My regular readers know that I have written again about Augmented Reality and its potential to support Circular Economy and Waste Prevention. But I feel that the potential of Augmented Reality has just begun to unfold.
Augmented Reality superimposes computer-generated images and overlays information on a user’s real-world view. Virtual reality takes this a step further by creating an immersive, computer-generated environment. Major vendors of the technology include Oculus, HTC, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony. Increasingly companies are investigating augmented and virtual reality to deliver new workplace experiences, such as improving collaboration or making hands-free data access easier. Trials and implementations of AR/VR aren’t limited to specific industries. Augmented and virtual reality offers benefits across many types or organizations and roles such as viewing digital dashboards for knowledge workers or providing a digital overlay that displays equipment health to a factory manager. These companies are creating brand new ways to build, sell and service products.
For example, retailers such as Lowe’s are experimenting with virtual reality headsets to help their customers visualize furnishings for a kitchen remodel. ThysenKrupp, an elevator manufacturer, is using Microsoft’s HoloLens to visualize an elevator repair before the technician reaches the site. Once onsite, the technician can use augmented reality to view digital overlays of manuals and repair guides while they’re fixing the elevator. The HoloLens’ camera allows those off-site to see exactly what the repair specialists are seeing and advise them accordingly.
Stryker is using AR to design tomorrow’s operating rooms. The use of the HoloLens allows hospitals to envision exactly what they’ll need in their operating rooms to ensure that the design meets their specifications. This also allows different possibilities to be visualized in 3D and compared in real time. This process saves time and money, and makes it more likely that the facilities are operating correctly.
The market for digital AR tools is growing. Earlier this year, Californian startup Daqri launched a smart helmet similar to HoloLens and designed specifically for industrial settings. Meanwhile, apps like SmartReality from JBKnowledge, allow users to hold a smartphone or tablet over designs or plan files and see 2D drawings projected as 3D models.
Apart from construction industry, automotive manufacturers are also using AR/VR to improve product designs. For example, Ford is using the Oculus Rift to create virtual models of cars and collaborate on the design changes with different team members. VR minimizes Ford’s need for physical prototypes and allows the engineers to explore creative designs. Meanwhile, Audi brings a virtual cockpit to life for its Audi TT with an augmented reality brochure. Bechtel provides an excellent example of how tablets and AR can be used to improve construction by replacing paper documents and allowing engineers to visualize walls and other items on the job site.
It seems likely that we will continue to see important developments in AR technology within the coming years, many of which will be related to the technology’s use in the workplace. Apple’s ARkit, which enables developers to create AR apps for iPhone and iPad, may be one important source of innovation in this area. For every AR game developed, we are just as likely to see a productivity or creativity app created with workplace applications — something that will take us one step closer to integrating AR as an everyday part of the workplace. It might take some years for AR to be largely adopted in workspaces, but this is mostly due to remaining technical challenges, like reducing a headset’s size or widening its view angle.