By Purushottam Darshankar, Innovation and R&D Architect, Persistent Systems
After a major slump in businesses due to the extended lockdown owing to COVID-19, economies are finally settling into the reality and areslowly taking their first steps towards making a major recovery. COVID-19 has truly transformed the way we interact or conduct business across various industries. An integral part of this is a dramatic reduction of in-person interactions leveraging low-touch or no-touch digital technologies that are in sync with the new behaviours post-COVID.
The new restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 have resulted in an upsurge of using digital technologies to support activities such as online shopping, contactless payments, online education, remote technical support, tele-health etc. to name a few.
Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) can play an effective role in overcoming these restrictionsand, at the same time, offering new opportunities to engage customers.
As an example, AR enables no-touch product interaction –an ability of AR technology to overlay a virtual user interface on a physical object that has limited or non-existent user interface. This can mitigate the obstacle of reluctant workers not to touch surfaces and objects that may have been touched by others to avoid virus transmission.
Let us take a closer look at how AR/VR has been on the forefront in responding to the problems posed by COVID-19 across different industries.
Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI)
AR and VR technologies have been a blessing for banking and financial institutions by letting them create immersive customer experiences. VR can create a virtual digital bank branch where customers can be engaged in more personalised way through virtual assistants. AR enabled financial apps may encourage digital payments by providing image-based product overview and price of items. In insurance, one of the most critical steps in property insurance claims is investigation. Remote property assessment can be performed in real time using AR technology when it comes to investigation of claimed losses.
AR has gained significant importance during the pandemic in the healthcare sector. AR powered diagnostics significantly reduce the chances of contracting a virus from patients, thus, enabling the much sought after ‘social distancing’ norm. Doctors will be benefited immensely with VRheadsets or smart glasses that can provide patients’ vital signals, medical images, and support inprocedures that are involved in complex surgeries.
Retail and consumer goods
The Retail industry expects significant budget cuts in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, however, the ‘digital-first’ retailers are ramping up their budget by investing in AR, VR as well as digital platforms to engage and retain their end consumers. As more and more consumers are adapting to digital commerce due to social distancing norm, AR and VR technology is appearing in many consumer applications. Retailers are rushing to replicate the physical shopping experience in a virtual environment.
AR is proving an effective sales tool, as it allows digital rendition of gadgets, household furniture, appliances, etc. within their own physical space. It allows the potential buyer to visualize, interact and understand the form, fit and function of a product without the need for travel.
Employee engagement in organisations
With social distancing norms becoming mandatory and imposed travel restrictions during lockdowns, all enterprises suddenly had to enforce remote work policies for employees. AR and VR technologies are helping enterprises when it comes to collaboration and keeping the remote worker productive. We are already seeing major corporates adopting online meetings and conferences and soon they are anticipated to shift to VR meetings and seminars.
Field service management
One of the most severely affected industry due to COVID is the field service industry. Field service management is an important function that requires precision planning and technical expertise. Despite some services being classified as an “essential service”, customers do not want technicians visiting their homes very often.According to statistics, a field technician has to do at least one follow-up visit for about 30 percent of service calls. These repeated visits affect cost, asset availability and in some cases, response time.
Use of immersive technologies like AR and VR can simplify and speed up field service management.AR technology provides field technicians with an immersive and integrated experience that helps in following a step-by-step guide to perform repairs and maintenance.
Another acceptable alternative to on-site service is remote assistance.AR-enabled remote assistance provides a live audio-video sharing experience between front line worker and remote expert with ability to add digital annotations . Enterprises are adapting to visual collaboration technology to reduce technician visits and to ensure business continuity for machine operations, servicing, and repairs.
In conclusion,advanced technologies such as AI, big data, cloud, and AR/VR are helping enterprises fight the battle against COVID-19 and improve productivity and operational efficiency. Enterprises have started investing, with varying degrees of caution, in these technologies in an effort to ensure business continuity.
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