Tech media has given a lot of air time to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) topics, but will AR really have much of an impact on the way we work? And what’s the difference between AR and VR anyway?
You might have already heard of virtual reality. It first surfaced in the early 1950s and had its first peak in the 90s when VR was fully embraced by the Sci-Fi mainstream.
If you watched “The Matrix”, you know what I mean.
The main difference between AR and VR is that, whereas VR replaces the real world with a digital world, AR embraces both.
Augmented reality combines the real and virtual worlds to create something more meaningful.
Ever watched TV experts analyzing a soccer or football game? The players on the field are highlighted; the line of scrimmage is emphasized; or an offside position is drawn on your screen.
This is AR in its simplest form.
AR is the superimposing of graphical, computer-generated elements onto our view of the real world, whether that be a live view (looking directly at it) or a secondary view of the real world (video recording of the real world).
In simple terms, augmented reality is a digital enhancement of the real world.
AR technology and benefits have already extended outside the bounds of a TV studio.
Pretty much every industry has started to adopt augmented reality, and besides the Gaming industry, the way we work can and will benefit the most from AR.
AR is Transforming the Industrial Workplace
Augmented reality is already having a big impact on the way people work in the industrial workplace.
For example, in previous years, assembly workers received their instructions either on paper or in a digital format. Assembly was trained and then executed.
This meant that initial work had a higher chance of containing flaws. Improvement came as a result of the experience gained over time by the worker.
However, the more complicated an assembly was, the more extensive the training needed to be. Or alternatively assembly was broken down further to maximize quality.
AR Support for Assembly Technicians
Augmented reality is challenging this long-established pattern.
In a recently study published by Iowa State University, assembly is supported by an AR system with a tablet that enabled the technician to be guided in real-time through the assembly process.
This gives the assembly worker crucial and timely information on the current task and next steps.
The results of using AR for this kind of task are a significant reduction of first-time errors and a reduction in assembly time.
Also, the benefits for the technician are clear too. The study also showed evidence of improvements in happiness for the worker due to a decrease in frustration during the assembly process.
AR is Transforming the Health Sector Workplace
Information flow is crucial to all services in the health sector. Any means to collect or access patient data is greatly valued.
AR devices are already being used to enhance information flow to doctors, nurses, or other healthcare practitioners.
AR not only helps with medical diagnosis but also by making patients more relaxed, as more information about them is processed in one place, which reduces uncertainty and time spent waiting for information.
Collaboration between practitioners located across the globe is also possible with AR.
Remote doctors can be consulted straight from the ER room when difficult decisions need to be made.
Even the treatments themselves benefit from AR.
For instance, in the treatment of vein conditions, the typical procedure to locate veins involved touch, CT scan, or an x-ray with a contrast medium.
However, doctors are now able to take advantage of new infrared imaging technology and then project that image via AR right onto the patient’s skin in order to help guide the healthcare practitioner for quick and easy treatment.
AR Will Steadily Transform Every Industry
We are only now seeing the tip of the iceberg. These are just a few examples of a growing set of applications that will find their way into a myriad of industries.
From education to television, tourism to construction, AR is finding its way into our daily lives in order to improve the way we work and experience our world.
That being said, it will likely take a little while longer until we will see AR applications on a regular basis in our offices or meetings, on our desks where they will replace our monitors with projectors, or even at clients’ offices to supplant the need for on-site visits.
For this to ever happen, devices will need to be developed outside the niche of specialized devices. They must become a mass-market product.
Will we get there soon? Unlikely.
Will we get there eventually? Without a doubt.
Multiple Platforms for AR
With such a diverse range of applications, an equally diverse range of devices are being used for AR.
In the main, tablets (Handhelds) or projectors (SAR) are being used to enhance what we see and how we see it.
But we are now seeing the first cars equipped with HUDs, and Google, along with other technology companies, is developing and releasing head-mounted displays to the market.
Research on AR contact lenses and virtual retinal displays is on its way, meaning it is just a matter of time until the first products are available.
AR is a market that has gained a lot of momentum, and while the future sounds more like science fiction than ever before, the current development trend is real and will not stop.
AR Will Bring People Together
With the dawn of the IoT world and the ever increasing complexity of our environment, AR will be used to bring remote specialists together with customers or colleagues to either support them or collaborate with them.
It is a bright future that we are heading into. And yes, each bright place has its shadows. AR certainly has its risks.
The two main topics currently in focus are concerns over privacy and sensory overload, because each device that produces an AR experience needs to record and analyze the environment to function.
Besides copyright questions and other legal implications, it will be necessary to continue discussions on how far the collection of data can go, how data will be stored, and who owns it.
AR will enrich our world, the way we work, and provide us with more information than ever before. Some would say it will be more information than one person can handle.
It’s certain that AR will make a big impact on the way we work in the future, simply because of the substantial improvements companies will achieve as a result of adopting this technology.
Efficiency will improve. Costs will go down. And we could all be more satisfied with our work as a result.
As with any technology, considerate and ethical usage will be important to make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks.
What are your thoughts on augmented reality’s impact on the way we work? Leave a comment below!