How Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality could impact on the future of healthcare.

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When it comes to entertainment, the uses and applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality, or VR/AR, are well documented. The devices are already familiar to tech buffs and gamers alike, with seemingly weekly new developments, from apps to fully fledged video games, being announced.

But beyond the field of the entertainment industry, there are many sectors in which the correct application of VR could be extremely beneficial for everyone involved, and nowhere is this truer than with healthcare.

In terms of training, a problem that traditional, mannequin based techniques have suffered from is their lack of customisability. If clinical skills training is to be as effective as possible, then variety is key. Otherwise, the process seems artificial to the student.

Realism is another issue that VR can hopefully help with. With standard training methods, the mannequin that the student touches, doesn’t feel real at all in most cases, and the more realistic iterations of the mannequins can cost up to £100,000.

As VR technology becomes more sophisticated, then the realism, and so, the overall effectiveness of the training will increase. And despite the common misconception that VR can be occassionally an isolating experience, it actually allows for more collaboration between teams who may not even be working in the same country.

As with all technology, initially, the prices will probably be high. As mentioned earlier, a top of the range, highly realistic mannequin set, complete and ready to use, can cost up to £100,000.

Initially, is it even possible to replace this with VR? And in terms of costs, would it be cheaper? Well the first question, to give a short answer, is yes. With the correct management these training processes could be replaced with VR. But in terms of costs, the answer is less clear cut.

Right now, it may not be possible to match the quality of the mannequin for the same price, as VR technology is fairly new. But with time, and investment, the prices will drop right down, and in the not too distant future, VR could be a viable and cheaper alternative. The question is when and where to invest, so that the process is as quick as possible.

Now this isn’t to say that VR will ever completely replace more traditional, hands-on methods. The human factor will always have to be taken into account, and as with flying, there is a common school of thought that no amount of simulation can prepare you for the real thing.

But VR can bridge the gap, so that when a student finally moves on to a body, the transition is as seamless as possible. It also means that, when it comes to practicing potentially dangerous procedures, the risk to the patient is reduced. Some of these procedures could do serious damage if performed incorrectly, and the first time you try it the success rate is going to be far lower than the hundredth time. Using VR as a bridge in this sense, will be beneficial for everyone, both student and patient.

But there are risks involved. The primary one being that VR is not yet adapted to our human biology.

We don’t know the ramifications, in terms of eye health, that occur when one spend hours every day staring at a screen a few centimetres from our eyes. As well as this, there is the issue of desensitisation. This is a common issue that has plagued the gaming industry for a while. But whilst a degree of empathy and care is obviously important, a certain level of desensitisation is as well. Doctors have to deliver heart-breaking news, and perform life threatening operations every day. Without a degree of desensitisation, their job goes from hard to impossible, and, counterintuitively, becomes more dangerous for the patient.

Would you want your brain surgeon terrified at the complexity of their forthcoming task, or would you want them to just get on with the job at hand? Another potential problem is the necessary incorporation of big data. In order to have a versatile and accurate simulation, a lot of information, much of it personal medical information is required. This is a concern because it puts at risk people’s right to privacy, and risks doctor patient confidentiality.

This problem is averted by making it clear that information stored is used for training purposes only, completely anonymously, and will remain within the realm of medical education.

The development of AR platforms could catalyse ground-breaking developments

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Two competing AR platforms, one developed by Google, and the other by Apple, could be the battleground upon which new and ground-breaking developments in the field of AR occur.

Apples ARKit hasn’t even been launched yet, but developers are already creating a variety of different demos for a number of toy-like apps.

But the platform has the potential to host more serious programs, like the Ikea app demonstrated at a recent conference, where users can size up real furniture and how it would fit in their room, from their phone.

And Ikea aren’t the only big company Apple have teamed up with, developments with The Food Network, AMC TV and Giphy have all been announced. The platform is easy to use, and allows you to go from idea to finished app in merely 6-8 weeks. With Apples giant audience, the ARKit will be used by Mac, Iphone and IPad developers, which will create huge interest in the kit, and promote greater developments in the field.

And Google, eager to put themselves on the forefront of progress, have also developed their own AR platform, called ARCore, which is akin to ARKit, and will be available for Google’s 100 million Android users. ARCore is built into Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy 8 phones, and Google is apparently developing 2 experimental AR platforms, one of which can support Apples ARKit.

