What do you think of when you hear the term Augmented Reality?
As a co-founder of SilverWings XR, Olaf Kwakman is regularly asked to speak at events and meet with business leaders to discuss the ways in which immersive technologies can benefit organisations. Below he shares the current state of Augmented Reality usage and where this technology specifically is headed.
Usage of Augmented Reality (AR) has shown rapid growth over the past few years and this technology promises to be one of the main drivers of change in digital transformation processes over the coming years.
For those of you that are not familiar with the technology: AR is the experience where computer generated images can be placed in the real-world environment. These objects can also interact with the real environment and can be interactive. For example, placing a virtual building on the physical meeting room table and being able to take off the virtual roof, so you can look inside the building.
To experience AR, an interface is needed, such as a smartphone/tablet, or a headset like Microsoft’s HoloLens.
The most famous example of the application of AR is the game Pokemon Go, where gamers use their mobile phone to engage in the experience. But don’t let this bias your understanding of AR as the technology is certainly not limited to gaming.
Even after the initial market failure of the Google Glass, the use of headset-based AR or, as Microsoft calls it, Mixed Reality (MR), is gaining territory. Especially in industrial use cases and the military where users have to be able to continue to use their hands (so can’t hold a smartphone at the same time).
Technology continues to evolve rapidly and currently both Android and iOS-based smartphones have built-in AR capability with ARCore and ARKit. The stability of placed images has also increased significantly and with the recent launch of built-in LiDaR in the smartphone the quality and potential of AR increases further.
But where does this bring us? Do industries really benefit from these developments? What can we expect from this technology in the future?
To mention a few interesting applications in different industries:
- Operating /maintaining complicated equipment and onboarding new staff. AR can guide anoperator to perform the correct actions in the correct order. Even with complicated equipment, this can significantly reduce the required training time for new operators and reduce errors, as well as reducing the time to perform the maintenance / operation.
- Support decision making processes when designing new equipment, factories or buildings. Allowing all stakeholders to look at, and interact with, the same 3D design at the same time, even when not working from the same location is a major benefit of this technology. 3D visualization using AR can make sure that everyone has the same understanding of the design and this technology makes discussing proposed designs more accessible to people who are not working with the 3D designs on a regular basis. Much better and more efficient than having all stakeholders look at complicated 2D drawings
- AR wayfinding. Not only outside with GPS, but currently also possible inside buildings. Superimposing guidance information in the real world allows people to easily navigate in large and complex environments like malls, hospitals, airports, new cities etc. Easily accessible via your own smartphone and intuitive to use. The advantages: significant reduction in the frustration levels of lost customers, more efficient usage of space since people will easily find the quickest route and less time required from support staff to guide clients in the right direction.
- Remote collaboration. The potential of remote collaboration goes far beyond the Zoom/Meet/Teams solutions that most companies have already incorporated. Expert-Operator collaboration is a great example. Highly educated experts are not always nearby in international organisations and local operators sometimes do not have the knowledge level required to perform complicated procedures. Using AR technology, the expert can see exactly what the operator is seeing, can discuss at the same time and can even draw in the real world the operator is seeing. During Covid, a great solution for many companies, but also after Covid a great way to save on travel costs.
- Loading of a delivery truck; the AR technology can guide the loader exactly where to put all the parcels, so the loading efficiency will increase as well as the efficiency in operational handling, since the computer will take the optimal route and order of unloading in consideration when loading the parcels.
Many organisations haven’t quite worked out how to effectively use all of thedata that they collect and bring it together comprehensibly to support strategic decision making. 3D visualization solutions and specifically Augmented Reality can provide great opportunities for presenting the information.
While it is not a new concept, there is still a lot of opportunity for organisations to leverage the Digital Twin. A realistic, dynamic, data-rich and real-time virtual digital twin can dramatically increase our understanding of the real world, can help us in effective decision making and, using AR, be aprominent visualization tool.
Imagine walking through your factory and seeing all of yourvaluable data in real time at the relevant places: Real-time information about temperature of machines, vibration, production capacity, usage etc. projected on top of the individual machines. Immediately allowing for optimization measures and immediately seeing the impact. Or even better, perform a walk-through of the data-rich, interactive Digital Twin instead. There is actually no need to travel to the real environment.
Imagine meeting people and immediately being able to see where/if you have met them before, which organization they work for, their position and core competences. Note that the data is actually already out there, it is just a matter of organizing and presenting it in the right way.
The quality of the available hardware is developing rapidly. Current smartphones are powerful computers with excellent AR capability. The main disadvantage beingthe fact that you have to hold it and point it in the right direction to experience AR. Head mounted devices are clearly the future, but they have some further development steps to go to become powerful, small and easy-to-use.
Eventually AR capable lenses or implants will give us easy access to all the available data out there and the need for interaction with the real world will decrease step-by-step.
The gaming industry seems to move ahead of others. Virtual, highly interactive games are already on the market. No physical game boards are needed to play anywhere, anytime and against anyone, while still being able to interact with the real world around you.
Gamification solutions for organisations, with the power of experiential learning, automatically follow.
I am regularly told by senior decision makers that a headset is not feasible in a work environment, however their (usually younger) customers and teams embrace the innovation and welcome the use of technology to affect positive change in processes etc. Seeing this reaction, the same senior leaders are easily convinced to change their perception.
Let’s not wait to be convinced, let’s embrace the possibilitiesnow.
Silver Wings XR can help you to identify the right solution for your business.