Posted on October 15, 2018
In an industry that’s forever playing catch up with the constantly changing digital landscape, is there a place for extended reality in the financial services? While it’s been quietly creeping into our everyday life through tablet devices, smartphones and virtual reality headsets, we’ll take a look at how extended reality is making waves within the finance industry and explore the possibilities of this ever evolving technology.
What is extended reality?
Extended reality is the term used to describe the combination of real and virtual environments, and the human-machine interactions created by computer technology and wearables such as headsets. Extended reality also represents the broad spectrum of realities that includes virtual, augmented and mixed.
As probably the most well-known arm of extended reality, virtual reality provides a fully immersive, computer generated environment through the use of a headset or wearable such as Oculus Rift that is completely separate from the real world. In this simulated world, users can interact with objects through the use of a controller, with the headset tracking the user’s eye movements to reflect those movements in the virtual display. The ability to interact with the full freedom of movement in this simulated world is fundamental to this form of reality.
As opposed to creating an entirely new virtual environment, augmented reality overlays data, 3D objects and video onto real world elements. The primary value of augmented reality is the way in which it brings components of the digital world into the user’s perception of the real world. This is achieved through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment. An example of the application of augmented reality can be seen with Google Glass notifications that hover text in the wearers view, within their real world environment and the ubiquitous Pokémon Go.
Combining elements of both virtual and augmented reality, mixed reality augments the real world with virtual objects to give the perception that they are really placed within that environment. By anchoring apparently solid virtual objects into the user’s real world, mixed reality is the next evolution in human, computer and environmental interaction that allows us to experience artificial objects in our real world surrounding. Arguably the leader in mixed reality, Microsoft released the HoloLens in 2016 and touts the blended environment it provides as; ‘a canvas where you can create and enjoy a wide range of experiences’.
Applications of extended reality within the financial services
So how can we apply extended reality outside the world of video games? Let’s take a look at how companies within the finance sector are already using extended reality and what the future holds for this technology.
Using the aforementioned HoloLens, Citi set out to create a virtual reality trading environment that provides traders with a 2D and 3D holographic workstation with the aim of making trading more efficient. When at the workstation, traders can see a three-tiered system of dynamically updated and interactive information, with ambient market conditions represented in holographic spheres that hover at the top of the workstation. In the middle tier, traders can use their voice and hand gestures to further drill into market segments and filter financial instruments, whilst the lowest tier allows the trader to view historical and real-time performance, before executing a trade.
Citi was able to demonstrate the great potential for this technology and the enhancements it can bring for the next-generation working environment for market traders.
Data visualisation is a massive challenge within the financial sector. The need to unravel complex trends and data streams involves a careful balance of human understanding and machine data analysis that can be difficult to unpick and communicate externally. Although not the first to do so, Salesforce teamed up with Oculus Rift to develop a data analysis tool where data visualisation is enabled by augmented reality. It provides a highly immersive 3D environment for the user that greatly expands the UX possibilities for visualising data and provides an alternative environment for data analysis.
Improving the customer experience
French banking giant BNB Paribas announced the rollout of a virtual reality based banking app that provides a new set of services for its retail customers and allows their clients to manage their account in a fully immersive way with the aim of making the decision making process easier for them. In addition to the app, BNB Parabis Real Estate have also demoed a ‘teleportation’ capsule, dubbed ‘POD’ that allows real estate investors to visualise their projects by offering virtual tours of properties even when they are still under construction.
The future of extended reality
Although we’ve only explored a few examples in the blog, extended reality can provide a unique offering within the financial services. As the technology increases in functionality, it is also becoming more affordable meaning there’s an exciting future with limitless possibilities for extended reality.