In the first post of this series, we discussed some of the AR hardware we’ve used at Float Mobile Learning. However, hardware only gets us halfway; we need software that leverages the advantages of AR devices. Arguably, we have not yet entered the first generation of true AR applications, but what can we expect to see as the software matures?
1. Automated Data Recording
There’s no doubt of the value provided by human operators who can inspect equipment, whether it’s in a factory or elsewhere, and keep track of readings over time. In this video by DAQRI, we see workers logging gauge measurements hands-free, an appealing alternative to pen-and-paper or personal digital assistant (PDA) logging applications. This frees up operators to use their time more effectively, and can even provide information on trends over time at the exact point they are needed. Operators could receive warnings for values that are out of specification, and even load up procedures to return readings to normal operational values.
2. Maintenance Support
BMW has performed research into the applications of augmented reality for use in their automotive maintenance division, as explained here. Volkswagen explored a similar concept in their MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) app, and while they chose a tablet device, the application could work in smart glasses as well. In Learning Everywhere, Chad Udell explored a similar concept, in which a telecom repair technician received maintenance instructions in the field. Compare the possibilities of this integrated solution to the traditional repair manual, which is often hundreds if not thousands of pages long, with detailed but often difficult-to-follow instructions written as plain text. Providing operators with visual feedback and relevant information can reduce errors and speed processes, as technicians no longer need to stop what they’re doing to refer to a complicated manual.
3. Interactive Design
Microsoft’s surprise announcement of HoloLens during their 2015 Windows 10 keynote showcased a number of use cases for their technology, which promises even more seamless integration of augmented reality with what the user sees. While most of those uses pertained to the home or entertainment, there were many examples of computer-aided design. Not only could this evolution of traditional computer-aided design provide a more natural way to edit models on the fly, sharing AR views could enable multiple individuals to edit the same 3-D model from two perspectives. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has put a lot of effort into HoloLens, and this device could shape the discussion on AR for years to come.
4. Real-time Translation
Google’s acquisition of Quest Visual, the creators of Word Lens, made immediate sense to anyone who’d used Quest’s amazing technology. Word Lens, and now the Google Translate app, provide real-time translation of the text on user request. Providing this information in an augmented reality space could make the entire process seamless, with all signs being translated as they are needed, and updated in the user’s field of vision. This would be a major boon to operators working in foreign nations.
5. Navigation and LocationDrivers and pedestrians alike could greatly benefit from an integrated navigation experience, both inside and outside. Technology such as Google Maps provides an incredible amount of information for users and developers, and tying this technology to a seamless visual interface could reduce travel times and costs. Car manufacturer Mini just announced AR goggles to provide this navigation information, and much more, to drivers.
6. Work Site SafetyIn the modern industrial environment, workers are expected to process an incredible amount of information, and the proper understanding and application of that information could be the difference between life and death. By integrating augmented reality with the standard lockout-tagout system, some of that cognitive load could be “outsourced” to the device, allowing technicians to make better, safer decisions.
7. SalesIn his book Honest Signals, MIT researcher Alex Pentland describes how measuring the speech pattern, physical activity, and tone of a conversation can predict, with a high degree of accuracy, the outcome of the conversation. In the sales force, this information could be crucial. By providing sales representatives with simple indications of the potential client’s unconscious signs, the outcome of these interactions can be brought closer to the ideal. There also software on the market today to analyze facial expressions to read emotions. However, there is a certain social stigma attached to the idea of using a device to monitor another person, let alone something as personal as their mood.
8. RetailAs retail stores offer more product at larger volumes to growing customer bases, there’s a need to provide the retail sales force with the relevant, timely information that they need to answer customer questions.
That’s where AR comes in. By providing information on products, locations, and more, AR devices can augment the next generation workforce with the information they need, when they need it.
9. Inventory Management
Companies like the USPS and DHL work with a large volume of packages every day, and each one must be carefully routed to a specific destination. Traditionally, these systems have relied on handheld barcode scanners. Now, DHL is investigating the use of augmented reality glasses to both scan package information and provide feedback to the operator. USPS has proposed systems that can provide information on optimal package placement and inventory management.
This is only a small number of the many possible enterprise applications for augmented reality. As AR devices gain acceptance and become more common, developers and businesses will have more incentive to come up with creative uses for existing technology, in much the same way that companies today are using mobile devices in ways that weren’t even thought of when BlackBerry’s smartphones were first available to consumers.
Want to discuss other applications that can augment your workforce? Contact us!
Also, in my final post in this series, I’ll look at the challenges present in developing augmented reality applications.
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