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Virtual and augmented reality are helping to improve quality in innovative new ways. Virtual and augmented reality tools have been readily adopted by manufacturers aiming to improve efficiency, safety, and connectivity as they develop and repair their products. According to a report published by PwC in 2016, more than a third of US manufacturers surveyed were either already using virtual reality technology, or planned to do so in the next three years. In terms of product design, the technology facilitates remote collaboration, and many products can be “experienced” before they are actually made - potentially increasing product quality for consumers. In 2016, MIT Technology Review reported that commercial construction companies had begun using augmented reality technology to help them identify and avoid problems before starting work at a site; one senior manager at a firm in Rhode Island was able to use a Microsoft HoloLens head-mounted display unit in order to look at a mockup of a project and see that steel frames he planned to order would actually be too long to fit the design. His company then asked the supplier to cut the frames shorter in advance of delivery, enabling it to save thousands of dollars in unnecessary labour costs. While virtual reality can help businesses visualize store layouts before they are built, augmented reality can fundamentally change the way retailers deliver their products to consumers. The functionality and quality of products can be assessed from anywhere, anytime. A Harvard Business Review article published in 2016 presented several possible use cases: virtually trying on clothing in the comfort of one’s own home; testing out the look and fit of furniture at home; and potentially enabling people in different locations to go shopping together. The free augmented reality app KabaQ, released in 2017, can render compelling 3D models of food - which enable people to preview their meals on a tablet before ordering. AR may ultimately prove to be the easiest option for retailers seeking to bolster their services, given that the technology can be accessed on any smartphone. Virtual reality, on the other hand, still requires special equipment and so may be more suitable for other types of businesses - at least, for now. However, as the technology inevitably matures, virtual reality shopping will likely take off.

New Ways to Make, Do and Buy

KEY TRENDS

Extended Reality