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Getting to grips with augmented reality

19/09/16
Though augmented reality technology (AR) has been around for a while now, the recent success of the Pokemon Go game has initiated a surge of interest in its general uses and potential applications in business. This comes at a time when companies are racing to harness the power of mobile devices and use the ubiquitous nature of smart phones and tablets to their advantage. Big business is also showing its interest with large investments in, and acquirements of, augmented reality specialists by businesses such as Google and Microsoft. 

For those that may have missed the AR explosion, it is the combination of images, video, audio, GPS information and a variety of other inputs with displays of the real word environment in real time. In its most common form, this is interpreted as the overlay of video or images on a direct camera feed that shows your immediate environment. But what are its potential uses in the business world and how will companies use it in the future?      

Using data for training and to showcase products

One of the most important ways in which augmented reality is expected to help businesses in the future is by providing more realistic, interesting and complex ways of showcasing data. AR technology will allow companies to create scenarios for their employees that look and feel relatively tangible, offering graphical enhancements to a real physical environment.

Ikea has used AR to show what a sofa would look like in a customer’s living space for example, while a variety of construction firms have implemented the technology to see what a building would look like on a plot of land. AR firm CrowdOptic have also detailed ways that the health and athletics industries have implemented the technology to understand more about a person’s movement and physical condition.

AR can also be used for staff training purposes, by creating an interactive environment that can appeal to multiple senses. It offers an alternative to a lecture type scenario, meaning engagement should also increase. Microsoft has implemented an AR device to assist with Computer-Aided-Design and Computer-Aided-Manufacturing programmes while General Motors used the technology to add additional contextual information to programmes relating to its operating practices.

Engagement

Businesses are also hoping to use AR technology to improve customer engagement with their products and services. By providing a new arena in which digital content can be employed, AR has the potential to change the way information and advertising is delivered to potential customers. In the future it’s possible that businesses will be competing with one another to create the next big AR viral hit, boosting their reputation, bringing fresh customers into the fold and raising awareness. 
 
Shopping experience

In the retail world, much is being made of the radical changes AR could impose on the shopping experience. Already apps are appearing that allow users to try on cosmetics and clothes, giving potential customers access to a virtual changing room and removing one of the biggest draw backs of online shopping – the inability to try before you buy. Similarly, there are also apps that enable you to experiment with how different furniture looks in your home. The technology also allows for the possibility of object mapping and tagging, so that information on every object you see can be relayed instantaneously whenever you see it. In this regard, the possibilities are endless – imagine walking into a supermarket and having the pricing and nutritional information pop up as you browse, special offers highlighted to catch your attention and GPS information helping to guide you to specific foods.   

Wearable devices in the future


It seems that most experts expect the future of AR to revolve around wearable devices. Although Google Glass did try to exploit the possibilities of the technology, the general public were not quite as ready to accept the idea of AR for everyday use. As it’s employed more and more on those devices we already feel comfortable with and used on a daily basis, perhaps the suspicion surrounding the technology will erode and wearable devices will make the commercial breakthrough many expect.

Read our related blog: What next for the wearables in the technology market?
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