The UAE has become a serious Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) player and come to realize that a smart future hangs on fine-tuning the technology and expanding it to all sectors of the digital economy.
VR immerses users in a fully digital environment through a headset or surrounding display.
AR presents digital information, objects, or media in the real world through a mobile device or headset.
AR and VR can drive growth from a current GDP contribution of $46.4 billion to the global economy to over $1.5 trillion by 2030. This is equivalent to an overall 1.8% boost in global GDP.
In the UAE alone, AR and VR could contribute over $4 billion to the local economy by 2030, equivalent to 1% of GDP, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The UAE knows this.
AR and smart advertising
According to the World Economic Forum, the global ad market was around $646 billion in 2019. Estimates for the first half of fiscal year 2020 show that, due to the Coronavirus, there was a decline in ad spend across all channels compared to H1 2019, except for digital video (4% increase).
AR advertising is one of several technology-driven tools accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading proponents revealed during Dubai Internet City’s Fireside Chat, a digital forum bringing together key industry voices on the rapidly-evolving digital economy.
Dubai Internet City is the region’s largest technology ecosystem and home to 1,600 tech businesses and 25,000 people.
Global mobile AR advertising revenue forecast to grow from $1.41 billion in 2020 to $8 billion in 2024, according to ARtillery Intelligence
Vishal Badiani, Creative Strategy Lead for MENA at Snapchat said: “This is a technology for right now, the ‘now’ where customers are evaluating the risk and benefit associated with any and everything that requires physical contact, from the people in your store to the surfaces, to the product displays and the points of sales (POS).”
US luxury car company Lincoln created a Snapchat AR Lens experience that allowed customers to see the car for themselves in the car, without having to visit the showroom.
The campaign data speaks for itself, Schwartz explained: “The average time spent with an AR Lens experience on Snapchat is around 12 seconds in the region, yet we had over 8.5 million people opt-in and choose to play with our Lincoln AR Lens, on average, for 38 seconds, more than 3 times the industry standard.
Mike Khouri, Managing Director of Tactical said: “We created a virtual shopping experience for MAC Cosmetics and digitally placed the product in consumers’ hands. The Snapchat Lens allowed users to try three different makeup looks and it has been viewed over 3.7million times.”
In the UAE, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is one of the early HoloLens adopters. Leveraged for visualization of scenarios, consolidating information, and remote maintenance of the Smart Power Plant, HoloLens is enabling DEWA to ensure rapid decision making, manage and forecast future demand, while improving energy efficiency and reducing power consumption.
DEWA has also enlisted leading AR solution and hardware provider DAQRI to develop a “smart” helmet and glasses for its engineers, using AR software created by Dubai-based Takeleap.
Using the Custom Snapchat World Lenses, Bareburger is one of the first restaurants to offer the AR menu for their consumers at locations in the US as well as Dubai, where customers are able to view their meals from every angle before placing an order.
Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways are adopting VR technology in order to create immersive customer experiences and promote their products and services. Earlier in 2018, Emirates Airways creating a 3D seat model via VR that gives travelers a 360-degree view of the layout of its A380 and Boeing 777 fleets. A similar initiative was also carried out by Etihad Airways to promote its Airbus A380 travel experience by creating a short VR enabled film highlighting the different service offerings available on Etihad Airways business and VIP cabins. Expo 2020 is expected to include several AR experiences to provide a 360o view of key country attractions in some pavilions.
The UAE is one of the biggest booming real estate markets in the world. The sector uses VR to make it a routine part of the customer acquisition process. Strap on the VR headset to experience a perfect version of the buyer’s dream home before a single brick is ever laid. The design and finish can be customized through the VR headset with exact dimensions.
Some major benefits VR/AR offer organizations are the training and testing of employees and procedures, including the simulation of realistic on-the-job scenarios and even high-risk environments. Emirates NBD has launched their VR academy which uses simulations to help employees understand real-life scenarios in a virtual environment but from the customer’s perspective.
Dubai Customs also introduced the world’s first VR training program for the sector. The training experience encompasses all possible situations and follows a gaming structure to create a stimulating learning experience.
VR and AR technology can also accelerate product development. Design teams can explore, test, and evaluate different concepts more easily without having to invest in physical prototypes.
Last year, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced plans to introduce VR rehabilitation in physiotherapy for stroke patients, patients suffering from balance disorder, and children with developmental disorders, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s syndrome.
Malls and Hotels
In 2018, the world’s largest VR Park opened in Dubai Mall. The UAE has also launched a VR experience in Burj Khalifa commonly referred to as ‘Mission 828’, allowing visitors to experience a simulated parachute jump into the Dubai Mall dancing fountains.