Bridging the gap between the real and the digital worlds with augmented reality and its business implications
Megan Bray March 29th 2022 - 3 minute read
What is augmented reality?
Augmented Reality, or just AR, is the superimposing of digital data and images as an overlay to the physical world. The technology itself has been around since 1968, with Ivan Sutherland’s invention of the first ever head-mounted display system that superimposed computer-generated imagery into the user’s perception of the world around them.
The term itself wasn’t coined until 1990 by Boeing researcher Tim Caudell, but it took until 2016 for it to truly consciously enter the public eye, or their screens, in the form of Pokémon Go. Encouraging users to explore their local environment, Pokémon would be overlaid into the real world for users to capture. Snapchat filters have since altered many a reality through their innovative implementation, but the technology’s use has far more reaching capabilities, the likes of which would positively benefit businesses in just about every sector.
Beyond entertainment, augmented reality already has both practical and consequential application in both consumer and business-to-business areas. In the retail sector, Swedish furniture giant IKEA, is already implementing the technology to show the customer how certain products would look in their home, before a purchase would even take place. Taking the guesswork and hassle out of potential buys, such as whether a particular-coloured chair would fit in the dining room, all before pulling the trigger.
AR in the modern business world
The AR market is expected to be worth close to $300 billion by 2024, with current the number of mobile AR users estimated to be over 3.5 billion. Many companies are already reaping the benefits of implementing augmented reality into their business strategy. In the healthcare world, AccuVein has revolutionized healthcare by using AR in the process of drawing blood from a patient. By converting the heat signature of a vein into an image that is superimposed on the patient’s skin, it makes the vein much easier to locate and draw from.
In manufacturing, augmented reality have been implemented to help bolster efficiency. Boeing has been using AR for many years in showing trainees how to assemble an aircraft wing and has cut the time the process takes by 35%. At GE, factory workers have achieved a similar gain in efficiency by using voice commands in AR experiences to perform complex wiring.
Car manufacturers have begun to expand the use of AR features beyond the manufacturing process to also benefit the end user, including an overlay directly on the windscreen. Navigation and safety aspects such as collision detection are projected directly into the driver’s field of vision.
The e-commerce industry has been one of the biggest pioneers of widespread implementation of augmented reality, with consumer demand the biggest proponent in driving augmented reality advances in the online retail world.
The Covid pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of augmented reality within the retail sector as online shopping replaced brick and mortar stores. Retailers have begun harnessing AR to further enhance the shopping experience with virtual try-ons, preview placement of home décor, and even a virtual product aisle.
Customer engagement, storytelling and customer acquisition are all crucial in getting ahead in the fiercely competitive rectal sector. By leveraging AR for both branding and marketing campaigns, businesses have the potential to attract consumers who are no longer interested in watching a 30-second commercial.
The future of AR for business
With limitless options as to how augmented reality could be implemented into both everyday life and business, it’s no surprise that the number of businesses adopting AR only seems to be increasing. The technology is already actively helping the retail, engineering and healthcare industries save time and money. With the ever-increasing reliance and dependency on our mobile devices, the adoption of augmented reality will inevitably grow in many more ways, making it a convenient medium to bring AR to nearly every customer with a smart phone.
The short-lived consumer iteration of Google Glass was in some ways, a little too ahead of its time. The wearable and hands-free device launched with a hefty price tag and a shortcoming of real-world capability saw it quickly vanish from the public eye.
Despite AR headsets and eyewear widely seen as the future of augmented reality, for the consumer, that future may still be some time away. But for the military and healthcare fields, Microsoft have been developing the HoloLens 2 to implement AR-enabled technology into both the training and even surgery. Comfortable and normal-looking wearable technology is still a sci-fi pipedream for the consumer, but mobile devices are becoming more powerful and capable of delivering truly revolutionary AR experiences.
At present, augmented reality is already used by everyday consumers, without them really knowing it. Almost every one of us walks around with a smart phone, Snapchat with dog ear filters permeating the social media landscape, and Pokémon Go targeting the younger audiences, augmented reality is already firmly entrenched in our everyday lives.
Now it is just a question how to successfully implement the technology into a business strategy in both an informative and profitable manner. The future of augmented reality is a bright one, with the AR industry only climbing in market value, the potential cannot be denied.