We are still in the early days of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (a continuum increasingly known as XR). Most devices today still feature a limited field of view, a maze of cords, and controls that are difficult to master. There’s work to be done to better understand and develop these technologies, their user experiences, and product impact. Yet try on the Magic Leap One or Oculus Go, and the vast potential of XR becomes clear.
From consumer electronics to retail to finance, Artefact’s clients across all different industries are asking where XR is heading and how they can leverage it for their business. For the most part, they are asking the right questions, such as how XR will deliver value by catalyzing the engagement of new customers to drive sales. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Rethink the possibilities
Although the hype around XR frequently focuses on immersing users in new or enhanced worlds, the power of XR is rooted in something more profound. XR helps us transcend the limits of the human experience and fulfill our highest ambitions. In other words, it gives us superpowers.
Soon, XR will expand our access to information as well as our day-to-day relationship with it, including the intelligence we draw from it. It will also close the delta between real and digital dimensions more generally, helping us think differently about ourselves and our communities, who we aspire to be and what we’re truly capable of achieving.
Organizations can tap into the unique superpowers of XR in novel yet on-brand ways that help transform customer experiences and product value. By unpacking each, we better understand how — so let’s explore:
The first superpower is teleportation — helping us strengthen connections to people and places without enduring a long plane ride or additional costs. Today, I can use XR to participate virtually in meetings anywhere in the world using products like AltspaceVR, or plan my vacation by giving the cenote pools in Mexico a test visit through Expedia. Such applications are increasingly commonplace and exciting new ones continue to surface. Imagine if online education platform Masterclass not only created video tutorials from chef Gordon Ramsay, but enabled me to cook alongside him from the comfort of my own home in Seattle. Or better yet, what if I could see and interact with my mom in her kitchen in Virginia as we bring a complex recipe to life?
The second superpower is context shifting — helping us walk in someone else’s shoes and live out their experiences in ways no other technology can do today. XR transcends the escapism of a good movie or other forms of entertainment. Using XR, the trauma of racism or the plight of US prisonersand refugee populations is illustrated in ways that are more immersive and intimate, deepening our empathy and understanding of lived experiences that are different from our own. This superpower also enables powerful healing applications like exposure therapy for war veterans who suffer from PTSD. Now imagine what healthcare providers could achieve if they leveraged it in their communications with vaccine skeptics who underestimate the threat of preventable diseases and the importance of vaccinating against them.
The third superpower is omniscience — helping us access all the world’s information at a moment’s notice. From using Google Glass in surgical settings to CourtVision during a basketball game, XR technology is expanding people’s access to real-time information and the intelligence derived from it. Now imagine how XR could help Tableau provide real-time data analyses to their customers, for example, when their customers are exploring the answers to complex problems with peers, including during the Q&A portion of conference presentations.
The fourth superpower is enhanced creativity — helping the ideal products of our imagination come to life, even enabling others to respond to them. With XR, decisions that would previously take me and my husband months to make together, such as what color to paint our house or what new kitchen configuration would better suit our growing family, are dramatically simplified. The time and cost gap between imagining and creating goes to zero. IKEA is already using this technology to facilitate customer collaborationin a manner that not only expands but also personalizes product value. It isn’t a stretch to envision the same technology helping me design a custom Louis Vuitton bag with their signature elements similar to Burberry’s Bespoke web application — if someday I had extra cash to burn!
Before exploring newfound applications and thus the business value that XR might create, it’s incumbent that organizations first recognize why people seek to immerse themselves in XR, and what they will need for their experience in it to be authentic. The frame of superpowers can help because it pushes us to think beyond technology for technology’s sake. In addition, our desire for superpowers is technology agnostic. It’s deeply human to want to better connect with others, more quickly access and process information, and ultimately build something of lasting value. When organizations leverage the unique powers of XR to help customers realize these human aspirations, the net effect is XR helping us not only aspire to be, but also become, our better selves — individually and collectively.