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Augmented Reality – The Next Big Thing

  • 15.09.2016
  • Idea

The tremendous success of Pokémon Go Augmented Reality (AR) game had hit us pleasurably hard, waking us into a new reality: there cannot be any backpedalling on AR technology from now on!

Humankind had witnessed the debut of basic virtual fixtures and rudimentary uses of AR way back in the mid-1990s itself. But the record-breaking game has succeeded in presenting AR as an interesting, interactive and user-friendly package. It presents a promising future for the communication and interaction realm. It has heralded the mainstream adaptation of AR technology by readying humanity to view the world in a completely enhanced and altered way.

The main theme here revolves around the on-going and impending transformation of Augmented Reality as a business reality.

What is AR – A Quick Refresh

Augmented Reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment, whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

In simple terms, AR presents an enhanced view of the real world by superimposing interactive and digitally manipulable elements on it. Virtual Reality (VR) is a related but different technology that switches the real world with a virtual/simulated one. VR makes the user immersed in a ‘new world’.

Current AR Developments – A Quick Run Through

According to a new report by Digi-Capital, annual investment in AR and VR companies hit an all-time high with a record breaking $1.1 billion in 2016 so far this year. Source

All the major players like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung etc. are engaging dedicated specialist groups to develop AR gadgets. Microsoft HoloLens, Google Glass 2.0, Facebook-backed Oculus Rift, Vive, Google Cardboard etc. are some AR/VR gears and wearables that managed to capture human attention until now. The AR scenario is also witnessing the emergence of smartphones and tablets that come loaded with built-in AR functions.

Customers have already elevated their expectations regarding involvement, interaction and visualization. They have amplified their interest in AR. They are looking forward to some out-of-the-world AR experiences in their day-to-day life. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the businesses to gratify their quench to be surrounded by an augmented world.

How Can AR Be Put To Business Applications?

It is a reality that the demand for AR technology is already authenticated. The technology is on its way to advance as a full commercial product. Scientists are busy developing different equipments and accessories to make the vision a reality. Now it is the natural responsibility of businesses to integrate AR experience in their applications.

Business applications of AR are virtually limitless. You name any aspect of life; it can be integrated with augmented reality. AR can be delivered through apps or wearable accessories.

1. AR in Retail Space

The implementation of AR in the retail arena helps customers to make perfect buying decisions based on supreme customer service.

Retail giant IKEA has put AR into their retail realm by rolling out an AR app. It allows users to preview digital furniture in their physical house. For instance, customers can visualise how a sofa would look in their actual living room, or whether the placing of a certain shaded rug will harmonise with the whole internal colour scheme.

Another renowned retailer, Lowe, has also come into the AR scene with HoloRoom room designer app with similar features. The renowned beauty retailer L’Oreal Paris with their Makeup Genius app helps users to try makeup in an AR scenario. Online buyers of apparels, eyewear, jewellery etc. can actually try wearing the items with the help of AR apps before placing the order. For instance, TryLive app allows for virtual try-on and product visualization.

AR is being applied into in-store digital navigation to minimise search times and interactive window-shopping experience to convert passers-by into prospective in-store customers.

2. AR in training and education

Highly interactive and connecting experiences can be created with the help of AR. Wearable AR devices will allow students and employees to grasp difficult stuff easily and efficiently. It works far better than a typical classroom lecture as it offers hands on-like involvement. AR integrated-instruction pages can do wonders in making complex topics simple and enjoyable.

Google Sky Map and GeoGoogle are some AR apps worth mention. They can be used by researchers and students to learn about constellations and geographical aspects respectively.

3. AR facilitates remote collaboration

Students and staff who are located at remote and distant places can greatly benefit from AR technology. Though they are physically detached from the group, they will feel connected with the team and the presenter. This will offer an extremely engaging experience for them encouraging more fruitful collaboration.

4. AR in healthcare

Healthcare is another sector that is going to get highly benefitted from AR integration. With AR, doctors and nurses can complete their jobs faster and more accurately. For instance, intravenous injections can be done more precisely with the help of AR view of the area. E-clinics can be more efficiently utilized with this technology. Virtual visit will become more popular as it reduces waiting time and travelling time besides enhancing accessibility.

5. AR to help with navigation

Location-based apps are the hotspot for implementing AR technology. Apps like Wikitude help you in locating nearby restaurants, ATMS, recreation spots, hotels etc. by pointing your smartphone to the current surroundings.

6. AR in repair and maintenance

AR will make the task of a mechanic less complicated. The implementation of routine tasks in the maintenance and repair domain will become easy even for the most clueless people. Each component part of the machine can be viewed and analysed clearly to decide what should be done.

7. AR in travel and tourism

Travel and tourism can be taken to great levels with AR helping travellers to plan and fulfil travel in the most interactive manner. Real-time digital navigation elements will make traveling to unknown places fun and easy. AR-equipped translation apps will enable tourists to read billboards and other printed materials in unfamiliar languages. AR maps will also permit easy museum curations.

8. AR in advertising

Advertising filed will try to extract maximum benefits from AR is an obvious truth. The image recognition ability of your smart gadget will be exploited to give immersive experience for the viewers. By facing your camera to an ad material, you will be able to experience an augmented and animated experience. This will drag you to an extravagantly immersive feel. It helps in creating an emotional connection with the buyers. Volkswagon Beetle (VWJuicedUp) and Starbucks (Cup Magic app) have already implemented it.

9. AR in Real Estate

AR also confers some benefits on real estate sector also. Since AR is nothing but enrichment of real-world settings by overlaying virtual elements onto a physical space, construct lands and houses will get a new dimension. Users can make better informed decision through visual interaction, before anything being actually put in place. The DigitalNeighbourhood mobile app, currently in the beta testing stage, allows users to tour their future house inside out.

Is It Too Early To Jump into AR?

Augmented Reality is here to stay – there is no discrepancy of view among experts regarding it. But is it too early to jump into AR, is a matter of dispute. The phenomenon is garnering lot of mainstream exposure nowadays. But the truth is that we are forming the essentials of a phenomenal technology that will become full-fledged by 2020.

Scientists and experts are yet to discover the full potential of AR. We are in the early days of a wonderful technology, and are trying to scrape just the exterior part of it. Early adopters will be enjoying their share through the already available AR wearables and gadgets.

Bulky headsets are a plausible problem that stands in the way of transforming AR as a mass consumption material. Scientists are finding out ways to make more unified integration of the technology in our daily lives.

When AR reaches its full potential, the current developments will look primitive. It is already verified that AR has the potential to develop as a mass consumption tech product. Garnering social acceptance for this wonderful technology is inevitable to move it closer to our lives.

Summing Up

There is no going back from artificial realities in our life; be it VR or AR. Tech-oriented business enterprises are already investing in AR to enhance customer involvement, personalisation, engagement, and product usability. If you lag behind in offering AR experience, chances are high that your business might get vanished from the scene.

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