There’s a lot of buzz around augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). But how do these technologies work, do they have a place in today’s or tomorrow’s digital workspace, and are they worth the investment?

These are the questions IT organizations are asking as AR, VR, and MR continue evolving from consumer-gaming technologies into potentially powerful platforms that could reshape the future of work in certain settings.

To find answers, it’s helpful to know what each technology encompasses, and how they compare. In general, AR superimposes computer-generated images and overlays information on a user’s real-world view, essentially blending content from the physical world and virtual sources. VR, by contrast, presents a completely virtual, interactive, computer-generated simulation using electronic equipment such as headsets and gloves. And MR mixes the two, in applications such as holograms.

The use cases for these new technologies vary from training new hires to aiding field service agents. Imagine, for example, creating a 3D map from two-dimensional images to envision how a new color or feature could improve a product’s design. Or using a smartphone’s camera to quickly navigate a sprawling warehouse. How about pulling up a manual on a VR headset while fixing factory equipment? Or better yet, allowing seasoned surgeons to use AR to view operations and guide their colleagues through complex procedures.

The real value of virtual

AR, VR, and MR could also revolutionize workspaces by improving collaboration, expediting workflows, and creating new learning modules. Yet many IT leaders question whether these platforms will have a real bottom-line impact on today’s and tomorrow’s workspace.

The answer to this question depends on several key factors. For starters, employees must potentially add headsets, glasses, smart earbuds, and/or AR/VR apps to an existing arsenal of smart devices and wearable computers. This will require employee training and change management to drive adoption, as well as changes in business process.

Security is also a concern. AR, VR, and MR technologies require IT to work with large data models and vast volumes of information that could be sensitive, such as corporate intellectual property. By connecting AR, VR, and MR apps to smartphones, laptops, and headsets, organizations increase the risk of security breaches, such as data theft. In addition, deploying AR, VR, and MR solutions requires high- powered PCS and complex configuration requirements.

The future is immersive

Despite these challenges, computer-generated realities have the potential to reinvent certain aspects of the workplace.

IT teams can prepare by establishing best practices around devices like headsets and third-party apps, the same way they have with personal smartphones in the workplace. And by combining central control and security of AR, VR, and MR platforms with the ability to support augmented, virtual and mixed reality workspaces, IT can embrace a future that’s augmented – and secure.

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