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Augmented Reality in Business: How and When to Use It

Maja Nowak
Content Manager
Technology
AR Development
ARCore
ARkit

While we’re yet to experience a full-scale AR disruption, the potential of this tech to revolutionize workflows and processes is already huge. Let’s see how and when businesses can use augmented reality.

Note: I’ll be using the terms augmented reality and mixed reality interchangeably throughout the article.

Read why mixed reality is synonymous with augmented reality in What Is Mixed Reality? The No BS Explanation

Use Cases for Businesses

Businesses across industries are already using augmented reality solutions for a variety of purposes.

For example, AR is used to:

While the benefits can directly contribute to, for example, increased sales — Houzz’s customers are 11x more likely to make a purchase after using the company’s AR feature — this isn’t a technology universally viable for all sectors. 

How to Implement AR in Your Business Strategy?

Before jumping into the world of augmented reality tech, there are a few questions you have to answer.

If you want to include AR in your business strategy, you first have to ask yourself what it is specifically that you want to achieve through an AR solution.

Once you narrow down the reason behind adoption, it’s easier to develop a solution that will have a tangible impact and will resonate with your customers or employees.

To improve the decision-making process, answer these three questions:

  1. What is augmented reality exactly? It’s important for you to know the limits and capabilities of this tech.
  2. What is the problem you want to solve with AR? It needs to be something tangible and easy to define.
  3. How can AR help you solve this problem? Is AR the right solution to tackle the problem?

To give you an example: a problem can be something missing in the workflow.

Let’s say quality assurance at your company takes a lot of time to complete. The reason why might be that QA professionals need to comb through stacks of paper instructions to complete the process. This inefficient approach results in a waste of time: seconds turn into minutes and minutes into hours. In the long term, it amounts to a significant drop in productivity.

Augmented reality could come in handy here by feeding all the steps and actions necessary to conduct a QA test into a mixed reality headset. The application would interact with and respond to the actions of the tester in real-time.

Here’s Renault’s road to quality assurance supported by mixed reality:

Now let’s look at some of the use cases of augmented reality across industries and sectors.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of cross-reality solutions. Combined with the rollout of 5G network that offers speeds 100x faster than 4g LTE, augmented reality can be a huge opportunity for manufacturing facilities to improve a number of their processes and workflows.

The upside of using AR in manufacturing facilities is that it’s a fraction of the cost compared to investing in complex hardware.

Besides, augmented reality is much more convenient since there are no physical restrictions such as cables, devices. Data is fed to the AR headset virtually.

Onboarding. Employees just starting out in a manufacturing plant can see interactive hints and instructions on how to use machinery, with all important information layered over the physical equipment. Such an approach would increase employee safety and shave off onboarding time. AR could also help new employees move around a facility more efficiently.

See an example of using AR for training purposes at BMW:

Productivity. AR headsets equipped with AI algorithms can help employees get from point A to point B in the most efficient fashion, leading to potential productivity gains in the long term. Moreover, engineers can send a request for a specific part by simply pointing at it.

Operational information. Manufacturing employees can have easy access to information about the performance of existing equipment and infrastructure. For example, interactive gauges over different areas on the assembly line could offer real-time insight for employees.

Safety. Mixed reality solutions can inform employees about dangers (e.g., areas closed for maintenance/cleaning). On the other hand, when an emergency happens, workers in need of help or assistance can transmit an interactive beam with their whereabouts.

Automotive

Relying on complex technology and hardware, cars are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain for mechanics. The pace of this evolution calls for improvements in various workflows and processes in the automotive industry.

Remote assistance. With highly specialized technologies built in vehicles, being able to use expert insight might be necessary to perform services such as car maintenance. AR-based remote assist lets engineers show other employees how to conduct complex operations on vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz US is using Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to help technicians perform maintenance activities remotely with the assistance of an expert engineer.

Training. Engineers can enroll in immersive workshops where they learn the workings of complex machinery and how to assemble various parts. Instructors can show trainees how to, e.g., disassemble an engine without actually putting it apart. Cross-reality workshops are a safe and efficient way to share information.

