Why Augmented Reality Makes Sense to Business and How to Exploit It

A primer on how AR can help enterprises and the domains that are already leveraging it for business gains.

Sagar Sharma Augmented Reality (AR) is mostly being used by end-consumers these days and is no more a buzzword. There are a lot of applications and use cases that provide an engaging, and sometimes, a rewarding experience to the end consumers. AR also makes for good business use cases. The auto manufacturing industry has been one of the pioneers to adopt AR. Many German auto manufacturers have teamed up with AR solution providers (also based in Europe), to explore how AR can help car manufacturers.  How AR makes sense to enterprises Contrary to popular belief, AR can help enterprises in various ways. Let’s start with Business Consulting.  An enterprise trying to leverage AR should conduct a detailed study to understand their current business and operational processes.  They can engage an AR solution provider to understand the areas where AR can make an impact.

There has been a continuous improvement in the AR eco-system over the last three years in terms of content, devices and software.

There have been various scenarios in which enterprises are using AR to add value to their businesses.  There has also been a continuous improvement in the AR eco-system over the last three years in terms of content, devices and software that has got the enterprises exploring ways in which they can benefit from deploying AR. Car manufacturers who deploy AR create a real-world prototype of the vehicle of approximately the same size of the envisioned end product.  In parallel, they also create a 3D model of the car. This 3D model is then overlaid on the physical model using Augmented Reality and various prototyping tests are conducted.  The tests include checking the functionality and physical sizes of the components.  Quick changes are done on the projected 3D model in the AR view to check out feasibility and impact on the design or functionality of the car.  This technique is also used to gather valuable feedback from the management and prospective customers. Technicians are trained to use AR for doing car repairs.  AR is a very expressive medium to train existing car technicians on repair and troubleshooting procedures on new cars with latest components. Enterprises could benefit by adopting AR in many areas. Employee training is one. Providing rich digital content overlaid on existing published artifacts like repair manuals, operational procedures, maintenance procedures, trouble-shooting procedures, maps with guidance, etc. Simulating environments to create real world scenarios and enabling the enterprise users to train much faster and more effectively. AR can provide real time assistance while doing inspections on the manufacturing floor. It also helps getting valuable data in front of the workers while they are in the work environment in real-time which helps them make correct decisions. Virtual Reality can be used in digitized prototyping of a product.  This can help the designers in the initial stages of product development where they can quickly create the product and the environment virtually and make quick edits to see the results. Learn pitfalls before implementing a full-blown physical prototype by allowing users to interact with digital content in real-world environments Components of augmented reality  Digital Content There is a lot of content that gets generated within an enterprise and these days most of it is digital.  All this content is available to be augmented in certain situations and relevant to an enterprise user.  This is the most important part of an AR experience as this is what provides value to the user.  Content can be any 2D visual, 3D model, graphs/charts, interactive demonstrations, operational instructions, etc. Device There are various devices deemed appropriate to show the content to the user.  So far mobiles and tablets are being widely used to deliver an AR experience.  Wearable hardware like glasses, head mounts etc. are also now being used to provide the user a hands-free experience.  These devices are still evolving but it is a matter of time before the proliferation of these devices increases and they become ubiquitous. Software This piece of an AR experience is responsible for the following: Collect Data: Data can be collected from the sensors in the Hardware or sensors that the Hardware is connected to.  Sensors like camera, depth sensor, motion sensor etc. provide a rich input of the user’s real-world environment.  In addition, the user’s contextual data like location can also be used as an input. Compute: Once the data is collected the software computes and decides what content needs to be shown to the user.  This computation is the brain behind an AR experience. Render Content: Positioning and alignment of the digital content with real world coordinates is an important part of the user’s experience.  This part of the software should ensure that the user has a seamless AR experience and is able to benefit from the digital content being rendered in the real world. Challenges Deploying AR is not without challenges. There are quite a few that you need to keep in mind.
  • Lighting conditions on factory floors impact the identification of the markers.
  • Hands Free devices like glasses and head-mounts are still evolving
  • Identifying proper uses cases within the enterprise which provide maximum benefit to the users
  • AR relies heavily on content being readily available or it has to be created. Enterprises with less content always face this hurdle in implementing AR solutions.
Sagar Sharma is the CTO of Credencys Solutions  

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