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The real benefits mixed reality brings to the enterprise

We explore the technologies behind the mind-expanding digital experience of mixed reality and the etiquette that shapes its use.

Best of Both Worlds

Mixed reality technology, delivered through a head-mounted wearable display, can provide enterprise employees with the best of both the physical and digital worlds.

Users gain a real-time view of actual surroundings combined with an overlay of intelligent virtual objects that allows for new interactions through gesture- and voice-based inputs.

Accenture Labs’ mixed reality research shows that digital businesses in a variety of industries (for example, consumer product goods, energy and healthcare) can apply mixed reality to enable their workforces and expedite processes.

What’s more, our experience indicates that certain categories of mixed reality applications are good bets for getting started. Read on for how we see this playing out.

Mixed reality is a next-generation digital experience driven by the real-world presence of ‘intelligent virtual objects,’ enabling people to interact with these objects within their real world field of view.

Converging Technology

If augmented reality is a reference manual for workers, mixed reality is a digital tool that can recognize an environment and seamlessly recommend experts, enterprise systems and reference material necessary to complete a task.

Although the software and hardware components existed previously for virtual and augmented reality, only recently has technology become sophisticated enough to create the full experience of mixed reality.

The two essential software pieces include:

  • Image recognition—The ability of a computer system to quickly and precisely analyze an image and identify features within it. The simplest augmented reality apps can use QR codes to recognize specific objects or surfaces for interaction. Mixed reality, however, needs to use more advanced image recognition to conduct object recognition to identify walls, floors, tables and other objects dynamically for a worker to interact with.

  • Simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM)—A suite of technologies geared toward locating a person and mapping the environment concurrently.

    SLAM is key to mixed reality applications. To function in new, unknown or changing environments, the technology needs to both continuously create a map of those environments and then locate and track a person’s movement within them.

Real-World Applications

Based on the unique aspects and experiences delivered by mixed reality, digital businesses are beginning to explore a variety of use cases.

Accenture Labs has identified three categories to explore further, each with differing effects on how employees perform their jobs:

  • People first applications - Many applications were originally created to display data or information from a centralized location. When enterprises enabled access to these apps via tablets, smartphones or smartwatches, employees enjoyed faster access to the same information.

    This greatly changed the way people work, especially in terms of mobility and hands-free work. Mixed reality is the next step. However, instead of arbitrarily providing data to the worker, the software and hardware will work together to display extremely context-relevant information in a physical space.

  • Sharing real-world virtual workspace - Bringing together multiple mixed reality devices in a shared space will open up new collaboration options. With mixed reality, team members can be networked into a shared virtual world overlaying the physical.

    In this connected environment, they can collaboratively work together on the virtual objects and have the items interact with each other and the real word.

  • Remote experts (over-the-shoulder coaching) - Many enterprises struggle to address all of the support requests from workers requiring expert advice. Mixed reality offers a hands-free method to access an expert quickly and inexpensively.

    For example, an oil and gas technician working on a drilling rig in the middle of the ocean can send a video feed of what he sees, and the expert can annotate the 3-D world displayed on the mixed reality headset to direct the task.

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