Information Technology

ABBAtars & Ready Player One – How VR & AR will change our lives

By Rob Brown, AVP of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work
Information Technology
Published: 29 June 2018

ABBA is one of the latest and arguably one of the most high-profile ‘pop stars’, alongside the likes of Elton John and Gorillaz, to venture into augmented reality (AR). In 2019/2020 they will be launching an avatar tour, performing as computer generated digital avatar versions of themselves. According to ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, the idea was for them to make identical digital copies of themselves at a certain age and those copies could then go on tour, so they do not have to.

Welcome to the new age of the ‘ABBAtar’
The number of real life examples of AR – and virtual reality (VR) – are on the increase, throughout the entertainment and media industry, and every industry far and wide. Therefore, we should stop and look at the impact that these immersive technologies will have on the future of work and our daily lives as we know it.

A rush of new consumer experiences
AR journeys will increasingly crop up in our personal lives. Today’s compulsion for many of us to check our smartphones every five minutes transmutes into a frictionless path to AR tomorrow. Imagine a time when we no longer ‘go online’ via a PC or mobile, where our smart AR glasses of the future drive ubiquitous augmented, immersive computing, without totally blocking out ‘real reality’ all around us (as VR does).

Looking to the future, how far-fetched is it that we will soon have an expansive VR universe such as Ready Player One’s ‘OASIS’? As the book, and now Steven Spielberg’s film, envision, will we see a company build an AI-driven ‘journey experience service’ that suggests and personalises – like Spotify does with analysing and tailoring music to individuals – the perfect scenario for the things you see, interact with and experience? Included would be the setting, destination, information, tone, characters, suggested things or experiences to buy, friends to connect with and more.

Rise of the Experience Economy
The emergence of greater numbers of AR and VR tools will change the way we consume content – cue the rise of the Experience Economy. It will be a catalyst for stimulating more creativity and experiences amongst consumers and businesses alike. Do you want to experience what it is like to run a French vineyard? Imagine the day when booking.com will arrange it for you through VR and AR. AirBnB is already moving in this direction (in real-reality) with its ‘AirBnB Experiences’.

AR will transform how firms operate and expand the products and services they deliver to customers. For example, today’s car companies could become tomorrow’s leading game companies. Do you hate sitting in the tedium of your morning commute? Say you are a Star Wars fan and you love everything about its galaxy-far-far-away vernacular look, feel and tone, your car company could offer you the chance to immerse yourself in the film’s setting. While driving along the road, you could select an AR overlay that drops you into the Death Star trench (with all due concern given for safety).

What if you could plug in an AR Game of Thrones immersive channel and dynamically interact with different characters, settings or kingdoms? When you get bored of that, how about venturing into the world of Stranger Things, Harry Potter or join the dancers in La La Land? The possibilities are endless: imagine if Tesla had invented Pokémon Go! instead of Niantic, and suggested different routes and streets to take to rack up points, and working with Waze, the community-based traffic and navigation app, helped to reduce traffic congestion?

With the imminent advances in AR technologies, these examples are not too far-fetched.

New jobs and ways of working
As a result of this change in consumption we will see the emergence of new jobs. Much as composers, bricklayers and playwrights were in demand a century ago, AR journey builders will be their 21st century successors – equal parts ‘experience conductors’, ‘data overlayers’ and ‘CX/UXwrights’. They will help design, write, create, calibrate, gamify, build and – most importantly – personalise the next generation of amazing stories for experiences.

Many business leaders are sensing the signs of a coming world of AR journeys, so how should they respond? Firms that have already rewired their operations digitally around social, mobile, analytics, cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are primed to make quick and long-lasting gains, since these technologies are foundational to both AR and VR.

However, we are already seeing practical actions from progressive adopters – think Royal London Hospital using VR to operate on a patient, and Augmedix, Inc. and Google’s partnership to drive AR use in hospitals to enhance elements such as doctor-patient interaction by providing quick access to medical history. Given these early advancements, organisations that do not bolt VR and AR onto their existing channels face a high probability of lagging behind their competitors.

As Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid prepare to take to the stage in ‘ABBAtar’ form, it is a sign of the times that we all need to prepare ourselves – and our journeys for both work and play – for when these technologies truly take hold.