Recently, I outlined some of the industry use cases for augmented reality (AR) in the enterprise. Early adopters have been exploring how AR could transform industries like manufacturing, healthcare, design and retail. There’s increasingly reason to believe that AR could take off for businesses long before it goes mainstream with consumers.
Microsoft Outlook and Calendar are already available for the HoloLens, and according to a Tech Pro Research survey, 67 percent of businesses are already considering AR for future initiatives. At this year’s Augmented World Expo (AWE)—the largest global conference for wearable, AR and virtual reality (VR) enthusiasts—industry leaders repeatedly focused on how this technology will be used in the enterprise.
I had the chance to attend this summer and was blown away by the passion and innovation, as well as the responsibility the attendees felt to bring these technologies into the mainstream. Experts agreed, the device ecosystem has not reached a point in design or need (yet) where a consumer would use it for day-to-day activities. In the enterprise, however, it is already possible to run a pilot program and show a return on investment with this technology.
Why AR is built to make work easier
A number of AR startups on exhibit at AWE solely focused on enterprise use cases and needs. There was even a session track on how enterprise customers are piloting or have already started to use AR to see productivity gains and simplify line-of-business workflows.
Here, I’m trying on enterprise smart glasses containing software that enables workflows in assembly, maintenance and field service.
Remote assistance and hands-free instructions seem to be favorite AR use cases for businesses. Multiple customers and vendors mentioned these two use cases during their respective sessions. They were able to show a rise in productivity during pilots, especially in the manufacturing of complex products.
Hands-free instructions are especially useful in scenarios where workers have to follow detailed instructions, work with multiple parts with different specifications and sometimes do so in confined spaces (such as working on a specific part under the wing of a plane). In these scenarios, using a tablet or laptop for referring to instructions is usually not the most optimal way to do things. With smart glasses, workers are able to work hands-free and use voice controls to view instructions and refer parts.
The Daqri Smart Helmet on display at AWE showcased how workers could identity faulty pipes and get real-time instructions.
Businesses repeatedly brought up the benefits of remote assistance, primarily, the reduction in travel expenditures. With remote assistance, companies wouldn’t have to send subject matter experts on site to troubleshoot and resolve issues.
Why AR is on a fast track to the enterprise
Industry standards for AR are emerging, accelerating the technology’s practicality for a variety of on-the-job use cases. Key leaders in the industry are working with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA) to create such standards for AR.
While there are many devices on the market today, there aren’t one-size-fits-all AR glasses on the market. To help meet a customer’s specific use case, AugmentedReality.org launched the Augmented Reality Glasses Buyer’s Guide to help companies choose the right device for their business needs.
AugmentedReality.org Co-Founder and CEO Ori Inbar, in his keynote session at AWE, asked the audience, “When your glasses-wearing workmates, playmates or classmates perform better than you – can you afford not to wear?”
Early adoption of AR raises security flags
Business units already are piloting AR devices in small numbers without involving IT. When they are ready to go to production, they find that IT requires security policies to be met before they can approve the use of the device. Customers and vendors alike at AWE stressed the importance of involving IT during pilot programs to identify security concerns that need to be addressed prior to a production rollout.
Security and compliance for AR will be critical to ensuring the technology doesn’t just enter the workplace but also transforms it over time.
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