But even with all these developments we need to avoid the propensity for gimmicky, one-trick pony apps and the fact that they tend to drain battery life rather quickly will continue to be barriers preventing AR from entering mainstream consciousness quickly.

AR can be a fantastic tool, used for so much more than merely overlaying cartoon like characters on the world around us.


What are the next steps for AR technology in construction?

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Recently, construction sites have begun investing in augmented reality in order to avoid a new phenomenon of ‘alarm fatigue’. This is where the huge number of machines and devices sounding alarms make it difficult for workers to distinguish what is a normal sound and a life-threatening alert.

Construction companies are using the layering of data and information over real-time visual interfaces, augmented reality, in order to minimise the risk of information being overload on a worker.

These ideas are being developed to ameliorate nursing work flows in busy hospitals and A&E, where staff is overworked and the hospitals are overcrowded, with the abundance of noise and blinking lights making it impossible to differentiate which is which.

Despite these technologies being developed we have not yet reached the stage where our information is being streamlined and prioritised in the most efficient way possible, hopefully eventually being used in everyday life, not just refined for job sites.

In 2016, AR technology was developed for car manufacturing companies to identify problems in the engine of cars and then illustrate repair operations, or shadow areas that need checking. This technology also allows the user to draw on items and take screenshots, freeze, zoom in and out, and it even has a low power mode.

Furthermore, there is a ‘smart helmet’ being invented, featuring a thermal imaging camera and infrared image projection to the helmet visor. A tracking camera enables the eye to hover and highlight AR buttons and side menus in the display.

Augmented reality has become more and more frequently used in construction drones as well, used for remote inspection of infrastructure, and remote imaging of job sites conditions. Additionally, AR can be used for the drone pilots, who can access flight information without looking away from the drone.

There are many different ways AR can be used on sites, and eventually for everyday life. The technology doesn’t have far to go either – we can expect the next 10 years to be holding huge changes in how we view Augmented Reality developments.

Marketing technology is a strategic asset, and should be used as such.

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Creating a viable technology stack is hard  and many of the things you need to consider to do it successfully aren’t even technological, they are based on communication, planning and strategy.

Strategy, combined with creativity is one area that seems to present issues to some organisations.

Not only do you need to be selecting the right marketing technology, butalso the implementation plan, communications, and ensuring that the necessary skills are in place to get the most value for money.

Sometimes it is necessary to talk to digital consultants to make sure that you are investing in the right levels of technology. This is particularly important in the rapidly changing world of Augmented and Virtual Reality

Some organisations are already there, but generally digital advertisers and traditional marketing departments have been slow to adapt to the challenges of new technology.

We have compiled a list of four tips that you can implement to change successfully – this applies whether you are developing a marketing solution, a piece of animation or a complex, involving piece of augmented reality

  • Marketing technology should be treated as an investment portfolio, not as individual solutions. A holistic approach is required to make it work effectively. Look at each tech solution and its purpose, and plan accordingly, rather than looking for a cure all solution. There is rarely a cure all solution to any issue. No single area of marketing technology will solve all issues that you have, despite what some of the technology companies may tell you.
  • It is important to define high level workflows during the technology selection process. You need to develop plans, assign tasks and monitor them closely. So many projects fail because they go out of scope due to poor management and control. It is important to make the technology work for your specific needs, rather than tweaking your workflows to fit generic examples.
  • Put a strong communications plan in place from day 1. It is important to let everyone involved in the business know how the change is going, and explain things to people who have a stake in how the technology is used. Identify the key stakeholders, and the key influencers. Influencers may not be using the technology themselves, but they can be a powerful force within any organisation. There are usually people whose opinion matters, even in areas unrelated to their fields of operation.
  • Make sure that you are prepared in the eventuality that you lose a piece of marketing technology, be that because it isn’t working, or it gets assimilated by another piece of tech. Remember that technology you don’t own, is always subject to change, which can be positive and negative. You must be ready to adapt, and so should your technology stack.

Compelling Reasons to use Augmented Reality

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Augmented Reality, or AR, is typically when a computer system overlays digital information over the real world. This differs from virtual reality because VR, because that involves creating an entirely new, computer generated world to immerse the user.

