[This article originally appeared in our Community Blog.]
The entering of Augmented Reality into our workplaces is inevitable. But what is AR and how can industries tap into its vast potential?
Today, most people know the term augmented reality and almost as many could give a more or less accurate description of what it is. But did you know that the technology has been developed since the 1960’s and 70’s? If you didn’t, I won’t blame you. Because it wasn’t until 2012, when Google announced their Google Glass, that AR experienced a significant rise in publicity throughout the populace. Not to mention the release of Pokémon Go in July of 2016, which really got the AR hype cooking.
And people are rightfully excited, because AR technology holds enormous potential for various use cases. Especially for the industries, augmented reality promises savings due to efficiency gains, but more on that later.
Fast forward to 2018. Dozens of small and big tech companies have been developing several iterations of their own AR and glasses. The technology steadily matures and while the glasses become more sophisticated and affordable, early adopters in consumer and business markets can enjoy making use of a growing number of applications by now. And keep in mind that glasses aren’t even necessary to experience AR: You might just as well use the smartphone in your pocket!
That being said, each and every company in any industry is well-advised to investigate their individual potential benefits of AR’s implementation into their processes now, to not fall behind, once it has become an industry standard.
Read on to learn more about augmented reality and its use cases and check out our Augmented Reality page.
Augmented reality is the computer-aided enrichment, or augmentation of real-world environments. Typically, through smartphones, tablets, or specially designed AR goggles/glasses, the user’s field of view can be augmented constructively (by adding information) or destructively (by masking objects).
Going even further, the information displayed or masked can be registered and anchored within the space of the real-world environment, promoting the user’s immersion and therefore the technology’s natural integration into their workflow. With this criterion fulfilled, some vendors promote their products using the term mixed reality (MR), to distinguish them from AR devices that just overlay information on top of the real world.
But don’t let yourself be too confused by these two different ideas: In colloquial speech, AR and MR are mostly being used synonymously.
Let’s look at some use cases to illustrate the vast potential of augmented reality.
When early versions of AR goggles came out, one of the first AR gimmicks people could marvel at was the ability to place 2D objects on any surface and 3D objects anywhere in space.
But what might seem to be an easy enough idea can actually be a gigantic help for salespeople and their customers, constructing engineers, and basically anyone else who wants to get an accurate view of how an object will look and fit into place!
Think about getting the 3D CAD model of your freshly designed machine into the actual production hall, allowing you to visualize real-world conditions. Or imagine being able to buy a new couch from within your living room, giving you the opportunity to see, if it even fits your room and how it would look without having to drag that thing up your stairs first!
At the end of the day, the real-world AR view will certainly outrun your imagination – at least in terms of precision.
How often did you sit in front of a manual with unclear instructions, leading to frustration and potentially costly mistakes?
Using augmented reality, there is far less room for interpretation since instructions can be projected step by step and directly onto the object in question. More than that, constructive information, such as internal parts of a machine or a damageable cable harness, can be displayed onto the respective position.
No matter if you’re a consumer, trying to assemble your new closet, or a technician maintaining a ship’s engine, AR is sure to make your job easier.
The aforementioned idea to display even internal, covered parts of a machine, ties seamlessly into the next use case for AR: The illustration of additional data about objects.
A technician doing maintenance work on a machine might for example monitor parameters like its temperature, engine speed, etc. using their AR glasses instead of having to keep an eye on the small monitor that might or might not be somewhere on the machine.
It’s also thinkable to make more detailed information about specific parts of the machine available, when needed. Again, with spatial registration that info could be anchored directly to the machine part or be pinned to a nearby surface to make it easy to work with.
How much of a hard time do you usually have, trying to find your way through an unfamiliar environment? While some people might have an extraordinary sense of orientation, the rest of us mostly depend on our smartphones.
With AR, a new layer of richness is added to navigation, especially in conjunction with additional information about your environment. For example, Google just recently announced AR enhancements to Google Maps
Imagine waiting for the bus, not suspecting anything extraordinary to happen, when your glance wanders to one of the bus stop’s windows and you see a tiger running straight at you! Once you dare to glimpse behind the glass, all you see is the Pepsi logo.
This is just one of many examples of the creative possibilities AR offers in marketing to create unique and entertaining campaigns and experiences for customers.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Are you holding a product presentation? Spice it up and show the audience a life-sized 3D model that will leave them astonished. Do you have some tough-to-persuade customers? Make your products available in AR, so they can have a good look at it, standing in the actual place the product will go, e.g. to decide between variations – and all of that by simply using their smartphone.
If interactive instructions don’t cut the mustard for you, how about you notify a supporter or expert colleague, who can walk you through the necessary steps and feed information into your AR device from their computer?
In a maintenance scenario, cooperating with a specialist, maybe the designer of that machine, the technician could get themselves help from anywhere in the world, transmitting live video and audio to their supporter. Enable them to see the problem through your eyes (or camera) and share their knowledge or do the necessary research in the background. The supporter can then make use of AR’s spatial registration and e.g. a whiteboard feature, allowing them to draw directly into the technician’s field of view.
Transitioning directly into the next use case, remote guidance is regarded as a fruitful and hands-on way to transfer knowledge, for example from experienced personnel to newcomers in your company.
Last but not least, staff training is another strong area of AR application.
Not only does it offer a more immersive training situation in the actual workplace, but also new ways for the trainer to point out and explain the matter at hand.
More than that, AR is assumed to allow for a more effective knowledge transfer in support situations. Going back to our technician maintenance scenario, the technician who did the repair job AR-aided but literally gained first-hand experience will probably be able to replicate the solution much better than the technician who got a specialist to do the job in their place.
I think anyone who still has doubts about the potential of AR should put a set of those glasses on or download a couple of AR apps to their mobile device and try it out for themselves.
Also, now is the time to start a dialogue in your company to identify where AR is found to be useful. You don’t want to miss the right time to make the switch, but on the contrary, you should decide how to implement AR in a meaningful way to gain a competitive advantage.
What are your thoughts on the implementation of augmented reality into businesses? Let’s start the discussion in the comment section below!