Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality? Experiential Reality is best

Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality? Experiential Reality is best

The third Innovation Community MeetUp took place at the Enel Auditorium in Rome: Experiential Reality, developed thanks to the use of new technology, offers a new dimension that transforms human perception and can revolutionise industry


The future can be summed up with a simple formula: AR + VR = XR. What this means is that when Augmented Reality is added to Virtual Reality, the sum is not only Mixed Reality (MR) but also a new Experiential Reality (XR).

The third Innovation Community MeetUp organised by Enel on 29 October, at the Enel Auditorium in Rome, took a closer look at all this together with representatives of startups, universities, utilities like A2A and Innogy and other large companies such as Thales Alenia and our partners RFI of the Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (Italian State Railways Group). These are innovators alongside which Enel wants to grow and take full advantage of the development opportunities that arise in the near future, integrating new technologies into the company to capitalise on their scalability.

As with the previous events, dedicated to Blockchain (January) and Artificial Intelligence Ecosystems (September), the spirit of the initiative was outlined by Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at Enel. These days Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality tend to be associated with the world of videogames, but their field of application is actually much wider: AR is a technology that facilitates the integration of data and information to simplify operations carried out by humans, while VR creates immersive experiences capable of generating emotional reactions. These two resources are becoming increasingly relevant to the industrial sector and their implementation is being studied by Enel, thanks in part to the contributions produced by the meetings in Rome.

“The Innovation Community MeetUps help us extend our understanding of the transformations produced by technology and broaden our perspective on the future. We also have the opportunity to explain to our competitors about what Enel is doing and explore how we can work together”

– Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at Enel


Experiential Reality is a key feature of the digital revolution

Lorenzo Montagna, CEO of the consultancy firm SecondstARVR, believes that understanding Experiential Reality has become a necessity dictated by the market. The expression circulating in the United States “Go XR or Go Home” leaves no doubt about the priority: we either integrate Experiential Reality into our world or we shall be forced to make way for others. The digital world, in its continual transformation, is no longer synonymous with Internet or social networks, but has become an increasingly complex phenomenon that now engages our entire perceptive dimension. Hardware, language and content converge in Experiential Reality, joining marketing and the web in an experience in which the boundaries between entertainment, involvement and information dissolve. The most emblematic example is 3D video that, through special optical devices, such as the Oculus used in a demonstration during the event, creates the possibility to experience the same moment from completely different perspectives, in infinitesimal time intervals. The 21st century human has become ubiquitous, liquid.

“We are at a decisive turning point in technological evolution: today the product as we know it is disappearing, as it becomes an experience. This is the result of the combined action of four factors: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. Companies that fail to recognise this run the serious risk today of disappearing from the market”

– Lorenzo Montagna, SecondstARVR CEO

Although AR and VR are still considered most relevant to the entertainment sector, use of these technologies is actually making huge progress in the fields of prototyping, manufacturing, communications and training. Matteo Valoriani, head of the team of developers Fifth Ingenium, talks about the “Era of Mixed Reality.” Instruments like the 3D Model Viewer, which makes it possible to use your own device to view an image as if you were moving 360° around it, and the Re-layout method, which guides maintenance interventions on an object by highlighting the images of its components, are resources that can significantly speed up industrial processes, while lowering the threshold of human error and reducing costs of production or maintenance.

It is not all perfect, however: the applicative models are changing faster than their supports, the content for installation needs to be updated continuously, and visual recognition technologies are not precise to the millimetre. The speed of the transformation, however, makes it possible to imagine that, in the near future, humans could be replaced by their three dimensional projections in remote assistance operations. Significant progress on this front has been made in virtual training in the field of medicine and healthcare, in which the possibility of acquiring additional data during operations increasingly accelerates learning by consolidating the individual experience and providing a model for industry.


The power of algorithms to exploit VR and AR

The uses for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality may be changing but the basic principle remains the same. As Mauro Rubin, CEO of Joinpad, explained, there is always an algorithm making data available, wherever it comes from, or transport those using a device far from their actual physical location. Despite the significant difference of investment in the two sectors, (of the 108 billion dollars forecast for 2022, at least 83 will be for AR compared to 25 for VR), the smart factories of the future will need to operate in both, as technological evolution opens up fields of application for VR that were never previously envisaged or imagined.

“The real challenge is to find the best way of using the enormous quantity of data that we are able to produce and offer today. Classifier algorithms, enhanced by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, will have to understand the emotional variables present in the work context”

– Mauro Rubin, Joinpad CEO

One of the most appealing uses was presented by Guido Geminiani, Founder and Director of Impersive: optical devices, able to transmit the feeling of interacting in a playground, have contributed to the so-called “emotional medicine” in hospitals, helping younger patients to overcome depression and avoid rejection during recovery. Virtual Reality becomes a new way of storytelling and can find a use in every sector: health, tourism, culture, sport and industry. At Enel, the main uses today are linked to operations of electronic meter detection, remote assistance and the use of AR maps, but over time this new technology will eliminate the need for instruction manuals and, symbolically, will free the minds and hands of workers for as yet unexplored potential activities. Similar to the conclusions of previous MeetUps, it emerged that the most complex step is choosing the right technology, through a path of gradual experimentation: the investment required to refine an industrial scale innovative product is still extremely significant and, given the speed of market transformation, the risk of failure is high. The development of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning is making the cognitive interaction between humans and machines faster and faster, accelerating industrial processes.

Thanks to Enel’s Innovation Community MeetUps, the future is already with us.