Ein User mit einer VR-Brille im Wald.

How virtual reality and augmented reality can improve the sustainability of (software) companies

In today’s world, sustainability is becoming increasingly important for software companies. This applies not only to environmental protection, but also to social and economic sustainability. Software companies increasingly have to think about how they can be successful in the long term and at the same time take into account the needs of society and the environment. One important aspect in this context is the role of virtual and augmented reality. These technologies have experienced an enormous upswing in recent years and are finding more and more areas of application in various industries. They make it possible to integrate digital information and virtual worlds into the real world, thereby creating new opportunities.

AR and VR: definition and differences

Before we look at how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) relate to sustainability, it is important to define and distinguish the two terms.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to a technology that adds virtual elements to the real world. These virtual elements can appear in the form of text, images, 3D models or animations, for example. They are usually displayed via a smartphone or special AR glasses. AR can be used for various purposes, such as marketing, education, navigation or training.

Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, refers to a technology that creates a virtual world that users can enter with the help of VR glasses. In a VR environment, the user can interact, manipulate objects and even perform physical movements. This allows him to interact with the virtual world. VR can be used for various purposes, such as gaming, simulations, training, or therapy.

The main difference between AR and VR is that AR adds virtual elements to the real world. VR creates a completely virtual environment that users can immerse themselves in. So while AR is more of a supplement to the real world, VR provides a fully immersive experience in a virtual world.

However, there are also technologies that combine AR and VR to create what is known as Mixed Reality (MR). Here, virtual elements are embedded in the real world and can be interacted with by the user as if they were actually present in the real world. This technology offers even more possibilities for applications in various fields, including sustainability.

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Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Practice: Examples of Sustainability

VR and AR technology have the potential to make the world of work more sustainable. However, it is important that companies carefully consider the impact on the working world and sustainability when introducing these technologies. VR and AR technology has the potential to fundamentally change the world of work and enable new ways of working.

Application of VR and AR in production and logistics: One way VR and AR can help promote sustainability is through their application in production and logistics. By using virtual prototyping and modeling, companies can save resources that would otherwise be needed to produce physical prototypes. Virtual simulation of production and logistics processes also allows companies to identify errors at an early stage.Uand thus avoid waste and unnecessary transportation.

Use of VR and AR for training and employee education: Another application of VR and AR in terms of sustainability is its use for training and employee education. Instead of employees having to travel to remote locations for training, training can take place in virtual spaces. By using VR and AR, for example, hazardous or environmentally damaging work processes can be simulated and trained. Without impacting the environment.

Using VR and AR to promote virtual conferences and meetings: Conducting virtual conferences and meetings will no longer need to take place in real presence. This will allow companies to save on travel and the associated CO2 emissions. In addition, virtual conferences and meetings can also lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Namely, they are more time and cost efficient.

Potential benefits of virtual reality and augmented reality for a sustainable economy

Reducing CO2 emissions through virtual meetings and training: As mentioned earlier. Software companies can save on travel and associated CO2 emissions. This can help software companies reduce their environmental footprint, contributing to a more sustainable economy.

Improving efficiency and productivity in production: By using VR and AR in production, companies can optimize processes and thus work more efficiently and productively. For example, virtual prototypes and modeling can help to identify errors at an early stage. This avoids unnecessary transports or waste of materials. The use of VR and AR can thus save resources and achieve more sustainable production.

Saving resources through virtual prototypes and modeling: Companies can save resources such as material and energy through the virtual simulation of products and production processes. In addition, virtual prototypes can help to identify errors at an early stage and thus avoid unnecessary waste of resources.

Sustainable business models with virtual reality and augmented reality

A sustainable business model refers to a business activity that balances social, environmental and economic sustainability. VR and AR technologies can play an important role in the development of sustainable business models.

  • Furniture retailer IKEA uses VR technology to provide virtual home furnishing experiences for its customers, reducing the consumption of resources through physical displays. IKEA also uses AR technology in its app to help customers visualize furniture in their own spaces.
  • Companies can use VR and AR technologies to optimize production and logistics to reduce resource consumption and emissions. Siemens uses AR technology to help its employees maintain machinery and equipment. This helps to avoid unnecessary downtime and increase efficiency.
  • Another example of a software company using VR and AR technology to promote sustainable business is Patagonia. The company uses AR technology to guide customers through virtual tours of its value chain and showcase the company’s sustainability practices.
  • Volkswagen uses VR technology to guide customers through virtual tours of its production facilities. This enables it to reduce the amount of energy and resources used for physical tours. Volkswagen also uses AR technology to help customers choose options for their vehicles and understand the impact on sustainability.
  • The environmental organization WWF uses VR technology to raise awareness and alert people around the world to the importance of protecting the environment. For example, VR glasses allow users to virtually travel to Antarctica and experience first-hand the effects of climate change on wildlife.

All in all, the combination of VR and AR with sustainability offers great potential for the development of sustainable business models.

Challenges in implementing virtual reality and augmented reality in practice

Technological hurdles and costs: One of the biggest challenges in implementing VR and AR in companies are the technological hurdles and costs. Acquiring the appropriate hardware and software can be expensive and usually requires adjustments to the IT infrastructure. In addition, it can be difficult to find qualified employees who can operate and implement the technology.

Integration into existing workflows and processes: Another challenge in implementing VR and AR in enterprises is integrating it into existing workflows and processes. It can be difficult to seamlessly integrate the technology into existing processes without disruption or interference. In addition, it may be necessary to adapt existing workflows to make the best use of the technology.

Training needs for employees: Finally, training needs are also a challenge when implementing VR and AR. Employees need to be trained to use the technology effectively. And to ensure they are able to handle the new workflows and processes. This requires time and resources and can also result in additional costs.

Future perspectives of VR and AR in the sustainable economy

VR/AR technology is constantly evolving. It is expected to continue to play an important role in promoting a sustainable economy in the future. Some future developments in VR/AR technology that could impact sustainability include:

  • Advances in the development of more powerful and energy-efficient VR/AR systems that could reduce energy consumption and thus become more environmentally friendly.
  • Further development of VR/AR software to improve work processes and reduce waste and emissions in production and logistics.
  • Integration of VR/AR systems into everyday life, e.g. in smart homes and smart cities, to optimize energy consumption.

Virtual and augmented reality technology has seen significant advancements in recent years. And the pace of innovation is showing no signs of slowing down. As this technology evolves, it is likely to bring even more benefits for sustainability.

One of the most significant potential impacts is in the field of remote work. With the rise of remote work, VR/AR has the potential to create more immersive and collaborative virtual workspaces. These can reduce the need for travel, leading to fewer carbon emissions and a more sustainable future. Additionally, VR/AR technology can play a vital role in promoting sustainable travelling by creating virtual travel experiences. Those reduce the need for physical travel, thus lowering carbon emissions. Another potential benefit of VR/AR technology is in the field of education. By creating immersive and engaging virtual learning experiences, VR/AR technology can help to raise awareness of sustainability issues. And promote environmentally-friendly practices.

In conclusion, VR/AR technology holds significant promise for promoting sustainability, and its continued development is likely to create even more opportunities for a greener, more sustainable future.