Augmented Reality (AR) may seem like a new technology but it has been around since the 1990s. The technology is a very useful tool in our everyday lives. From social media filters, gaming, to surgical procedures, AR is rapidly growing in popularity because it brings elements of the virtual world into our real world, by simply overlaying virtual information on top of our real world. This in turn allows us to coexist harmoniously in the natural world where virtual information is used as a tool to provide assistance in everyday activities.
AR lies in the middle of the mixed reality spectrum; between the real world and the virtual world. Research by the Capgemini Research Institute has revealed that “immersive technology delivers better efficiency, productivity and safety for enterprises, and that augmented, rather than full virtual, reality will lead the way for business operations”.
What are the different types of AR, and how are they used?
A number of different types of AR technologies currently exist with varying differences in their objectives.
Image recognition is involved, the marker can be an image, or the corresponding descriptors most of the time the marker is a black and white (square) image e.g. QR code. Displaying an educational animation right onto the page of a book is an example how marker-based AR is used in real life.
In this case AR uses a GPS, digital compass, velocity meter, or an accelerometer that is embedded in a device to provide data based on your location. Examples of these are mapping directions, finding nearby businesses, and other location-centric mobile applications.
Allows for human interaction by sending light onto a real world surface and then sensing the human interaction (i.e. touch) of that projected light.
AR either partially or fully replaces the original view of an object with a newly augmented view of that same object.
How are organisations within retail, healthcare and manufacturing making use of AR to work more efficiently?
For retail AR is a game changer. Many brands have adopted AR to provide better customer experience by demoing the product before they buy. An example of this is with IKEA where customers can use an AR app for retail to allow them to have a complete overview of how furniture will look in a particular room or space. Customers can now design the interior of their homes without having the need to hire an interior designer. For IKEA, the customer can design the interior of their home without the need for assistants to help their customers in choosing the right furniture. This in turn leads to cost savings and efficiencies in customer services.
Another example in which retailers use AR, is when customers can try on outfits digitally without the need to wear them physically in the store. The customer now has the option to try on number a number of outfits digitally within a short amount of time. This helps to drive more sales and supports promotional campaigns. The following article “These 10 Retailers Are Leading the Way in Augmented Reality” explores how 10 fashion names have adopted AR to help drives sales and improve customer experience.
In healthcare more and more organisations have adopted AR. It is being used to train practicing and trainee practitioners in learning how to perform certain procedures with a 3D representation of the body, allowing the option to practice best treatments and procedures before performing them in real life situations. An article by the National Institution of Biotechnology “Recent Development of Augmented Reality in Surgery: A Review” explores recent developments of AR in supporting various aspects of surgery and training of healthcare professionals.
In the past few years AR has really taken off in manufacturing. To name a few examples, AR is used in data management, staff training, equipment maintenance and quality assurance. For those with analytical minds AR allows big data to be analysed more effectively. Training of new hires can be costly and time consuming, however, with AR the trainee is not required to read hundreds of pages of manuals, books or attend lectures but instead use headsets and goggles that broadcast information directly in front of their eyes. It is a great way to combine technology with hands-on learning and instruction which leads to the new hires going on the ground more quickly.
Smart factories use AR to prevent and predict maintenance. Not only does this cut down on the expense of unnecessary maintenance, but it also allows for problems to be detected before bottlenecks are created in the production line or even worse, machine failures.
In terms of quality, a recent example is Porsche using highly sophisticated lasers to scan finished parts including the finished vehicles against specifications. Porsche’s QA technicians, who are on the factory floor use tablets to capture images of parts with potential or obvious defects. An AR generated overlay verifies the technician’s work and highlights the parts that require further work to rectify the defects. An article written by Keith Mills discusses how Porsche has adopted AR on their factory floor and how it is helping with the continuous development of their quality assurance model.
What does the future hold for AR?
AR is seen as having huge potential across a range of industries. Organisations are investing huge capital and resourcing in AR devices. With the technology moving at a quick pace, it may be within 5 – 10 years we see people walking around with AR devices. However, there are still some major barriers for AR to overcome before we see this: for more read “Solutions to Top 5 Augmented Reality Challenges and Problems”. Though I am optimistic that we could see faster paced sensors and scanning devices to help manufacturing and healthcare industries.
For retail we need have to a balance between the real world and AR. There are a large number of us who would still like try on before we buy, will we walk into an empty store or warehouse and it comes to life after we put on our smartphones? Only time will tell but it looks like there are some exciting times ahead for us.
Nasrin is a Senior Consultant who has over 8 years consulting experience in a wide variety of industries. She is part of the Organisational Dexterity team within Capgemini Invent. She is also a key member of the DigiCertif’ programme in Capgemini Invent UK.
Nasrin has worked with a range of clients within the government, manufacturing, financial, and utilities industries. Her experience ranges from managing large transformation projects, organisation re-design, global organisational change management, business analysis, training strategy development and delivery and business operations management.