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VR and AR are transforming the ways in which businesses interact with their clients, potential customers, and even their employees. According to SparkAmplify’s ARVR trending topic analysis, we have observed a sharp increase in wearable technology, including ones from Apple, Samsung and Lenovo. There have also been more corporations utilising AR and VR in their operations - from exhibitions to digital applications. It only makes sense for companies to harness the power of AR and VR to boost efficiency and further their business, execute new ideas and train their employees. Here are some examples of industries that are using AR/VR to their advantage.
Using virtual reality (VR) to create a fully-functioning prototype is both cost-effective and time-saving. By exploring ideas in VR, the performance of the prototype can be tested safely in almost any condition. This is particularly helpful for businesses in the manufacturing or production industries. An example would be D&K Engineering which specialises in utilizing VR to expedite its product design and manufacturing service processes. The American company also has sites in Singapore and Malaysia.
VR opens up new doors for businesses to market their products and services to consumers. Customer engagement with products can become a whole lot more immersive with the aid of VR and AR. Singapore start-up Circos VR prides itself on creating compelling experiences through VR and 360o video for brands to market their heritage. Indeed, no amount of words or photographs can compare to sending your customers to a completely new dimension to experience the product for themselves. In fact, insiders speculate that although real-world showrooms are an integral part of the marketing landscape now, VR showrooms will dominate in the future.
Singapore start-up iMMERSiVELY prides itself on creating compelling experiences through AR/VR and 360o video for brands to showcase their products through a unique blend of storytelling and technology. For example, they did an event in Kuala Lumpur for the movie Kong: Skull Island where they created a showcase in a mall that allowed visitors to get a virtual tour of Kong Island. IMMERSiVELY’s Creative Technologist, Lionel Chok, believes that VR is “integral to many aspects of our lives, industries and markets”. The technology can be used extensively in marketing, simulations and training, making it virtually everywhere.
It goes without saying that AR/VR is making waves in the healthcare industry. Many elderly folks are suffering from dementia, a debilitating and unfortunately prevalent disease. Thankfully, as technology continues to advance, new treatment and therapy methods are being discovered. Malysian Startup, Ministry XR (MXR), is one of the outstanding startups that have put their technology expertise towards building healthcare systems for dementia sufferers. Their AR and Data Driven Reminiscence System Therapy is based on calm technology to facilitate reminiscence therapy that improves cognitive function and the quality of life for both the patients and their caregivers. With user-friendly AR, patients can initiate and carry out the therapy by using the app to trigger digital memories by pointing their devices at physical objects and photographs. This AR therapy system was launched in collaboration with Maxis and Caring With You Dementia Enrichment Programme Centre in 2020, and was available for demonstration at Menara Maxis, Kuala Lumpur. On-ground activation teams also assisted patients and their families at Caring with You: Dementia Centre with adopting the application for therapy.
The company has intentions to enhance the system by turning it into a full smart home solution and are currently seeking to raise funds for the next phases of development.
Also in the pipeline is a prototype that integrates consumer-grade brainwave EEG to give insight into the neural activity of users as reminiscence therapy is carried out. Ministry XR is currently collaborating with medical experts to intelligently curate the aforementioned content for therapy.
Some forward-thinking entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to utilise AR and VR to transform brick-and-mortar retail experiences. The technology is able to showcase the store’s inventory better and improve one’s shopping experience. This is particularly apt for the current pandemic situation we are all trapped in. While major companies like ASOS have announced that plans of AR/VR shopping experiences are in the pipeline, a Malaysian start-up has taken the leap of faith. Conten.T aims to bring the retail experience to consumers who are stuck at home. By simply scanning a QR code, customers are transported to a hyperreal virtual shopping environment. Customers are then able to explore various rooms and learn more about the brand’s products. Despite it only being a year since its launch in June 2020, Conten.T has worked with brands like Gucci, Mamonde and Adidas Malaysia.
By ensuring that both the virtual shopping experience and user journey is identical to real-life shopping, companies have made the virtual retail experience as seamless as shopping at a physical store. Besides, the ability of VR to create any world -- from a replica of real-world stores to fantastical environments allows complete freedom for brands to explore ideas. Conten.T places an emphasis on adopting a lighter design to keep the experience efficient and visually-appealing for users. Their in-house design team enables them to utilize 3D engines to create perfectly realistic visuals and lighting to optimise the shopping experience.
When it comes to skincare, makeup and the accessory industry, AR/VR is making things a lot more seamless too. Tools like AR try-on, colour blender and skin analysis allows for a hyper-individualised experience for users. An example is GLOW, MXR’s newest e-tailing solution that is in the pipeline. It uitlises AR/VR and spatial computing to spearhead the age of “smart-shopping” and recommend products that suit each individual the most.
Another new and effective use of AR and VR is to improve workplace communication. Once again, the pandemic has caused major disruptions in corporate environments, with workers alternating between remote and in-office working. However, video calls and team meetings must still occur, so this is where VR steps in. Singapore-based start-up VRCollab has engineered a software called VRcollab Lite. Its multi-user VR functionality allows for seamless communication between groups regardless of physical location. This is further enhanced by Virtual Design and Construction oriented software features that enable users to remain effective and efficient within a virtual environment.
