A woman uses virtual reality (VR) glasses as part of "Aquario Urbano" or "Urban Aquarium", a project that mixes 10.000 m2 of graffiti with VR experience, in Sao Paulo
JOHANNESBURG -  Augmented reality (AR) lets you project digital content into a real world environment, virtual reality (VR) immerses something real (ie you) into a virtual environment. 

These two technologies are set to change the way we shop, learn, play and work in the foreseeable future. 

Given the pace of technological change, some of these things are going to happen faster than you’d think. Here are our 5 top trends to watch for AR and VR in 2020, some of which may surprise you.

AI, AR and you - Developers are integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into AR apps, with some interesting results. Google Lens, for example, uses a neural network to visually analyse anything you point your camera at, and gives you more information about that thing. This can help you identify plants, get more information on displays in a museum, or even identify and find items to purchase - like a great couch you just have to have. All of this works, today, and we’re expecting to see more of it next year.

Business unusual - VR is often seen as a cool toy. And it is indeed cool. It also has endless applications for business though. Think simulation training that allows teams to face challenges as a group, and get a deeper understanding of their interplay and dynamics, and what makes them succeed or fail. 
As the price of headsets drop further, we’re expecting to see retailers and others take advantage of the technology to develop virtual, interactive spaces, where consumers can explore, customise products and interact with brands and each other.

Bring me to life - AR allows brands to take existing media and make it more engaging, like Pick ‘n Pay’s Super Cards game, which had a companion augmented reality mobile app that allows users to scan their Super Cards and see their favourite players in 3D augmented reality. Or Disney’s Lion King merchandise at Ackermans, which Lion King fans could scan using the associated mobile app, and see animated 3D scenes come to life. The cost of developing these applications is relatively cheap compared to, say, television advertising, and we expect more brands to take advantage of the opportunities the technology provides to entertain and educate.

Don’t tell me, show me - It’s no secret that the way we teach our children (and adults) is still lodged largely in the last century. People learn from visuals much faster than they do from text, so imagine how much more effective the learning experience will be if it’s totally immersive? VR is fast making itself at home in the education space and we expect to see this trend accelerate across all levels, from primary to workplace education.

Help me explore - AR’s and VR’s applications in the automotive sector are pretty well-understood - from design and development, to repair and maintenance, VR test drives and virtual showrooms. What’s changing is that AR and VR are moving into consumers hands too. Imagine opening up an email attachment and being able to explore a customised car, tailored to your specifications, including colour, interior finishes and the rest? Applications like this will dramatically change your purchasing experience, and we’re expecting to see them happening next year.  

Jade Duckitt is Creative Director at Sea Monster. An avid gamer, she has won plaudits for her work on Pick n Pay’s “Super Animals” and led content development on FNB’s groundbreaking financial education portal “Fundaba”. 

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