Immersive Experience: The Definition, The Technology And The Future
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Immersive Experiences
- Challenges Facing the Adoption of Immersive Experiences
- The Future of Immersive Experiences
As immersive technology continues to be a significant technological development, industries like healthcare, medtech, defense, aerospace and manufacturing are already making a substantial leap forward in embracing it, specifically in adopting extended reality (XR).
XR—the umbrella term for the remaining three realities: augmented, virtual and mixed—is now allowing organizations in those industries, among others, to improve their abilities in training and education, visualization and modeling, planning and production as well as safety and awareness.
While there are different XR market size estimates, the more optimistic ones predict the global XR market will hit $1.1 trillion by 2030, accelerating with the advancement of technology and wider consumer adoption. As we still have almost three-quarters of the decade to go, I would like to look at the near future of XR in this article—starting with existing use cases and benefits, going further into the following milestones, the potential, the challenges and constraints preceding mass adoption.
Benefits Of Immersive Experiences
Immersive experience can offer many different benefits to many different organizations, depending on the purpose and industry. One study found, for example, that using immersive technology for training reduced employee errors by almost 40%. Walmart found that immersive experiences helped employees score higher test scores 70% of the time. Other research found a 29% improvement in the speed of executing tasks for first responders after completing VR training.
In educational institutions, immersive experiences can help improve student attention, information comprehension and retention. It can also help reduce the amount of time needed to learn something. Wiley's research indicated a significant failure reduction from 50% to 30% in performing the insertion accuracy of the liver biopsy needle with the help of AR projection. Another study found a 30% improvement in student test results due to VR-based training. The National Training Laboratory found that VR-based learners had a 75% retention rate, compared to just 10% for reading and 5% for lectures.
For consumer use, likewise, immersive experiences can be used as highly engaging storytelling tools. They can also enhance brand and product perception, remove the barrier of being physically present and help ease decision-making. Snap Inc., Alter Agents and Publicis, for example, found an 80% increase in consumer decision-making confidence with the help of immersive technology. Deloitte also found that brick-and-mortar customer traffic increased by 30% when using on-location immersive AR experience enhancements.
Challenges Facing The Adoption Of Immersive Experiences
That said, before adoption can become more widespread, one of the main challenges will be to overcome the constraints of realism. Even though some immersive headsets already enable human-eye resolution today, technology needs to develop further for experiences to become completely photorealistic. XR can already submerge users, but it still needs to fill a gap where users can differentiate between what's real and what's not.
Likewise, users may not be ready yet to embrace immersive experiences. Even though the number of immersive experiences and XR devices continues to increase worldwide—an estimated 50 million AR & VR headset units will ship by 2026 in both consumer and commercial markets—it is still quite far from a pace where we could speak of global adaptation.
As XR technology develops further, the headset form factor should progressively become lighter and more advanced in immersive capabilities, enabling the prolonged use of XR devices in everyday activities, including work, study, collaboration, entertainment and much more. This and the growing competition for grasping the consumer market will push the headset prices to become cheaper, which will help the market overcome another challenge: affordability.
The hardware and software components will also have to make a significant leap, where the next generation of immersive devices would ideally incorporate auto-focus, replicating how our eyes focus in real life. Adding a highlight dynamic range would give more depth and light-contrast-based realism to the XR experiences.
We've already seen all of these capabilities possible in the 2022 Meta Prototype Show. The central question remains: How fast can all of these features be incorporated into a single headset? At the same time, the software side will also be expected to make a significant leap, accounting for the advancement of hardware capabilities. The software outcome of the experience—the visual fidelity, the level of realism, the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX)—combined with the hardware form factor and capabilities will be vital in living up to expectations.
The Future Of Immersive Experiences
Even though we already have immersive experiences with exceptional visual fidelity today, we still need to reach the point where the level of realism is similar to real life. We can already create the digital twins of practically anything, fully immersive spatial sound and hyper realistic avatars that can catch and transmit emotions and facial expressions in real time.
The next major step will likely come with the advancement of haptic technology, which can replicate a sense of touch for users, as opposed to only sight and sound.
The haptic technology market is expected to hit at least $23.8 billion by 2030. If this can be achieved, the next generation of immersive experiences will be truly remarkable from visual and sensory perspectives. Haptic technology would be a significant turning point for what we consider immersive today, making immersive experiences resonate with all senses and expanding the boundaries of what we now think is real.
Today, we can still define what is immersive and relatively easily differentiate whether the immersive experience is real. In the upcoming few years, the quality of immersive experiences is bound to go beyond what we have experienced so far, becoming more sensorial, hyper-realistic and practically indistinguishable from real-life interaction.
It will, of course, come with its challenges, but it should undoubtedly bring significant advantages to industries, businesses and individual consumers.