One of the main value propositions of Information Technology lies in the digitization of physical processes. Enterprises leverage IT technologies to digitalize hundreds of physical processes from electronic management of documents and healthcare records to the remote monitoring and inspection of machines. The value of this digital transformation is reflected on increased automation, less error-prone processes, increased accuracy, and the ability to do things from remote i.e., without physical presence and physical contact. The importance of digitization has been recently highlighted during the COVID19 pandemic, where contactless processes replaced conventional physical processes.
An integral element of the digital transformation of physical processes is their proper visualization. End-users and other stakeholders of physical processes are asking for ergonomic and user-friendly visualizations of the context of the physical world objects that are involved in the process. To this end, a variety of visualization modalities are employed to provide realistic representations of physical items in the digital world. These modalities include Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) representations, which allow end-users not only to visualize physical world processes but also to interact with them. This fosters interactions and interplay between the physical and the digital world. It also extends physical processes with digital items and enables an extended reality (XR).
Extended Reality (XR) is a relatively new term, which indicates the extension of human reality with related objects and processes that reside in the physical world. XR leverages well-established technologies like VR, AR and MR to improve user experience and provide new means for humans to interact with physical world processes and their cyber-representations. The proper deployment and use of XR applications hinge on a deep understanding of the following building blocks:
The above-listed technologies are already available and deployed in various applications. Their availability and number of applications are expected to increase in the years to come as a result of advances in user devices (e.g., AR headsets) and in the underlying networking infrastructures (e.g., 5G and 6G networks).
Extended reality applications and tactile networking infrastructures are already changing various sectors of the economy, including:
Overall, the era of tactile XR applications has already started. Virtual reality development and augmented reality development are no longer far-fetched tasks for modern enterprises. Rather they are powerful technologies that improve business competitiveness in a variety of industrial sectors. Therefore, business enterprises must seek the best possible ways to deploy and fully leverage XR. Likewise, augmented reality and virtual reality companies must develop growth strategies that will capitalize on technology and market trends. For all these companies the future of augmented reality and mixed reality technologies is now.
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