The Future of Augmented Reality in Business
Since the 1980’s the technology to be able to remove oneself from this reality and place them into another simulated reality have been possible. Augmented and Virtual reality has been steadily gaining in popularity for the past 40 years. Looking back to where it was and to where it is today is amazing. According to Ryan Kaiser from Deloitte Consulting, Augmented Reality is a computer-generated image that is in the same field of view as the real world. While Virtual Reality is a computer-generated image that is 3-D allowing the user to interact and place them in that virtual world (Kaiser, Ryan). Many have experienced AR in their lives without knowing what it was. For example, every Sunday while watching the NFL one can see the yellow line marking the first down, this is Augmented Reality. Or while watching tennis and seeing the computer-generated image determining if the ball landed in play, this too is Augmented Reality.
The use of AR and VR is now shifting from end-user to business to business because augmented and virtual reality will it increase employee productivity and overall profits for the companies. When AR and VR were first introduced the only people who accepted it was primarily gamers. Currently, the most up-to-date VR systems are the Oculus Go and the HTC Vive. Both devices have been dropping in sales since they have been introduced to the market. Dropping as far as 30.2% in end-consumer use according to (Foster, Alana) from IBC.org. On the other hand, investment into AR/VR for a business has never been higher. As of 2016 corporate investment into this technology has risen 230% from its previous year, and 150 fortune 500 companies have rolled out the use of AR and VR for their employees (Kaiser, Ryan). Why are enterprises investing in this technology while the end-user consumer has flatlined for the use in AR and VR? Many argue because of the potential it has for a business. In a survey conducted by paychex.com, 60% of the 2,000 employees cited they waste an hour or more of work per day. Perhaps the employees are disengaged and demotivated from doing their work, due to poor communication, low levels of engagement between managers, or high employee turnover. Whatever the reason may be, AR and VR harness the potential to turn that around in a company and increase overall revenue for the company. Augmented Reality is leading the way in improving worker performance. From 2011 to 2016 productivity within employees has only risen 0.3% per year. Comparing this to a 3% increase per year from 1996 to 2005 (Sanders, G.I.). The demand for highly skilled workers in the industrial and manufacturing market keeps growing, and higher productivity is expected. AR has been helping improve productivity with workers who don’t have the skillset to do the work. General Electric is using a combination of machine and human. Wearable AR gear is provided to employees since it can provide the necessary information needed to fix the issue while allowing the worker’s hands to be free to work without a disturbance. This perk will significantly drop the time needed to do the job since the worker does not have to flip through a manual for instructions. The instructions appear in front of the viewer directing them on how to fix the issue step by step. AR has improved productivity in wiring harness assembly by 25% for Boeing company, and at GE Healthcare a warehouse worker can complete a picklist order 46% faster using AR technology rather than a traditional checklist (Kaiser, Ryan). By investing in this technology, it will overall help the productivity of the company. It allows workers to do high skilled jobs effectively and without mistakes. VR/AR has applications in training and education that help with enterprise productivity.
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How it works
VR provides an immersive experience for the user in training or learning a new job. Airline industries are utilizing this technology such as Japanese Airlines for training co-pilots in the cockpit and engine mechanics. Prior to this switch, they trained employees through basic video and manuals. Providing the workers with VR headsets for training will give the workers a more immersive and real experience, where they can apply this knowledge to the real world (Moscaritolo, Angela). Health care professionals are now understanding the positive effects VR has on their doctors and their patients. VR applications help people retain information easier. During a simulation for surgeons, they were able to retain 80% of the total information shown to them as opposed to only 20% when listening to a lecture according to (Kaiser, Ryan). With more information, retained hospitals can spend less time and money on retraining medical professionals on procedures. The ability to collaborate as a cohesive unit is another big factor why large corporations is gravitating towards AR/VR. What was mentioned prior in the article, one of the most common reasons for unproductivity and demotivation is the lack of collaboration. When companies provide AR and VR to their employees they can collaborate with their peers on a virtual level.
Technologies such as smart glasses allow the employee to receive real-time feedback on a process of problem they are attempting to solve. For example, with General Electric again, when the employee needs help he can be aided by a colleague who can see exactly what the other is seeing to provide accurate feedback. Having this cross geographic collaboration will be able to empower the employee knowing they have support from other employees. In the automotive and euro space industry augmented and virtual reality are helping with the collaboration between designers and engineers to really see each other’s vision and ideas. BMW has the designers construct a virtual prototype of a car and test the car in a real-world simulation. By doing this it improves the design process making it faster which will yield more profit because it is then cheaper. Currently according to (Kaiser, Ryan) from Deloitte a world-renowned accounting firm. Nasa has been designing the next Mars rover virtually through AR and VR technologies. By doing this scientists and engineers around the world can contribute to the design and build of the rover. Each person can see exactly what it will look like to the size and scale of the object because they are placing themselves in that virtual environment.
Using augmented reality to sell objects can increase sales and customer satisfaction by a large amount. Ikea is one of the pioneers of using augmented reality for the consumer experience to increase sales. When Ikea allowed its customers to test its products using AR before making the purchase the company was able to cut down on the returns on products and had an increase of 2.3 billion website visits in one year alone (“Augmented Reality That Boosted Business”). The widely known makeup company L’Oreal has seen a vast increase in consumer sales after providing an AR experience on their app. Launching the app in 2014 it allows consumers to “use” the companies products in real-time (Team, Trevis). The following year their e-commerce sales reached $1 billion and 5% of all sales were online (Team, Trevis). The greatest example of how influential AR can be for a company’s sales is Pokémon go. According to Molly St. Louis a writer for Adweek magazine, Pokémon go was the fastest gaming app to reach $500 million in revenue making $1 billion in 6 months to break a record (St. Louis, Molly). The 92-year-old candy company PEZ has seen an increase in their overall sales for 2018 when providing the user with 6 different games to play using their dispenser (St. Louis, Molly). The AR-based game has the user save the PEZ world by collecting candy codes. The codes are distributed at random to entice the customer to purchase more to collect all the codes.