What is Augmented Reality to Businesses?

One of the most talked about technologies today is that of Augmented Reality (AR), and we are seeing an increasing number of applications and devices entering onto the market. Over the last two decades, research has been undertaken into the development of these technologies especially in terms of interconnecting sensors with displays and also the perceived experience, increasing interaction with the blended environment. Companies such as R0DE offer digital audio resources with vast libraries of sound effects to help create realistic 360-degree, immersive soundscapes.

Haptic feedback on the other hand is relatively undeveloped compared to that of audio and visual technologies. In theory haptics should be able to simulate any sensation of touch, including vibration, pressure, weight, temperature and pain. Additionally, it is not required to touch an instrument to be able to experience such sensations. The company Ultraleap (2021), states that haptics will support users’ “sense of presence” enabling them to enjoy experiences not only available in reality, but also to engage with programmed objects and environments with unique or unusual intrinsic qualities. Although, the most common tactile sensation that we can experience today is through handheld game controllers and mobile devices, Tesla have developed a full haptic body suit with a suite of software enabling the running of training programs, recording of human movement and reading and recording of user biometric data.  Today data sources can be connected with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide probability-based indicators that management can use to understand trends and human behavior.

Having stemmed from the concepts of virtual reality (VR) developers now seek to embed that which we see on our computer screens, mobile devices and eyewear or headsets into the reality which we conventionally perceive through our eyes and ears. In fact, modern photorealistic technology such as provided by the VARJA XR-3 headset, has evolved to such a degree that humans can no longer tell what is real from what is not. While this has sparked discussion over increased risk of physical and mental injury, it has not stopped practical applications from being developed and launched to the market.

Volvo uses the Varja XR-3 Headset to Develop Safer Cars. Image via VOLVO

The scope for business applications is very wide. Examples of which include education and training, interactive and visual manuals, offsite remote assistance, and automated quality control mechanisms.

Education and Corporate Training

Conventional training usually refers to live classrooms, blended learning and self-directed study. Most employees have experienced centralized training which provides an opportunity to physically meet new people, and interact with human trainers and instructors to acquire new skills. Human Resources (HR) often promote the advantages of having instructors as being able to stimulate human based interaction and motivate learners through group work and discussions. Often the content is first introduced and acquired in an abstract way, such as reading or learning about a circumstance or issue and then practicing to handle it according to an acceptable method. Many companies are also using Learning Management Systems (LMS) as a form of eLearning which helps to overcome some of the difficulties relating to learners needing to travel to training sites, or coordinating schedule availability for busy employees, but weaknesses of LMS has been the lack of human touch, and forming of relationships.

People tend to retain knowledge better when they can form connections between their own personal experiences and new knowledge. AR brings the exciting opportunity to enhance human engagement while bringing interactive tools to virtual learning environments. Examples of AR in classrooms include Lenovo VR. Lenovo have already supplied some schools in the US with outdoor learning environments. And, CGS Teamwork AR which offers a variety of solutions to corporations including scenario-based training, product, sales and maintenance training, and guided training for technical applications including maintenance, repair and diagnostic procedures instructions (CGS, 2021). CGS have further stated that AR learning can increase performance by 150% with an increase of 60% learning effectiveness more than paper-based training materials.

Augmented Reality in Classrooms. Image via LenovoStoryHub

Food for Thought

Augmented Reality is a true business reality. One which offers a great number of opportunities for an agile company to enjoy. However, we should not ignore some of the key issues that hinder innovation and technology adoption in organizations. Learners as well as education givers must accept the new methods of information dissemination at a cultural level. The value proposition must be conveyed to alleviate concerns such as discomfort and potential physical injury or lack of technical know-how and operation management. Additionally, costs will be high. In terms of hardware alone, the purchasing of headsets such as the Varja XR-3 retails at around $6500 USD per unit. Software will need to be developed, training provided in its use, and systems planned and implemented to incorporate the new technology into existing operations. Companies must decide whether sacrificing image quality and complexity of features and functions can offset the cost in terms of operational efficiency and long-term benefit.

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