Another advantage of bringing AR and VR into the workspace can once again be seen in the training portion of the healthcare industry. The best thing about working within virtual reality is that when things go awry, all you have to do is hit a button to reset. This greatly reduces the danger factor when surgeons and other medical professionals are testing out new medical techniques. Introducing VR into healthcare also allows industry experts to better treat patients. Singaporean start-up, BetaSight Technologies, uses VR and Eye-Tracking to get a deeper insight into users’ eye health. They specialise in glaucoma, an eye condition that is rather prevalent in the local elderly population. The company has big plans too, intending to expand their platform to cover neurological and physiological conditions in the future.
Convenience and productivity are also some of the greatest benefits of utilising AR/VR. This makes it a fantastic way to engage and entertain users. Trainers have thus decided to introduce AR/VR into the education industry. The Asian-Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) is a trailblazer in this field. Located in Malaysia, APU is an investor and incubator in XR technology in the region. They are a pioneering institute in introducing XR to Malaysia higher-education institutes and strongly promote academia-industry collaborations, setting an example by creating an all-new XR Studio. The talent, environment and facilities in XR technology provided by APU has benefited their students and allowed them to make a smoother transition from university life to the corporate environment.
As an incubator of XR technology in the South-East Asian region, APU also has plans to work with industry partners to create new projects. They are currently working on collaborations to benefit the educational industry with Ministry XR and a medical school respectively. APU has ample spaces for expansion within its campus and that paves the way for commercialisation of XR technology.
Easy accessibility is one of the greatest benefits of AR. This makes it a fantastic way to engage and entertain users. Educators have thus decided to introduce AR into the education industry. This can be seen in the example of Taiwanese company MAI.ai. They have a programme called DigiTwin that engages with patients for their modern patient education. Even better still, the engaging nature of AR has allowed for the gamification of certain programmes. This is also helpful in the realm of education where certain concepts can be taught through VR gaming, making it easier for students to grasp them. MAI.ai programmers believe that students better memorise and retain anatomy knowledge through realistic VR immersion.
On the Singapore front, Rayvan Ho, founder of local startup ACKTEC Technologies has always been dedicated to serving the education market. He believes that both the education system and its mode of delivery is dated and the introduction of AR/VR technologies will be able to give the curriculum the refreshment it needs.
While AR/VR will be immensely helpful in providing supplemental learning support and relieving the workload of teachers, there are still some hurdles that need to be addressed. For example, a percentage of educators are reticent towards adopting AR/VR as the new medium of teaching. They often have reservations regarding the complexity and accessibility of the technology. Moreover, AR/VR technology does not come cheap, and it is understandable schools may be hesitant to fork out large sums of money to invest in such hardware. Nevertheless, Rayvan still remains optimistic that VR education will be “the next big thing and will become the preferred platform for teaching and learning to take place”.
Another Singapore startup making big waves in the AR/VR education industry is EON Reality. According to Dan Lejerskar, founder of the company, one of EON Reality’s most significant mandates is to make immersive learning readily available to anyone, particularly those who may live in remote communities where classrooms may be scarce. This is exemplified through their creation of their EON-XR platform that we will go into later.
The pandemic has also thrown the education industry into a tizzy. EON Reality has taken advantage of COVID-19 to reinforce their learning infrastructure to withstand any future disruptions like a recurrence of the virus. This introduces their EON-XR platform which focuses on active forms of learning which emphasises on student learning in context. Such is EON-XR’s popularity that at the height of the global shutdown, the company witnessed more than 400% growth in the uptake of the platform.
EON-XR isn’t just the only solution the company has up their sleeve. In Lejerskar’s words, EON is a company that “mixes both dreamers and doers”. They’re a pioneer of cutting-edge XR technology, from their recently-patented Merged XR to the latest EON-XR 9.0 release. Constantly staying ahead of the curve, the company sees AR/VR and immersion as a defining feature of virtual communication in both the education industry and elsewhere.
AR and VR technologies are also disrupting the real estate industry. Traditionally, prospective buyers would have to go through a lengthy process of researching, viewing and shortlisting their ideal properties. Likewise, the seller would also be subject to a multitude of tasks to complete before the transaction goes through. Luckily, the introduction of AR and VR simplifies the process a lot. Virtual tours can be arranged from any part of the world and property agents can increase their customer reach from only local to the international crowd. Taiwanese companies Follia VR and Skell International are doing just that. Virtual technology is used to craft and design dream houses for customers. Another example would be that of Malaysian startup Creatinno Tech. They offer AR/VR solutions for potential buyers to view properties effortlessly. Creatinno Tech also pairs this with their 360 imagery solutions and virtual tours to make the overall experience even more immersive and specific to their clients’ requests. By combining storytelling and VR, companies are able to create seamless property-viewing, buying and selling experiences for their clients.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, international travel has ceased and the tourism industry has suffered a huge blow. This is where AR/VR comes in -- virtual tourism experiences are becoming the new in thing. A Malaysian startup, UnBound Malaysia, has been making waves in the virtual tourism industry with its GoTravel solution. GoTravel’s interactive AR Travelling Technology was created in collaboration with The Tiffin Company “Gandingan Mega Sdn. Bhd.” and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). GoTravel provides an interactive platform to create content, while obtaining customers through AR mobile applications.
