Experts believe, AR technology holds tremendous promise for changing the way businesses operate.
Augmented Reality (AR) is slowly gaining momentum in the enterprise. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES 2021) this year, Lenovo released a new pair of smart spectacles – ThinkReality A3 smart glasses that are aimed at the enterprise market. The long-rumored Apple Glasses are also expected to hit the market soon. Many tech insiders and analysts believe the AR glasses will replace smartphones in the next 8-10 years.
Interest in AR glasses began exploding in mid-2010s, as several tech companies Facebook, Microsoft, Google are interested in the AR glasses market. However, players like Microsoft and Google have struggled to crack the market. In 2014, Google Glass was pitched at the consumer market, but the tech giant now targets business users. In 2016, Microsoft starts shipping its version of wearable AR technology called the HoloLens, which is more advanced than the Google Glass, but came with a hefty price tag. It’s definitely not an everyday type of accessory.
Another company, MagicLeap had launched its much-hyped AR glasses in 2017 but the start-up failed to build any excitement around the glasses. Like Google, MagicLeap too shifted its focus on selling AR glasses to industrial users.
Currently, however, tech companies have started to explore the technology’s business relevance and its role in workforce enablement, customer experience and product enhancement. Experts believe, AR technology holds tremendous promise for changing the way businesses operate.
AR is also projected to be an economic driver for the tech industry. Industry forecasters say the market worth for it will reach $50 billion by 2024, according to MarketWatch.
How can enterprises use AR?
When used effectively in the right setting, smart glasses and AR displays have a number of important advantages over computers, tablets, and other existing technology: contextualized information, increased workflow standardization, hands-free assistance, and documentation, according to a Deloitte report.
Smart glasses provide a hands-free approach to performing work by providing data and virtual instructions to workers as they complete activities. Virtual instructions are being used to standardize workflows in industries with seasonal labor changes, such as ecommerce logistics, and for complex, rapidly changing tasks, such as maintenance and repair.
Through audio and video capabilities, workers can interact with other colleagues and seek assistance on complex issues from experts within their organization anywhere on the globe. Such productivity gains improve the cost-effectiveness of supply chain operations, expedite issue troubleshooting, and reduce the number of quality errors.
Again, while performing complex tasks, workers can summon interactive on-demand training videos, which overlay augmented reality on their environment. This is especially critical in industries that face an aging workforce where significant institutional knowledge is disappearing rapidly.
For example, as AR becomes commonplace, it will allow enterprises to showcase their products in 3D modeling. Businesses could use it during the design process for items such as cars and homes. The new technology can showcase virtual buildings to show how they will look in a skyline.
How Retail Businesses can use AR
Any Smartphone or Tablet can serve as an AR platform to create a shopping environment for customers. AR application company, Marxent helped Harley-Davidson create an iPad app that provided a virtual shopping experience. Customers could try out different body types, seats, lights and other options for a truly custom bike design.
Similarly, an online-only retailer can use the AR technology to create a 3D shop that virtually replicates the experience of shopping in a traditional store. It would give customers the ability to try an item before buying it. Thus a business can improve customer satisfaction and reduction in costly returns.
AR in the Industrial field services
Even the field engineers dispatched to a remote location can have real-time access from experts or vendors located anywhere in the world. The new technology also allows the remote expert to superimpose markings, message and diagrams directly onto the engineer’s field of view. And with the help of smart glasses, engineers can perform fixes simultaneously.
AR technology can aid in improved safety, reduce confusion, and take the pressure off engineers. It can empower a mobile workforce, linking workers to experts around the globe.
AR in design and modeling
AR technology also allows designers to visualize product mockups at scale using tablets, with the help of Augment’s plugin, an app company that implemented an end-to-end AR solution for Watermark Products.
The new technology can give clients an AR experience that depicts side-by-side comparisons of new and old products instead of costly prototypes. Therefore clients will be able to understand the impact of the proposed new products quickly.
AR Technology in training and education
The new technology will also be beneficial for training. Enterprises like Walmart and Chipotle are already using AR to train their employees. This gives them a hands-on training experience without the risk of costly real-world mistakes.
AR technology offers an immersive, multisensory experience for trainees at any level of education. Therefore, experts believe, it is effective than traditional methods of teaching such as lectures, flashcards and textbooks.
The technology is already gaining momentum in medical education. Medical students can take a 3D holographic anatomy program through the new technology. The student wearing the Microsoft HoloLens can see virtual cadavers and take a deeper dive into the human body. Reportedly, students can save saves dozens of hours in the traditional cadaver lab, according to school officials.
AR in repair and maintenance
With AR technology consumers can get how-to information for repairs, maintenance and vehicle features, which can be included in the AR owner’s manual program, created by the manufacturer. It could contain how-to videos, 3D overlay images, which can help users scan various areas of their vehicle (like the engine bay) and dozens of informational guides.
Even the inexperienced people can use AR to identify problems and perform repairs by following step-by-step instructions using AR overlays. This technology could reduce customer’s downtime and the associated costs, thereby improving customer satisfaction.
Deloitte researchers believe, in the short term, augmented reality devices such smart glasses will compete with laptops, smartphones, and tablets. However, in the long term, improved device design, capabilities, and cost will tip the scale for smart glass devices beyond existing technologies – and the future is not very far away.