Confinement has turned the Internet into the umbilical cord that links us to the outside world. The unstoppable digitization of society is gathering speed. Will we keep up with it?
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), whose initials come from the English concepts Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, have had an exponential development in recent years. And many people, although they may not be aware of it, have already come into contact with the benefits they provide.
Below, we tell you how we can take advantage of the benefits of RV and AR in our daily routines, both socially and at work. And we will also focus on the contributions that these new technologies are making during the days of quarantine and state of alarm in our country because of the coronavirus. Pay attention.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are already among us
Yes, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are more present in our daily lives than you can imagine. But before addressing the more direct practical purposes of VR and AR, it is worth providing a few brief descriptions of each.
Regarding the first, Virtual Reality is a technology that allows the creation of 100% virtual environments, through which users can live a completely immersive experience and in first person, interacting with the reality created in this digital scenario. As for the second, Augmented Reality is characterized by the distortion of reality, mixing virtual experiences applied directly in a physical and real context, where they can interact one person or several.
Many businesses have already committed themselves to business innovation, applying these VR and AR technologies in their work environment. For example, in the real estate industry, houses that have not yet been built are simulated through Virtual Reality. The same can be said about the tourism sector, which has taken advantage of Augmented Reality to recover and complete those older works of art that are deteriorated.
However, we can agree that, although these uses were unthinkable years ago, the margin of exploitation of virtual and augmented resources is still much wider.
The challenge of the coronavirus crisis for Virtual and Augmented Reality
We would like to emphasize that the crises that have occurred are the situations in which we can most realistically measure whether a technology is ready to be used in a more or less massive and functional way by the population. In this aspect, contexts such as those currently being developed, due to the effects of the coronavirus, can be considered as real opportunities. It is only a matter of seeing the glass as half full and betting on business reinvention.
First of all, you should know that this virus was defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic. And in Spain the state of alarm has already been declared in order to stop the massive contagion of this virus: the objective is not to collapse the health system. And one of the most striking measures of the aforementioned state of national alarm is the restriction of population movements, with the already known hashtag #YoMeQuedoEnCasa.
As a result, during the first days of confinement alone, Internet use has increased by more than 40%. Users, for their part, are using their computers and mobile phones more intensely, especially to surf the social networks. And many companies have incorporated the possibility of teleworking. A digital evolution that has arrived involuntarily, but with which we realize that new technologies are a great tool not only for our personal life, but also for our work environment.
Therefore, in some areas, daily contributions from VR and AR have already been put into operation to alleviate this situation. For example, since the face-to-face classes at schools, colleges and universities have been cancelled, many of them will be taught online, using Virtual Reality models to make the contents more dynamic and understandable. The idea is, broadly speaking, to make the methods of learning by doing and learning anytime, anywhere, more assiduous.
Also the tourism sector, one of the most affected by the coronavirus, has turned this challenge into an opportunity; offering virtual visits (and free!) in some museums in different countries of the world through Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Even the health sector is turning to this opportunity, and in the United States Virtual Reality has already been used to produce a reconstruction of what the current coronavirus looks like and how it affects our respiratory system. A single example of all that Virtual and Augmented Reality can provide the medical sector to learn more about different diseases, and consequently, to know how to combat them.
From the needs arise the best initiatives, and this is what we are seeing at the moment. We hope that, when all this is over and we have managed to combat the coronavirus, all these digital and virtual initiatives will continue to be maintained and become indispensable tools for all of us, both as companies and as individuals.
An accelerated and urgent migration to the virtual world
The pandemic has radically transformed our daily habits, adopting the digital mode of many activities that we used to do in person.
Will these changes survive after confinement? Described by the United Nations as the most difficult crisis we have faced since World War II, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic also reveals the ambivalence of technological advances.
On the one hand, continuous innovations in infrastructure and means of transport have shortened the distances that separate continents, increasing communication and interdependence between countries around the world under a phenomenon with its own name: globalization.
But by encouraging the mobility of goods and people, this same process has been one of the reasons for the dizzying spread of the virus. In fact, a little more than three months passed from the time the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan until the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized a pandemic that by the end of March was keeping more than 2.6 billion people confined to their homes, that is, a third of the global population.
Paradoxically, the main refuge of #YoMeQuedoEnCasa has also been technology. Proof of this is that during the first week of the state of alarm, for example, in Spain, Internet traffic grew by 80%, according to data shared by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, who explained this exponential increase by two main factors: “The expansion of all forms of teleworking and the use of all forms of remote entertainment”.
The pandemic has thus radically transformed our habits and customs. It has meant a strong acceleration in a process that has been going on for about 20 years, the development of various types of actions and interactions in a new social space generated by the Internet that in this crisis situation has been vital for our mental well-being.
Confinement has led to an “accelerated and urgent” migration of many activities to the digital world not only to overcome boredom, but also to meet the commitments necessary for the training of millions of students and the survival of companies.
If we talk about pure and simple productive economy, this virtual environment is already an alternative social space for the generation and distribution of wealth, taking into account that the primary sector and other face-to-face activities are still vital.
Will this acceleration in the digitization of the world survive or will we go back to doing things as they were before the pandemic?
At Simlab IT we believe that, in general terms, this crisis will mark a “before and after” in the uses and customs of citizens with respect to new technologies. At the end of the confinement there will have been a qualitative leap in the degree of technological sophistication of many people, which will help to reduce the inequality of digital knowledge and skills among the population.
What has been learned during these days will not go away.
From employees who, when forced to telework, have begun to use a new tool to hold virtual meetings to older people who, not being able to go out on the street, have been encouraged to use platforms to watch series or hold video conferences with their families. All these changes represent a qualitative leap that in other circumstances might have taken one or two years.
With regard to this possible injection of knowledge, it should be recalled that in 2019 nearly half of the Spanish population still lacked basic digital skills and only 32% had digital skills above that level, according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) developed by the European Commission.
But excessive digitalization also poses risks. Confinement has served to test many options that were hitherto considered only as possibilities and whose prolonged use could unleash new paradoxes.
If we now all replace some activities with the alternatives that have helped to overcome confinement, we may make it more difficult to recover from the economic crisis that the pandemic will leave.
For example, remote working could accelerate the automation of certain jobs that do not require a physical presence, or Internet shopping could endanger small neighbourhood shops that do not have the infrastructure to distribute their products.
Be that as it may, this whole situation precipitates us even further into the virtual world. If we were digital five months ago, we will be even more so now. The world has changed because of a major problem that, even if it ends up being mitigated, will transform many habits for security reasons, so that in the future 20% of our life may be confined.