As the pandemic forced the world to become more digital, technology had to adapt and accommodate to our present reality. With people longing to maintain their normal, pre-pandemic lives, augmented and virtual reality have come to be a major player for more than just the gaming industry. 2020 was the year of adaptation, so what can we expect from the AR/VR world in 2021? Whether shopping, working, or self-care, virtual reality is for more than just gaming.
For starters, retail has seen a huge change. In the beginning of the pandemic, most retail stores were shut down, causing retailers to panic. As they searched for ways to keep consumers, virtual shopping became commonplace. From makeup companies like Lancôme and YSL to dresses from David’s Bridal, virtual try-ons have become a trend. For some retailers, social media platforms are to thank. Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, is helping people shop virtually in luxury stores like Gucci and Dior. Instagram is allowing businesses, such as H&M, to create their own AR filters to showcase products. Shopify released ShopifyAR to equip their small businesses with the ability to provide this experience to their customers as well.
Major home brands like IKEA, Target, and Home Depot are also offering AR shopping experiences, with the ability to put virtual furniture or projects into your current physical space. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept the pandemic forced it to the public much more quickly than originally planned. Enhanced depth-detecting sensors, on new generation Apple and Android smartphones, allowed this concept to grow exponentially. It’s safe to say it will continue to see growth throughout 2021.
From meetings to training exercises, virtual work experiences are growing. Microsoft’s AltspaceVR is allowing users to host meetings with other members of their workplace in a holographic form, a more engaging alternative to the commonly mundane Zoom meetings. Oculus also released Oculus for Business in May of last year. Built for use in both the office and remote work locations, Oculus for Business is increasing companies’ capabilities across the board. With virtual workspaces, context specific learning experiences, and the ability to host live training events without the costs of travel, Oculus for Business is saving companies both time and money. It also gives users the ability to train for high-risk professions within a safe environment. With the release of the Oculus Quest 2, Oculus believes it will create an even better experience for businesses, with plans to pair the Quest 2 headset with their business software for $800.
The fitness industry is no exception to the AR/VR takeover, as people began to take self-care more seriously during the pandemic. Oculus also has its hand in this industry with its on-demand workout games like Supernatural, FitXR, and more. This allows users to exercise in picturesque virtual locations while also tracking their progress and receiving feedback. The industry can expect more games like these to be released this year. AR has seen growth in companies like Mirror, Google Glass, and Peloton. Mirror offers over 50 categories of 5-60 minute workout classes at a variety of difficulty, led by an instructor, in the comfort of your own home. The “nearly invisible home gym” was acquired by Lululemon in 2020, who plans to expand Mirror’s capabilities this year. Google Glass partnered with the app Race Yourself to give users the ultimate virtual running experience via AR Glasses. Google Glass tracks the user’s time, distance, and calories. Peleton also uses AR to mimic real world biking experiences, however, it’s at a lofty price. We can expect more options of the exercise bike to become available to consumers this year.
While the pandemic has made things unpredictable, one thing we can be sure of is that augmented and virtual reality companies plan to be a game changer in every industry. Technology is adapting every day and we can plan for new and exciting things this year, both in and out of the AR/VR world.