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AR & VR World 2018: Augmented, mixed reality gain momentum in enterprise

As virtual reality faces mixed results among consumers, momentum is building for augmented and mixed reality in the workplace.

With a growing number of businesses outside the games and entertainment industry adopting AR and MR to boost workflow and productivity, this could be a watershed moment for the emerging technologies, according to industry experts at AR & VR World, an annual conference for the reality tech community.

While VR completely immerses users in a digital environment, its close cousin AR allows them to add digital content to their physical surroundings. Meanwhile, mixed reality, widely seen as a more advanced form of AR, enables users to interact with virtual objects within a real-world setting.

For instance, visual overlays could remind users about a meeting, present them with a shared virtual document, provide remote assistance or even support virtual, 3D design.

One of the primary reasons for the adoption of AR and MR in enterprise is the growing volume of data, Chris Hardess, technical solutions professional in the enterprise & partner group at Microsoft Corp. U.K., said in a keynote.

"By 2020, the average person will generate 1.5 gigabytes of data per day," Hardess told delegates, adding that "a connected smart household will generate 50 gigabytes of data per day and a small city will generate 250 petabytes of data per day."

Sitting at the heart of this trend is the HoloLens 2, the successor to Microsoft's MR goggles, which is rumored to be unveiled later in 2018, three years after details of the first headset were made public. Last year, it was announced that the HoloLens 2 would incorporate an artificial intelligence chip designed by Microsoft.

Anticipation for the headset shows AR and MR are making a "tangible difference" to businesses, according to Mark Sage, executive director at industry body Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA).

Speaking during a keynote, Sage said that the best AR and MR tools are coming to the fore.

"[This technology] allows you to do more with less resources, to improve the efficiency and frequency of complex tasks and to prevent human error and miscalculation," he told the crowd.

For instance, logistics group DHL Express reported a 25% hike in productivity gains with fewer errors and more engaged workers while aviation giant Boeing Co. has reduced its staff training time by 35%, according to Sage.

While he acknowledged that limited understanding of the technology among decision makers had initially limited adoption, more recently AR and MR's fortunes have taken a turn for the better.

"AR is still not a mainstream technology. We are still at the infancy ... but things are changing," Sage concluded.

Additional AR & VR World 2018 coverage:

Future gains of immersive tech justify early hype