Research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. published their top ten strategic technology trends for 2018 in early October. Gartner is focusing on what they call the “Intelligent Digital Mesh,” or the entwining of people, devices, content, and services.
Gartner calls one trend within this theme “immersive experiences,” otherwise known as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Gartner believes that these technologies are still in their infancy and are poised to break out over the next five years. These technologies will forever change the way we perceive, interact, and work within the digital world.
Virtual reality can be thought of as the immersion into a totally new world. Think VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift, or the HTC Vive. Mostly used for gaming or leisure experiences, these VR headsets will continue to grow in popularity – and in competition – as new and better content is developed for the virtual space.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, is the overlay of digital objects and information on top of the real world. The best recent example is the popular phone app Pokemon Go. Through the camera on the tablet or smartphone, AR technology is able to display a digital environment around the real one. AR will likely continue to be developed in phone apps and video games. However, it’s the business applications of AR that Gartner believes will propel AR technology into a much larger market share than VR. In the near future, AR will provide visual overlays of diagrams, complex instructions, event recording, and remote collaboration.
Gartner reports that the immersive experience of choice for consumers is emerging as a “mixed reality,” where the user interacts with digital and real-world objects while maintaining a presence in the physical world. This “mixed reality” includes both headsets and devices such as tablets and smartphones Gartner foresees the recent AR product launches from Apple and Google, plus the availability of other software development kits as a sign of increased competition in the AR space as well.
In the next 5-10 years, Gartner forecasts hundreds of millions of VR and AR headsets will be in the market, as several hundred thousand were sold in 2016. They also believe that products sold in 2020 will be much different than anything available today. “The result will be a plethora of new computing experiences that drive increased productivity across many industries, improved effectiveness of individuals in their work, and exciting new developments in the leisure, entertainment, and retail sectors,” according to Gartner analyst Brian Blau.