Immersive applications are the trend: attracting users with immersion
Three quarters of German companies are already using or planning to use immersive technologies such as augmented reality (1). The number of immersive applications is increasing and so is the interest in using them: Six months after Apple provided a development platform for AR apps with iOS 11 and the ARKIT, users downloaded 13 million augmented reality apps (2). Whether for games, machine maintenance or support in the operating room – immersive technologies can be used in a variety of ways. We will show you how you can increase the acceptance for your product using AR, VR & Co as well.
Immersing yourself into new worlds
The term immersion refers to "immersing" or "sinking" into another (virtual) world. Users block out the real world around them due to audiovisual impressions. Immersion does not only take place in virtual space – as in computer games. Even when playing board games, reading books, or watching movies, recipients can fully immerse themselves mentally into the story being told.
Immersive technologies extend the real world, as is the case with augmented reality (AR), for example. AR applications link the real environment visually, auditorily or haptically with digital information. When users completely immerse themselves into a virtual world, we are talking about virtual reality. The entire range from AR to VR is fluid and is often summarized under the term “mixed reality”.
Hardware such as smartglasses (head-mounted displays) used in AR and VR applications enhance immersion. This technology appeals to as many of the user's senses as possible, allowing the virtual and real worlds to merge. The more the users feel being actually in a virtual reality, the stronger is the effect of immersion.
Application areas of immersion
As immersive technologies further have developed, various platforms and application scenarios are now available in the digital field:
AR/VR/MR experience for smartglasses: These applications simulate the real work environment and are used for training purposes. Thanks to data glasses, pilots in training can practice flights and new employees can familiarize themselves with complex machines. This technology is also gaining importance in the medical field – as preparatory surgery training or as support during surgical procedures.
3D desktop applications: Interactive 3D visualizations with step-by-step instructions simplify the operation or maintenance of complex machines, for example in industrial plants or cars.
Immersive web and mobile apps: Augmented reality apps make products in 360° come alive – in extended shopping, exhibition and trade fair worlds, beauty apps or apps for planning furnishings. In addition, augmented reality navigation and repair apps, for example, can make your users' daily lives easier.
Immersive technologies are applicable in many industries from industrial, enterprise to medical and consumer product marketing. Immersion involves users much more in the interaction and enables them to immerse themselves more deeply into an application. This provides advantages for product and brand awareness and while increasing the acceptance and success of an application.
With immersive technologies, you can make your products come alive: You can address users more intensively and promote the dialog between your clients and your brand. Companies such as Ikea and Porsche already use this option. With the "IKEA Place App", users can find the right piece of furniture for their own four walls thanks to augmented reality technology. You can place pieces of furniture in your own home to get an idea of size, design and functionality (3).
The augmented reality app "Porsche AR Visualizer" also allows users to configure their desired Porsche and place it in their garage at home (4). This creates an emotional product experience that is fun and takes away uncertainties in the purchase decision. It increases the emotional connection to the product and stimulates positive emotions for the brand.
When you integrate AR, VR or similar technologies into your applications, you are using a new modern form of interaction. Immersive technologies inspire and motivate users – because the interaction with you is new and different. They make content more vivid and lively, and thus easier to understand. This is why they are particularly useful for complex content – for example, if you want to explain complex products to your customers. E-learning can also benefit from this, with apps imparting knowledge about math, history or biology playfully: For example, if you can virtually immerse yourself into the human body, it is easier to memorize the structure and location of organs than by looking at a textbook. For example, the WDR (German TV station) History App "WDR AR APP 1933–1945" brings contemporary witnesses into your own living room or classroom and brings history to life in a 360° perspective (5).
In our research project, KoBeLu, we also relied on augmented reality and a chat. The augmented learning table guides industrial trainees through hands-on exercises such as assembling an alternator. The tools and information required for this are marked directly on the work surface using projection-based AR technology. Learning is fun and is no longer consciously perceived.
Safe and efficient
With immersive applications, you make the work and everyday life of your target group more efficient and safer. There are different reasons for this: AR apps display all relevant information to the user where they need it. This pays off, for example, in maintenance and trainings – as ŠKODA discovered (6). The automobile manufacturer is currently testing AR smartglasses to maintain production machines and train technicians. This accelerated the maintenance process and reduced the probability of errors.
VR enables you to experience and change information virtually in real time. That is why the American helicopter manufacturer Bell relied on virtual mock-ups and interactive models in VR to design the FCX-001 helicopter. This approach reduced the time for model design from five to seven years to six months – and saved the cost of expensive prototype construction (7). Well-designed immersion in VR ensures that users are fully focused on an application by blocking out distractions. Fresenius Medical Care has been training patients with virtual reality for home dialysis since August 2021. In various modules, patients learn how dialysis treatment works. The VR environment allows patients to block out external influences and fully concentrate on the training sessions (8).
Only when users accept an application, do they use it regularly. This is especially true for applications in a professional context. To achieve this, your professional AR application should cover meaningful use cases. For example, it should support work steps that were previously very error-prone or not supported at all.
This is also demonstrated in our HoloMed project: HoloMed supports neurosurgeons during ventricular punctures. These are among the routine procedures in neurosurgery. To puncture the ventricle filled with brain fluid, the surgeon has to drill a hole into the skull and insert a catheter. However, the catheter is only placed in the right position in two out of three punctures. HoloMed reduces this error rate: HoloMed uses data from CT or MRI scans to calculate a 3D model of the brain. This is virtually projected over the real head through the augmented reality smartglasses. Additional graphical elements help the surgeon to locate the right position and angle for the puncture. HoloMed thus makes surgery safer for patients and easier for surgeons. Key reasons why the application is so well received by the target group.
The examples show you: Immersive technologies can be used in many ways and provide many advantages. You can therefore check for various use cases whether AR, VR and similar technologies are also reasonable for your product. Regardless of when and where you use immersive technologies, one thing is important: The idea and concept of the application should be optimally aligned with the users because only in that case can immersive technologies fully develop their potential. If the goals and requirements are clearly defined, and the interaction concepts well-thought-out, you can use immersion to catch the attention of your users and inspire your target group.
- Immersive UX: Immersing into new worlds
- UID News: Design immersive interaction: 8 tips for your AR & VR app
- UID News: Augmented Reality: between fascination and challenges
- UID Studie: Augmented Reality in medicine
- UX Guideline: Design principles for AR in medicine