Porsche says it has tripled the usage of augmented reality in their workshops. “Tech Live Look” is Porsche’s in-house app for connecting technicians with experts to help solve complex car repairs. Porsche has been using augmented reality for years.

Tech Live Look from Porsche
Tech Live Look from Porsche. Source: Porsche

Tech Live Look speeds up car service per vehicle by up to 40%, significantly improving Porsche’s customer experience.

Prototyping. Every new iteration of a prototype can be costly for an automotive company. Immersive designs aid in iterating and improving on product designs without companies having to spend anything on expensive prototypes. Car prototypes can cost upwards of $100,000. Now, it might not seem like a lot for big automotive companies, but when we’re talking about multiple iterations, it can amount to a nice sum.

In fact, BMW is already using AR in vehicle prototyping. At BMW, AR lets workers know faster if a component will fit once the production starts. Using AR in that way decreases the need for performing many tests setups.

Entertainment

Content consumption. Enhanced with augmented reality, written content can be expanded to include immersive experiences. AR can also serve as a visual aid in non-fiction writing to better illustrate concepts and events.

Board games. Traditional board games use augmented reality to enhance the level of immersion for gamers. Physical boards can be transformed from 2D experiences into interactive 3D adventures — the board stays the same while the elements turn virtual.

A board game with augmented reality elements
A board game with augmented reality elements. Source: Tilt Five via Kickstarter


Military

In the military, augmented reality can be used to provide soldiers with broader information regarding their surroundings as well as improve on- and off-site navigation.

Navigation. Augmented reality can blend complex charts and maps into a pilot’s field of view, decreasing the need to check information on displays. 

The US Army is exploring the possibilities of augmented reality goggles for combat dogs. The idea is to give dogs in the field more contextual information, along with visual indicators that tell dogs where to go.

AR goggles for dogs
AR goggles for dogs. Source: US Army

Ordinarily, soldiers guide their dogs with lasers or hand gestures. During a mission, however, it might not be possible for the soldier to be close enough to the dog to give it commands. This is where AR goggles step in. Additionally, the goggles attached to the dog’s head transmit what the dog sees back to the soldier.

Situational awareness. Sensors and cameras implemented in AR tech can provide soldiers with more information regarding their surroundings. Other critical information can also be fed into a headset from headquarters.

Since 2018, the US Army has been looking into AR when developing the Integrated Virtual Augmentation System (IVAS). The IVAS can provide mission-critical information to soldiers on the battlefield, for example, perform a quick object identification check. 

Travel

Tenant instructions. Landlords renting apartments could use augmented reality to provide tenants with instructions. For example, to help tenants orient themselves around the apartment or explain how to use and locate different utilities.

Along with smart locks that can be used instead of the landlord having to physically hand the keys to the tenant, augmented reality can further decrease the necessity for contact.

AR Map Concept for rentals. Source: Isil Uzum via dribbble

So instead of the landlord explaining where to find something or how to use the equipment, tenants simply put on a headset or turn on an app and explore the flat themselves with detailed instructions.

Immersive experiences. To advertise locations available in their destinations and facilities, travel agencies can turn to augmented reality to create AR tour presentations. Moreover, to improve customer experience, travel agencies can equip their customers with advanced digital tour guides that can be customized to give memorable and personalized experiences to tourists in a given location.

Augmented Reality Offers a High Potential for Disruption

As mixed reality technology matures, more and more use cases emerge where this technology can be applied to support businesses, professionals, and everyday users.

The global boost to GDP from the adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality across businesses and industries. Prognosis for 2022. Source: PwC

In the coming years, we can observe an increase in the use of this technology, which will most likely go hand in hand with the sophistication of the hardware and the drop in price for this tech, spurring mainstream adoption.

Want to learn how augmented reality can improve your business? Contact us and let’s analyze your workflows to find areas where AR can help.

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