Because of this Augmented reality systems have the potential to be even more useful that virtual reality in a business context, and therefore we ought to strive to incorporate it into our marketing models. There are many potential uses for the technology, and many benefits regarding its successful implementation.

When you consider that most of the adult population carry with them a tool capable of supporting intensive AR every day, the potential to reach your audience with something useful, valuable and engaging is obvious.

For one thing AR can improve our understanding of the environment around our audience. Overlaying information about your location has a myriad of uses in several different fields. From finding information about the house you are looking at buying, or an animation indicating where the foundations of a building are, the possibilities are virtually endless. In the construction industry for example, even the slightest miscalculation, or an estimate that was off by a few centimetres, can have very damaging consequences.

For example, if we look at pipes in the road, AR can overlay images of those pipes, so that workers doing repairs know with 100% accuracy where they are, and where to avoid.

A construction site is a dangerous environment with lots of heavy machinery. Safety, therefore, is a top priority. Having increased awareness of what’s going on around you could be a potentially life-saving benefit of incorporating augmented reality into this particular industry. The advantages of increased perception and awareness of the world around you can translate to a number of different industries.

Another interesting use for AR is in the field of personalised advertising. Being able to measure how someone responds to certain stimuli, for example, how they react to certain products, could allow companies to create personally tailored, individualised advertising campaigns.

We are a long way from the hyper intensive world of ‘Minority Report’, but if you combine AR with other measurement systems then then the possibilities become almost endless, and in many ways concerning. An example of this could involve a supermarket measuring the heart rate of customers when they walk past certain products, eye tracking combined with purchase patterns, could revolutionise our buying experience. Next time the customer goes shopping, the supermarket can specifically advertise the products they reacted favourably to, as well as suggesting similar items.

AR systems can also be used to guide engineers and mechanics. For example, one such system could be used to quickly display a diagnostic of a faulty car engine, allowing the mechanic to efficiently go about their repair work. While the world of Haynes Manuals and self repair may be behind most of us. Simple AR representations of how to change oil, tyres, jacking points would be invaluable. Augmented reality can also be used to improve the effectiveness of remote help hugely.

Providing virtual training aids via AR in the real world could also be revolutionary when it comes to training, across all fields. It could allow for cheaper and more efficient training for employees, which is useful for businesses of all sizes.

From engineering to medicine, every industry would benefit from being able to deliver training via AR. It is far easier for a trainee plumber to practice on a virtual water system over and over until they get the process right than to use physical pipes. It also means that if mistakes are made in the training process, rather than wasting resources, the training program can simply be reset, which saves lots of money in the long run, offsetting the relatively high initial cost of these AR systems.


How will augmented reality affect the future of business?

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The way we view the real world is rapidly changing, with the advent, and availability, of augmented reality technology. The market for virtual and augmented reality is predicted to reach $150 billion by 2020, but only $30 billion of that will be spent on VR. The rest will invested in augmented reality, which will change the way we interact with everything.

Augmented Reality is when the real world is overlaid with elements augmented by a computer. This allows the user to have a changed, often improved, perspective on reality. Virtual reality, on the other hand, is when the real world is completely replaced with a computer generated one. The Pokémon Go app is a prime example of AR, where places in the real world have virtual information and images over them.

AR provides an opportunity for businesses to give their customers new experiences. The possibility that customers could try out and test different products before purchasing them is exciting, but it is not only customers that may benefit. When it comes to training staff, the potential applications of augmented reality are just as exiting. For example, a trainee can try different procedures numerous times until they get it right, without costing the company anything.

Training can also be far more advanced than before. It is far more simple, easy and convenient to learn how to repair something virtual, rather than investing on the real thing. There are applications within the field of medicine as well, with one company creating a fully accurate rendered skeleton that can be used for study and to run simulations of treatments upon.

Also, doctors could use AR glasses to detect symptoms during a diagnosis, to better understand what ails the patient, and how best to treat it. This idea that relevant information could be fed directly to the glasses, allowing the user instant access, has uses ranging from medicine, to car mechanics and training for any number of different lines of work.

So how far will it advance? Eventually the technology may reach a point where we have normal looking glasses that can display both the real world, and an augmented reality over it. If this were to come to fruition, then the possibilities would be endless. The cosmetics industry has begun to utilise AR more extensively, by allowing the customer to use different types of make up on a 3D rendered face, in order to decide what they like.