The rise and rise of Augmented Reality for business
Handheld Technology

The rise and rise of Augmented Reality for business

In the light of all the recent hype about Virtual Reality (VR) many people have been banging the drum for Augmented Reality (AR) instead. This is partly because the technology is more ready-to-use and partly because it may have more obvious practical use cases – especially for business.

The workplace potential for a bespoke smart helmet - like Daqri for example – is clear across numerous industries. While Blippar, which overlays extra information onto objects via smartphone, hit the headlines at the start of March with its close of a $54 million Series D funding round.

Blippar, which launched in 2011, already shows an interesting trajectory of development. Originally used as a kind of updated version of QR codes in advertising and marketing, it now also serves up informative content on real-world objects like plants, animals and food. The natural next step will be a move into schools to create easier visual learning experiences.

The biggest thing that everyone is missing is something that we are already working with, and love - the Trojan horse for AR that is our smartphones,” suggests Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia, a video hosting platform that is expanding its offering with VR and 360 video.

“Expect smartphones to evolve in terms of how they present information; it's not going to be just about showing things on a small screen anymore,” he adds.  

Savage believes AR is going to be huge for industries where consumers make design-oriented purchases. And more fundamentally, “it will be seamlessly woven into our lives”.

“In the future, people will be surprised by why we used up so much physical space for screens in our homes and offices, when we live in a world where a screen can be anywhere,” he says, AR is going to open up an entirely new plane for conversation that companies previously never used. If there is a communication benefit to be found, businesses will find it.”

Then there is the less pragmatic, more sci-fi approaches to AR, like Magic Leap. This raised the largest round of C funding in history earlier this year on the promise that it will superimpose 3D computer-generated imagery directly into your field of vision. This is nowhere near ready yet but the cash is there to deliver, and while it might be more fun than useful, it certainly gets people interested in the technology.

Paul Roehrig, Global Managing Director of Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant believes the real potential for this technology though, will start: “When Augmented Reality connects with the Internet of Things (IoT), and sensor data can be ‘seen’ and acted on by enhanced workers, entirely new businesses and jobs will rise.”

He envisages a future where surgeons could pull up relevant extra information during an operation, a mental health professional looking for subtle signs of progress, or an insurance worker in a disaster zone trying to get families moving again as quickly and accurately as possible.

Despite many suggestions around the business benefits of Virtual Reality – mostly in training, sales presentations and innovative forms of healing – there are many more obvious uses for AR. This is already being used extensively in manufacturing – Epson’s smartglasses have a solid business market.  And there are numerous commercial and health benefits to be found in adding extra information to the physical world that simply won’t be found in immersing yourself in a new one.



Further reading:

Augmented Reality: Consumers, gorillas and unicorns

Epson VP talks binocular smartglasses and European expansion

What does the Blippar deal mean for Augmented Reality?


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