tools for creating 3D objects are becoming more and more common. For example, Unity is integrating RestAR – an AI-based 3D capture tool – in Unity Forma, and Vntana, Marxent, CGTrader, and others provide similar tools.
Brands can also take advantage of 3D shopping environments; for example, Obsess helps recreate high quality, shoppable interactive 360-degree stores. Virtual try-on tools available on shopping sites such as Amazon Made For You help shoppers create a 3D virtual body double to purchase made-to-measure clothing. And on the advertising side, Snap is partnering with Unity to bring its Snap Kit tools to game developers and increase the reach of in-game ads.
Finally, brands need to have a strong voice and presence in virtual music, virtual sports, gaming, and social media platforms, which have shown tremendous user growth and are quickly integrating AR/VR elements and creating a new paradigm for shopping and advertising where users’ full immersion in an experience leads to themed, impulse purchases. Travis Scott’s concert on Fortnite for one – attended by 12 million people – grossed him $20 million, in large part due to the in-event sale of merchandise.
In the world of selling consumer goods, merchandising is the key. Many hours are spent by merchandising experts perfecting product displays and layouts and testing them with consumers. VR is used to let customers evaluate product placement and store layout, resulting in better displays, better product positioning, generating higher sales. However, shoppers in a one-user system are unable to experience the displays with others in real-time or to interact with an audience. Creating multi-user VR merchandising systems allows multiple consumers to interact with the same scene and products in real-time and allows an audience to observe, engage, and participate in the process. Simulating shopping in groups results in data and insights more aligned to the real-life consumer experience.
XR offers clear advantages when selling the advantages of products and services to prospective customers. These include not only the ability to present information in much more dynamic and interesting ways, but also to help potential customers visualize and even manipulate prototypes and have real input in the design process at an early stage.