Augmented reality (AR) and other technologies are often excluded from the business investment plan in innovation because the opportunities they enclose are not well-known. This guide is designed to help you understand how augmented reality can be implemented in a company and what benefits the ICT research can bring.
What is Augmented Reality and how does it work?
Every day we are constantly immersed in a 3D world. Paradoxically, it is the digital world, made of screens, desktops and mobile devices, that has accustomed us to a flat world. Augmented reality is a set of technologies that allow to enrich the information that a user can derive using a device, such as a smartphone or smart glasses. Augmented reality, in practice, allows us to live the experiences with whom we are already familiar by adding more information.
What is the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
With virtual reality, the user is immersed in an environment based solely on virtual data. With augmented reality, however, the user is given additional information that he normally cannot see. There is therefore an overlap of virtual data with the real environment. Although the approach to this technology remains almost unchanged, over the years several devices have been developed to respond to different fields of application.
Let’s have a look at the devices that allow to use augmented reality.
The first device designed for augmented reality have been developed by the American scientist and computer scientist Ivan Sutherland. In 1968 he published an article in the Proceeding of the AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference, in which he showed an experimental prototype. The idea of being able to use a lightweight and easily wearable device has inspired some web giants such as Microsoft and Google to invest important figures in the development of this type of equipment.
It is a transparent display that stays very close to one eye, allowing to perform tasks without looking away. The first devices date back to the 1950s and were developed to give pilots some flight data without the need to look at the instrumentation.
AR technology was developed for smartphones thanks to the implementation of the GPS and the magnetometer. The simultaneous mapping makes trust markers unnecessary and the user can explore the real environment in full freedom. Pokémon Go, the game developed by Niantic, used this approach and in just 90 days set the record for grossing 600 million dollars.
Over the years there have been many investments in this area, currently the first prototype of contact lenses with functional augmented reality display was developed by Mojo Vision.
Can VR and AR coexist?
Yes, there are contexts where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are used at the same time to reproduce complex scenarios. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for example, uses both technologies to train personnel in emergency and high-risk situations.
How does Augmented Reality generate value
Augmented reality is a powerful means available to managers and CEOs who want to be one step ahead of the competition.
To make the most of AR technology, you need to know how it can produce value for a given business. Basically, there are two ways to do it:
Let’s see concretely how augmented reality has been implemented by companies in different areas of success.
Engineers have been using CAD software for 30 years to do projects. Although 3D can be useful in the understanding of shapes and mechanisms, it is always necessary to produce a physical object, perhaps at scale, when the size is considerable. This process takes time and money. For this reason, Volkswagen has decided to use AR, with the result of increased accuracy and speed (up to 10 times) in quality control.
Industrial processes are often very complex and require many steps. In this context, it is likely that some errors may occur in the assembly line. With the choice of managers and CEOs to use AR within their company, AR has been shown to dramatically reduce errors by providing useful information to insiders on time.
In the field of logistics, it is estimated that handling operations account for about 20% of the costs and that the withdrawal of items from shelves alone accounts for up to 65% of the inventory costs. In the majority of these companies this process is done by consulting a paper list and by relying on the experience of warehouse workers. DHL using augmented reality reduced errors and increased productivity by 25%. Intel also implemented AR, saving up to 29% on inventory withdrawal time.
Augmented reality is also redefining the concept of catalog and showroom. AZEK is able to show both the contractors and the consumers what their floors look like. The simulation is visible simply using a mobile device, in this way: it increases the user experience and shortens the sales cycle.
Maintenance is one of the areas where AR will increasingly be implemented by companies. Xerox uses augmented reality as technical support for its engineers instead of using phone or paper manuals. This brought to a 20% increase in efficiency and a 76% decrease in technical problems.
In which areas does AR have the biggest impact on cost reduction?
The examples previously described demonstrate the benefits of using AR technologies for businesses of all sizes. One of the areas where this technology has a significant impact on costs is staff training, especially when it comes to simulating complex and high-risk situations. The benefits, however, are also visible for the training of workers, engineers, doctors, etc. It is a highly advanced form of learning that can train skilled personnel safely and at very low cost.
Therefore, a winning choice for managers and CEOs who expect the most from their company.
Is it better to develop AR technology internally or to rely on external companies?
The development of AR solutions requires many professionals: programmers, designers, UX/UI experts and months of development. It is an area that is increasingly specializing, where the know-how has great value for the benefits that brings. This is why building a dedicated team for a company has a significant cost. The advantages of relying on an AR company are:
Are there unrealistic expectations from companies about Augmented Reality?
There are some controversial cases to quote. One of these is definitely the flop of the Google Glass Explorer Edition. The Mountain View giant officially closed this project in 2016, but a clarification needs to be made: the Explorer Edition was designed for civilian use. The Enterprise project, dedicated to companies, was taken up by partner Streyer, giving birth to the Glass for Work project.
Overall, the companies that have implemented augmented reality are largely satisfied with the results achieved.
Which are the first steps that a company needs to take if it’s interested in AR?
The decision of managers and CEOs to implement the AR technology within their company depends on several factors. The first thing to consider is to understand exactly in which sector the AR can generate the maximum value.
Once this analysis is done, you can identify which services are already offered to add the potential of AR. This tool certainly allows companies to differentiate themselves from the competition, showing their potential in a unique and innovative way.