The Rise of AI, AR and VR During COVID-19

Throughout history, periods of economic hardship have resulted in a surge of innovation. During the current global pandemic, we are seeing this play out in the field of artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality. These areas were already in growth mode prior to 2020. With the enforcement of social distancing, the use of advanced technologies is experiencing demand from all ends of the economy.

Many local businesses that provide essential services had to pivot and adopt technology to suit new consumer buying practices. Banking on this shift, software services quickly made their offerings trial-free so businesses could test the capability to support online order-taking, delivery and curbside logistics, supply-chain management, and/or secure no-touch payments. As detailed in this slide share entitled “Practical Marketing applications for AI” by EGC Group’s President, Nicole Penn, increased use and engagement of online applications inevitably gives businesses new information to leverage. Artificial intelligence (AI) will allow organizations to collect and analyze data to provide smarter offers. As a result, many businesses have expressed that the changes to their business operations will continue to be used post-COVID-19. The use of new software and predictive analytics has allowed them to find potential sources of revenue they wouldn’t have otherwise explored.

Similarly, augmented reality (AR) solutions for physically-based businesses have proven ideal to enhance the user experience because it gives them the ability to interact with consumer goods. Many large brands were already using this technology prior to COVID. Retailers that included Ikea and Wayfair let consumers place a piece of furniture and integrate it into their home environment with a simple click on their smartphone. We have only seen an uplift once since in-store shopping ceased being an option. As detailed in a recent session with Nicole Tricoukes, Maverick at Zebra Technologies, on the EGC Web Series: The Comeback – “AI, AR & Machine Learning in the Pandemic,” use of AR has made internal digital workflows and inventory management more efficient, and will ultimately make e-commerce more enjoyable to end-users.

For experiential business, like tours or events, the use of cutting-edge technology in the form of virtual reality (VR) provides the most valuable experience because of its visualization and storytelling capabilities. Because it can require an investment in hardware, however, this technology has had the slowest adoption rate. Verticals are finding ways around that barrier, specifically education. Whether it’s low-touch – like video conference calls – or life-like experiences that require a VR headset, virtual tours and classrooms are quickly becoming the norm for students, from kindergarten to college. Several months ago, EGC worked with Vaughn College to launch their virtual open house. Using drone footage from the College for a near-cinematic experience, potential students were taken on a tour of the campus, participated in academic sessions and even had one-on-one sessions with counselors. On the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing luxury brands testing the use of VR for fashions shows rather than a simple livestream, hoping to deliver a more immersive and evocative experience.

COVID-19 will have long-term effects to every aspect of the economy. We believe the comeback from this setback will bring advanced technological solutions to the forefront. Business leaders that will be part of the jumpstart will be those that find opportunities through applications of AI, AR and VR.