The Augmented Reality (AR) market is growing constantly, and fast. A recent study suggested that developer investments in AR apps could reach up to $2.5 billion by 2018. Ford, Microsoft, Google, and Apple are just some of the companies that see AR as a tool for boosting existing business and even for entry into new markets. With applications spanning sectors such as manufacturing, innovation, and retail, AR is a highly versatile and dynamic tool. But why is it gaining significant traction now?
The rapid rise of AR can be attributed to developments in three specific areas—communication, data, and technology. Engagement is the new holy grail of information dissemination. The quality of content is measured by its ability to delight the user and stimulate dialogue. Organizations must create immersive experiences for users to facilitate ‘engagement through enhancement.’ AR’s sensory, visual, and graphic enhanced supplementation of reality, allows companies to do just that. With the development of big data analytics, organizations can now use the rich amount of data provided by AR to acquire and apply insights in a manner impossible until now. Additionally, the impending proliferation of wearable computing devices into the consumer market means AR is the next big communication tool.
Users can now be presented with relevant, timely data in their line of vision. An example of this is the Heads-Up Display (HUD) used in the aviation industry and, more recently, the automobile industry. A key driver for AR demand, however, is wearable computing. While still in nascent stages of development, one advantage assures this technology’s future—wearable computing has generated enterprise interest. AR combined with wearable tech has significant implications for business. From a training perspective, the opportunities for engaged, effective learning are immense. Examples of this include apps that identify the parts of a car engine and guide a user through repair tasks. There are also surgery live streams, where students can watch real-time, elaborate procedures through a surgeon’s eyes with relevant content supplied at each stage. Finally, we have sales training, with trainers providing dynamic step-by-step guidance in sync with the operative’s flow of conversation.
It is also important to consider the productivity benefits of wearable tech combined with AR and Near Field Computing (NFC). Together, these technologies can cut wastage of time and resources and streamline the business process. For instance, employees only see emails and content relevant to the task at hand and specific objects required for successful completion. Design proofs can be superimposed over real locations to shorten a lengthy process of drafting, approval, and execution. Architects using AR to chose construction locations, is one such case in point. Factor in the increasingly powerful computing ability of the cloud, and it’s easy to see why AR and wearable tech could also make the ubiquitous enterprise a reality. It is now possible for companies to engage employees, consumers, and other stakeholders by opening and sustaining rich, continual channels of communication.
AR can also be deployed through a wide variety of hardware including displays, head-mounted devices, eyewear, retinal displays, and handheld devices. With up to 75% of all mobile developers providing AR support by 2015, large-scale consumer adoption will drive accelerated demand for hardware and software.
The reality of the future is going to be subjective, personalized, and increasingly augmented by digital experiences. Have you come across any application of Augmented Reality? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.