Technology Insights: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

Use of AR in Major Business Verticals                                                                  

Augmented Reality (AR) enhances real-time, real-life experiences by inserting superimposed virtual graphics, audio, and other interacting sense enhancements into a real-world environment. AR has been in the public eye for quite some time (remember Iron Man’s high-tech suit?), but recently received a lot of attention because of popular consumer applications. Pokémon Go took the world by storm last summer and brought AR technology to a mass audience. Today, tech giants like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram are continuing the push, and it shows as industry forecasters predict that by 2020 the market worth for AR will reach $100 billion.

But where exactly will Augmented Reality fit in? Like Virtual Reality (VR), the industry has a hard time getting traction outside of niche markets. Because of this, analysts are predicting that the enterprise AR market will lead the consumer market, driven by the need to improve safety, productivity and efficiency. What are the business use cases for enterprises? Which verticals will benefit the most? And how does that relate to improving our future?

Current Business Use Cases of AR

Eric Abburzzese, research analyst at ABI Research, expects adoption to split between several verticals including education, gaming, healthcare, industrial and retail. He expects “revenues to primarily favor the healthcare and industrial verticals, owning approximately 54 percent of the market, thanks to more progressive technology adoption habits along with strong use case applicability.”

Industrial

Using AR to overlay instructions can potentially reduce error rates in manufacturing assembly. One industry that would benefit greatly from this is field service management (FSM), according to Coresystems. Coresystems, an FSM software provider, imagines service technicians with specialized AR headsets, who will have all the information they need for an installation/repair on a heads-up display. No more fumbling around for a laptop or tablet in the middle of a project. AR would also connect onsite technicians with more experienced engineers back at HQ who can visually supervise and troubleshoot more difficult issues. With that, the use of AR boosts the key field service metrics of first-time fix rates and average repair time. It also benefits staff training and skills shortages, especially as devices trend toward IoT and more advanced technology.

Healthcare/Education

Medical education is another area where AR can make a difference, as AR can assist in the training of employees or students at any level. AR can deliver an immersive, multi-sensory experience that’s more effective than lectures or flashcards, leading to more in-depth training and increased speed to mastery.

Retail

As far as e-commerce possibilities, Augmented Reality technology can create a three-dimensional shop that virtually replicates the experience of shopping in a traditional store. Customers could try an item before buying it, which would improve the customer experience and reduce costly returns. Warby Parker (an American prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses retailer) is a great example of this model, as they allow customers to try on frames virtually via webcam using AR technology.

Transportation

With the use of AR and GPS, driving navigation can be superimposed on your field of view within your vehicle while looking at the road. This could reduce distracted driving accidents caused by looking down at a phone or in-vehicle navigation system.  Several concept cars already integrate this kind of technology, and companies like Garmin are trying to achieve similar results with their Head-up Displays (HUDs).

Looking Ahead

So, what’s next? The term “mixed reality” has come up, both when discussing use cases, as well as general industry discussions. Mixed Reality (or Merged Reality) builds on Augmented Reality by adding elements of VR and allows for both interaction and manipulation of both the physical and virtual environment.Google and Microsoft are big-name players getting in the game early, and the results are very promising. Check out Microsoft’s HoloLens demo of a NASA simulation of walking on the surface of Mars (video).

As VR, AR and MR industries are developing and finding their place in the market, it will be interesting to see which new business use cases arise. From manufacturing to healthcare to gaming, there are a lot of opportunities and no doubt will we see great things in the near future!

 

By Kyra Tillmans