Business decision making has traditionally relied on experienced managers and human input. Augmented Reality is beginning to allow organizations to leverage the technology to gain a strategic advantage; which has spun the process of making decisions on its head. Its rapid development makes for a truly exciting future in improving business operations.
- AR is forecast to become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021
- Business decision-makers can utilise data hyper visualisation via AR based on real-time data
- AR generates real-time, on-site and step by step visual guidance on complex processes to make effective and rapid decisions
- Improved operational and training efficiencies using AR enables business decision-makers to focus their attention on leadership
Augmented reality (AR) has come a long way since its inception in the 90s. Today, it’s a real game-changer for many businesses. Organisations are already beginning to leverage the technology to gain strategic advantage, educate and train field technicians, improve customer satisfaction, transform the product life cycle and improve business decision making processes.
Once you cut through the hype and white noise surrounding AR technology, one can appreciate the real value of AR for business owners, managers and supervisors who make business-changing decisions on a daily basis. With that said, what’s the true value of AR and is it worth the investment?
Growth of AR and VR performance forecasts: (DigiCapital)
The development and application of AR has seen a sharp incline over the years and even at anticipated underperformance – still shows no signs of slowing down. As AR development takes off and more businesses implement the technology into daily operations, those who choose not to invest may fall behind.
What is augmented reality?
AR transforms data and analytics into animations, images, videos and text. These are then superimposed on the real world. Using AR devices enables sensors to collect data about your interactions and send it to a machine for processing. This, in itself, changes the way data is stored and accessed within a business – as well as problem reporting and how decisions and changes are made. In short, the implementation of AR is a change in business structure.
AR and business decision making
Data visualisation essentially communicates data in a visual way and has had a profound impact on our relationship with information across all settings. Designers, data scientists and statisticians – aided by computers have prompted the need to accommodate the information overload of the internet era.
Augmented reality creates “hyper visualisations” – capturing massive amounts of data to generate clear and understandable 3D modules that are superimposed on the real world. The importance of visualising vast and complex data cannot go understated in business decision making.
Consider the following: a manager taps into a raw data feed from a distributed network of IoT devices in a logistics centre – full of robots, workstations, shipping and receiving docks. The data retrieved is important information on machine performance and operational efficiencies. Reading the data correctly will reveal important opportunities to increase productivity. In other words, there is a decision to be made based on reading the data.
In the past, limited data would fit onto a spreadsheet and be exported visually in a chart or graph. Then came the age of Big Data and the use of models to extract useful insights from large data sets. Augmented reality has produced a way to visualize massive data sets that instantly reveal important trends and analysis.
What’s more, AR enables users to interact with the data, move it around and in the advent of Mixed Reality – literally move around it. Though in its early days, AR has revolutionised the way we collect, manipulate and analyse data.
AR has proven itself to be a prerequisite for supervisors and managers. It allows them to, at a glance, read performance data in real-time, for example. They’ll know precisely who’s not working to their potential, find out why and implement new strategies. Through data visualisation, AR can communicate what problems workers are encountering and where supervisors need to devote their time and make changes to achieve desired results.
Instruction and guidance with AR
The critical function of instruction, training and coaching is already being redefined by augmented reality. They are central to improving workforce productivity and when done well, can alleviate pressures off management to perform additional tasks. However, they are traditionally costly, labour intensive and can often generate poor ROI.
In-person training is widely expensive and requires trainees and professionals to meet at a commonplace. There is little scope for remote training and standard instructional videos aren’t interactive and cannot adapt to individual learning styles. Further, additional training is always needed to transfer new-found knowledge to a real-world context.
Augmented reality combats these obstacles by providing real-time, on-site and step by step visual guidance on tasks and complex processes. It can be applied to product assembly, machine operation, data analysis and warehouse picking. 2D schematic representations of a procedure in a manual can be misconstrued and difficult to follow. Through AR, they become 3D holograms that walk and talk users through necessary processes. Little is left to interpretation, workers can perform well, managers can track their performance and spend fewer resources on training.
Deploying AR in your business
There is no doubt that the application of AR can help businesses to increase efficiencies, save costs, improve decision making and improve customer experiences. Each business will need an implementation road map that lays out how the organisation will start to deploy AR for maximum impact.
With the countless ways to implement AR, determining the sequence and pace of adoption is key. Businesses should simultaneously consider both technical challenges as well as organisational skills and goals – which vary between organisations. However, there are a few things all businesses should consider when strategizing their deployment of AR.
1. What does your company need from AR?
Some AR experiences are more complex than others. Will your business benefit from data visualisation? Will you launch an AR app? Do you need instructional training systems based on AR for your remote workers? Be sure to understand the value that your AR application will bring to the business.
2. How will your organisation create digital content?
All AR experiences require content. You may repurpose existing digital content, such as product designs. However, over time, dynamic experiences for consumer or managerial use will need to be built from scratch – which requires specialised expertise.
3. What AR hardware will you need?
Typical AR experiences have been designed for smartphones – making good use of their simplicity and ubiquity. Sophisticated experiences require tablets, headsets, smart-glasses and head mounts. Microsoft, Google and Apple each offer AR technologies optimised for their own devices. Whilst the Battle of the Smart Glasses continue, businesses should consider where they will go for their AR hardware.
4. Software-development Vs content-publishing
Most early AR technology is delivered through a stand-alone software that can be downloaded, along with the digital content, onto a smartphone or tablet. This approach delivers right-resolution and relatively more reliable experiences. It also allows developers to make apps that do not require internet connectivity. The issue here is that any change to the AR experience then requires software developers to rewrite the app. In ever-changing business scenarios, this may become problematic and expensive, to say the least.
An alternative is to use a commercial AR publishing software that creates AR content and hosts it in the cloud. The content can then be downloaded on demand. Just like website content, this AR content can be amended, updated or supplemented without changing the software. This is particularly beneficial to businesses with large amounts of data, conflicting needs and increasingly-changing requirements.