Digitization of the physical world and mixed reality: where can one do without digital space?

Realities make adjustments to optimistic ideas about the future of such products and raise the question of how and where today such solutions are most applicable, useful and cost-effective.

One of the trends gaining popularity during the global digital transformation is the digitization of the physical world. Global IT giants are actively developing products in which the digitization of physical objects, the creation of their digital models and their interaction with real objects, as well as users, simplifies processes in business and various industries. Systems with such interaction are called “mixed reality”, they combine AR and VR, actively using the digitization of physical objects.


So back in 2017, Deloitte made “mixed reality” one of the promising technologies, according to the report “Technology trends 2017: the mobile enterprise”, in 2020, according to TripAdvisor, the market for augmented reality technologies was valued at $12.56 billion. TrendForce analysts expect that in the next three years the market continues to grow dynamically, mentioning industrial solutions as one of the trends.

In 2019 the research of TAdviser predicted 11-fold growth to the market of industrial VR/AR solutions in Russia. In 2021, Huawei and TMT-Consulting predicted that the Russian market of AR/VR solutions, which include mixed reality, will grow by 37% by 2025 and reach 7 billion rubles. Realities make adjustments to optimistic ideas about the future of such products and raise the question of how and where today such solutions are most applicable, useful and cost-effective.

Briefly about mixed reality

Simplistically, mixed reality can be defined as a hybrid continuum that combines virtual and augmented reality to empower users and actively uses digitized objects to solve practical problems. Innovations of this kind are expensive, but can potentially bring huge benefits by speeding up production and business processes, reducing the influence of the human factor on them. Today, the acute question is where such systems can be in demand, where their use is justified and expedient, and where their use can be postponed for the sake of changes that are more significant for increasing efficiency.

 In Russia, the problem of developing such systems requires even more careful study, since due to the refusal of foreign vendors to supply products to the Russian market, their development and implementation will be carried out by Russian companies. The lack of international scalability raises the question of cost justification. The latest representative forecasts of the prospects for this market in Russia were contained in the above report by Huawei and TMT-Consulting. Taking into account the realities of 2022, in particular, the difficulties that arose with the supply of equipment and software, the estimates given there require adjustment.

Prospects and the question of cost

In the last 10 years, systems that use the digitization of physical objects have been used and even developed in Russia, but have not received mass distribution. Single projects are known, for example, in the field of medicine and the defense industry , although attempts to create products have been known since 2010 . The problem is that with all the advantages and wide possibilities of such products, their creation and application is expensive. Industrial and business products that incorporate mixed reality are typically 5 to 10 times more expensive than traditional digital transformation and automation tools.

Moreover, their implementation in the processes of companies will require integration costs to combine them into a single system with the software already in use. Such costs, depending on what solutions the company uses, can be as much as 25 – 50% of the cost of the mixed reality tools themselves, or several times exceed them.

Of course, it is technically possible and highly efficient to give every crawler who checks equipment augmented reality glasses or a tablet that will “highlight” the problematic compressor. They will instantly provide real-time information about the current parameters, their deviation from the norm and the most likely causes of such deviations. And, perhaps, the system, using a neural network or pre-prepared parametric matrices, will be able to offer a solution.

For example, show the plant operator which parts need to be replaced or how to set up the equipment to fix a problem.

If the risk of a critical accident is high, the damage from it will many times exceed the costs of implementing and using the system, then such an approach makes sense. In other cases, for all its attractiveness, the system simply does not justify the investment.

Therefore, most implementations of this kind are related to industrial safety, but rarely affect production and business processes. Those. those areas where the benefits of their application are not so obvious at the moment are in no hurry to apply expensive solutions using mixed reality.

Preparedness of staff and managers

Another problem facing companies that plan to use the digitization of physical objects and mixed reality is the level of training of workers and managers. Familiar processes, especially in companies that have existed for many years, are usually worked out and learned. Changes are fraught with the emergence of new risks.

Even when it comes to using new equipment, hardware and software systems or new software, it is difficult to adapt to new production or business processes. In the case of fundamental changes and the development of hybrid approaches of mixed reality, the risks of problematic adaptation grow exponentially.

 Considering that such decisions often concern the issue of industrial safety, critical functions, prevention and elimination of accidents, consideration of such risks is mandatory. Often the rejection of such innovative solutions is due to the fact that the management estimates the losses from updating the implementation risks will be more significant than the profit received from their advantages.

Simulators and modeling as the main directions in Russia

In the near future, mixed reality technologies and the practice of digitizing the physical world will be most in demand when creating professional simulators and modeling. Industries in which they can be used – extraction and processing of resources, energy, vocational training for industrial workers, construction.

The peculiarity of the approaches is that the user works only with a digital model of an object, which imitates its functions and parameters and interacts with physical objects – stands, layouts, physical models, but not with real working equipment. First of all, we are talking about professional simulators.

It is believed that in the future the practice worked out with simulators will switch to interaction with objects participating in real processes. However, the existing risks and implementation challenges described above will significantly slow down this process in many industries. Especially where mixed reality systems can manage critical and resource-intensive functions. Such implementations are expensive and require incomparably greater reliability compared to simulators.

Digital models have already been actively used in industry. In particular, virtual holograms. In Russia, one of the enterprises effectively localizing Microsoft Hololens technology is Neolant. Prior to the start of CBO, the company used Microsoft Hololens and used a number of solutions of its own design, such as: POLYNOM, NEOSYNTHESIS, InterBridge, SOMOX.SMR, SPLIT, IAS, etc. In addition to Neolant, there are several other projects in Russia that use virtual holograms: Nettle, HoloGroup. It is impossible to say that Russia is catastrophically behind in this segment of mixed reality, but there are few companies, and for their sustainable independent development at a competitive level, several years of hard development will be required. 


It is too early to talk about the widespread digitization of physical objects and the use of mixed reality. There are no problems with technical implementation, but the main criterion is profitability in a particular project. The greatest concentration of such solutions will be in industrial safety systems, simulators, as well as in digital modeling. The most acute and noticeable problems of mixed reality integration are the high cost of solutions, the rigidity of processes, and the difficulty in adapting staff and managers.

Published on 10.02.2023

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