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Want to Stay Ahead of the Competition? Get Virtual.

Augmented and virtual reality can help you innovate in your field before you fall behind. Here are six ways to get started.
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When “Pokémon GO” launched this summer, it got people talking -- and not just about gym takeovers and Pikachus. The game’s popularity signaled the growing power of augmented and virtual reality (VR).

VR, in particular, is a hot tech trend right now, but it’s been in development for some time. The military began using VR years ago to simulate hazardous environments during soldier training. These hyper realistic settings prepare them for what to expect in combat zones. Companies such as SOLIDWORKS use 3D modeling to improve design detailing, visualization and functionality. And more recently, both Qualcomm and Intel announced standalone VR headsets featuring their Snapdragon and Atom ship sets, respectively.

Pokémon GO, which requires people to walk to different physical locations to access new creatures and levels within the virtual world, made augmented reality ubiquitous. It brought the blended experience into the collective consciousness and created a demand for more experiences like it.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Pokémon Go, the App That Earned $200 Million in its First Month

As a result, businesses are racing to out-innovate other innovators. Look at Magic Leap, which is developing augmented-reality technology that will create lifelike holograms shone directly into users’ eyes. Microsoft’s HoloLens is another one. Such investments and products will only increase as more companies recognize the power of these technologies.

Related: Virtual Reality Offers Plenty Of Business Opportunities For Entrepreneurs

For businesses looking to get ahed in the VR and AR world, here are some steps to get you started: 

1. Be immersed in the trend

Pokémon GO and similar platforms serve as gateways to augmented and virtual reality for most consumers. Reaching nearly 10 million estimated users per day, Pokémon GO is a particularly instructive case study. 

Familiarize yourself with the trend so you understand its appeal. You don’t have to directly participate, but you should discuss its appeal with someone who does. At our company, one of our mechanical engineers is a prolific Pokémon GO player, and he has helped our team consider why it has captured so many users. Similarly, as you learn more about the product, discuss what it is about the product that has made it accessible to such a wide range of people. Identify the principles that have contributed to the success of the trend, and apply them to your own business.

2. Create virtual assets

Companies that gain an edge in VR today position themselves to be industry leaders. The University of Washington’s CoMotion HQ is capitalizing on the trend by offering VR lab space as part of its new incubator location. The move allows CoMotion to attract forward-thinking clients and link itself with futuristic technologies in the minds of consumers.

Consider how you might enhance your brand through virtual assets. Create third-party add-ons for a popular game, offer a virtual tour through your mobile app, or create standalone AR and VR products. After researching AR and VR, we realized that eye-tracking technology could transform intent into action very quickly, so we started looking into that model. What could you do to take your brand in a new direction? The demand for virtual assets is unprecedented in human history, so use this opportunity to shift gears if needed. 

3. Establish product superiority

Because everyone will be rushing to launch AR and VR products and services, it’s crucial for businesses to differentiate themselves now. Find the market segments where you possess unfair advantages, and capitalize on them. Once we started working with eye-interaction, we found market segments that needed to be able to work quickly with a hands-free input, but using head movements would hurt their necks and talking was cumbersome if they were in quiet areas.

Not only are existing companies focusing on AR and VR, but up-and-coming organizations will as well. More than half a million people become new business owners every month, and 27 million working-age Americans are engaged in entrepreneurship. With those numbers, your business can’t afford to sleep on these technologies. Assert your edge, and maintain it at all costs.

4. Always serve the core market

Remaining true to your core customers is a critical component of competitiveness and growth. As we develop and advance our technologies, we always ask how it serves our target audience members. Is it responsive to their needs? Does it provide them with a technological advantage or make them more efficient? Is it emotionally satisfying?

As you do the same, don’t sacrifice a loyal user base while chasing after AR and VR trends. New assets should reflect the company’s mission and enhance its offerings.

5. Tailor branding to the VR era

More than 75 percent of Americans engage with brands online before they make purchases or visit physical stores. As a result, we always make sure our consumers know that they’re buying from a company that offers the newest and best versions of particular products using a combination of PR and content marketing. We travel to conferences, demo our product and interact with consumers and publications all over the country to make sure our software is top of mind.

As AR and VR become the norm, people want to see that your company is up to speed. You can certainly incorporate your marketing and brand into virtual worlds, though you should be sure to monitor and respect the attitudes of consumers toward the value of such exposure in virtual and augmented environments.

6. Emphasize innovation

Smart companies innovate for the current market with an eye on the future. For instance, many automotive companies are already testing future hardware and software features that will integrate seamlessly into their evolving designs. Because they’re looking ahead, they’ll be able to build new models using existing processes and supply chains instead of starting from scratch.

We stay innovative by hiring top talent and looking several technology generations ahead. To do the same, invest in research and development so your company stays a step ahead and is always in a position to develop new products.

Related: How to Build Innovation Into Your Business Without Creating Chaos

“Pokémon GO” was augmented reality’s bellwether -- AR and VR are leaping from the domain of tech geeks and hardcore gamers into mass awareness. The public isn’t going to sit patiently while companies scratch their heads about how to get in on the trend. Businesses need to recognize that VR and AR are arriving now -- and they’ll change the game for everyone.

This article was co-authored by Robert Rohm, a quality assurance engineer at Eyefluence.