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Augmented Reality Isn’t Just for Fun

This was originally posted on on May 22, 2018.

You’ve used Pokémon GO. You’ve used Snapchat. You’ve even seen Peter Jackson’s new experience demo. What you may not know is that all three of these forms of entertainment have a common thread: they all use augmented reality.

What’s augmented reality? Augmented reality (AR) is when you add to reality, unlike virtual reality which replaces it. While there’s nothing wrong with AR making strides in entertainment, using it solely for fun is an underutilization of this promising new technology. Augmented reality has the potential to change the world of business by making dangerous work environments safer, preventing irreversible mistakes, showing off products in context, and training employees more effectively.

Making Dangerous Work Environments Safer

Like it or not, some products are made through dangerous processes. Even more products are delivered through grueling weather and across risky terrain. Unfortunately, no matter how stringent the precautions taken, a startling number of U. S. employees are fatally injured performing high-risk jobs.

Happily, AR allows users to accomplish a task with minimal hardware. Screens and controllers are a thing of a past when you can project an interface directly onto your field of vision and manipulate it with your hands. With AR, learners can operate simulated versions of virtually any machinery from a distance, minimizing the need for employees to interact directly with potentially hazardous equipment.

Even when a workplace itself is safe, there are no guarantees of safety when traveling for work: transportation accidents were the number one cause of fatal work injuries in 2015. These tragic accidents can also potentially be reduced by AR. In vehicles, AR systems will soon be “’painting’ 3D navigation instructions onto road geometry, highlighting moving obstacles like crossing pedestrians, and enhancing driver awareness of and trust in autonomous operation,” according to ABI Research.

Preventing Irreversible Mistakes

In some industries, there are no do-overs. Mistakes lead to lost materials, revenue, and in some cases, lives. AR can help prevent serious mistakes by providing advice and assistance in real space and real time ( “…particularly in the manufacturing environment, [augmented reality] allows learners a safe place to practice (and make mistakes on) on expensive machines without taking them out of production,” says an AllenComm sales team member.

The medical field is a prime example of an industry where small mistakes can have serious repercussions—surgeons don’t have the luxury of making errors. Augmented reality collaboration software allows more experienced surgeons to assist less experienced surgeons from anywhere in the world as if they were there in person. Says surgeon Nadine Hachach-Haram, “…an expert surgeon can now virtually transport himself into any clinical setting simply by using his phone or tablet or computer, and he can visually and practically interact in an operation from start to finish, guiding and mentoring a local doctor through the procedure step by step.”

Showing Off Products in Context

When purchasing furniture or décor, it’s not uncommon to arrive at home and realize that your purchase just doesn’t quite…work. Maybe it’s too big—maybe it’s not quite the right shade of green—but whatever the reason, you’re not satisfied, and you want to return it to the retailer.

This kind of return is especially common for Amazon customers, since ordering a product without seeing it in person makes it even harder to determine how it will look at home. So, not surprisingly, Amazon is taking the lead in AR product demos: “Want to see how that fancy looking, Prime-eligible coffee table fits in your living room? Just pull up the Amazon app, enable the AR camera, and boom: You can see exactly how it would fit, there on your phone in front of you.”

Similarly, AR demos have the potential to benefit the real estate and construction industries. According to Clelia Warburg Peters, president of Warburg Realty, “…augmented reality puts the buyer in the actual space, which can take people from the, ‘what is’, to the ‘what it could be.’” [sic]

Training Employees More Effectively

Ideally, employees from any industry would be trained in environments that are true to life. When that can’t happen, AR can make up the difference. AR technology can be used to augment an environment for a realistic simulation. For example, for a fire safety training in a fast food store, an AR fire could be projected into the environment, and so could burned debris or wounded coworkers.

AR can also provide on-the-job resources. At AllenComm, we recently developed a custom corporate training solution called Siteline. Siteline is an interactive learning platform that uses 3D modeling, online courses, and digital documentation as a training resource on the job. The beauty of the platform is that “operators have immediate access to 3D images that enable viewing their complex machinery from all angles and with hot spots that highlight trouble spots and critical information,” says Jeff Harward, Siteline Product Manager. “Rather than relying on tribal knowledge, with Siteline all workers have immediate access to the current operating procedures at their fingertips.”

In Conclusion

Effective corporate training can always learn a thing or two by studying the entertainment industries, but AR has the unique potential to completely reinvent the way businesses operate. The surface of possibilities has barely been scratched, and AR’s place in the world of business is only beginning.