Such AR/VR solutions have reinvented the traditional tourist experience by overlaying real time information regarding local insights, destination information and interactive guidance systems. This virtual guide proves useful for travellers exploring foreign lands as they will have access to location-specific information. Travellers will also be able to connect with local content creators and experts through the AR platform to get a more immersive tourist experience.
Even in a post-pandemic world, AR/VR vendors are still confident that the technology will thrive. Steven Voon, founder of Creatinno Tech, is optimistic that the tourism industry will continue to be transformed by AR/VR. For tourists who choose to explore locations virtually, Voon states that the souvenir shopping experience can be transformed by utilising VR to let them try on and purchase handcrafted local items. For those who prefer to travel to the physical location, creative AR games can be added to souvenir shops to attract tourists and create an immersive experience for them.
Another interesting arena where VR and AR is becoming prevalent is exhibitions. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale events like trade shows, conferences and conventions have to be pushed back until further notice. Thus marks the appearance of digital trade shows with the help of VR and AR. Singaporean start-up Studio Mojo is one of the many organisations offering virtual trade show booths to clients. They design global exhibition stands secured by a cloud-based solution with intelligent chat functions to provide visitors with the ultimate exhibition experience. Now, as the world begins to open up, Studio Mojo hopes that their digital trade show booths will complement or serve as a socially-distanced alternative to the trade shows of old.
Another benefit of AR/VR is that it allows for content to be shifted online easily. Hilman Nordin, director of Malaysian startup Wariscan is a supporter of the shift of content into the virtual realm. He states that the pandemic has been a catalyst for virtual and digital content delivery. Having roots in academia, the team at Wariscan works closely with educators, language experts, artists and curators to weave traditional storytelling into the latest AR/VR content delivery technology. They have had much experience creating interactive showcases for museums and learning institutes.
Even in a post-pandemic situation, Nordin is confident that digital deliveries of information will co-exist, and Warsican is “excited to be part of this mixed reality experience”. AR/VR platforms will continue to complement brick-and-mortar exhibitions and showcases in a double-pronged effort to strengthen cultural heritage and community knowledge.
The gaming industry is another area in which AR/VR has taken root. While other businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19, the gaming industry has not been affected much; in fact, it has soared. Aldric Chang, CEO of popular Singapore gaming startup Mixed Realms states that “the pandemic has not really dampened our earnings as it doesn’t stop us from selling games online”.
Mixed Realms specialises in pushing the possibilities when it comes to bestowing their players with superpowers. Their first VR game, Sairento, was wildly popular, becoming a top-selling cyber ninja VR game globally, and allowed the originally 4-person Mixed Realms team to grow to one of 20. Never one to rest on their laurels, the team at Mixed Realms gathered user feedback and are currently preparing to launch Hellsweeper VR next year, a whole new game with an upgraded locomotion and melee combat system. In the words of Aldric: users “literally have to put more swing into their swords to kill an enemy” -- such is the realism of the game. This adds reality into the virtual game and allows players to become even more absorbed in the mythical world they are venturing into. This is also adds to the allure of VR gaming, where the borders between fiction and reality become blurred.
An interesting arena where AR/VR is thriving is corporations dealing with environmental preservation. As with any call to action, storytelling is imperative to get the message across. A Singaporean startup, MeshMinds, has done just that. Their founder Kay Vasey, spent much of her young adult life doing volunteer work camps, from saving turtles to restoring natural rainforests, she eventually found her calling when she realized she could use her technology lawyer expertise to bring brand stories to life and save the environment.
In 2018, Kay met the deputy regional director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) at a nature photography event in Singapore. After that, everything is history as MeshMinds now partners with UNEP and harnesses AR technology to cover the triple threat posed by nature, pollution and climate crises.
By applying AR/VR and gaminifaction techniques to user experience, creators are able to maximise user engagement with the story, journey or call-to-action. This is exemplified and MeshMinds immersive content creations like Sustainable Rice Family and Ecosphere AR which combine AR and storytelling seamlessly to create an empathetic call to action.
It may interest our readers (especially those from SouthEast Asia), that AR/VR has found its way into agriculture -- durian farming -- to be specific. MXR has partnered with Royal Pahang Durian to provide precision farming solutions that will simplify operations, atomate plantation management and optimize farming practices to maximise yield and crop quality. With XR visualisations presented in real time, farmers can monitor crop conditions and be alerted of critical issues like flooding or disease.
Whether we like it or not, VR and AR are here to stay. As with all newfangled technologies, they don’t come cheap, but the benefits greatly outweigh the hefty price tag. From the aforementioned examples, we can see that companies are already eagerly embracing the opportunities created by this futuristic technology. Given the vast potential it stands to unlock in almost any industry -- from manufacturing to medical -- virtual reality is freeing us from the physical constraints of the human body and allowing us to take a peek into places that only exist in the digital world.