Augmented reality (AR) still feels like something of a novelty. It is a technology we are all aware of exists but has not had a breakthrough moment to make it ubiquitous. Despite there being no real turning point where the public has decided they need AR, it is still present in our everyday lives.
Smartphones dominate the technology market. For AR to stand a chance, it has become both useful and entertaining by utilizing this existing technology. We think of the dog filter on Snapchat as a fun addition to our photo album rather than the adaptation of AR technology it is.
But then there is wearable technology, the way we always imagined AR would come into our lives. Smartwatches are enjoying over USD 12 billion significant market share in this area, but their AR capabilities are limited and inconvenient. While smartwatches are as aesthetically pleasing as the Apple Watches series, they work better as smartphone extensions.
Smart glasses can corner both the AR and wearable tech markets. Google Glasses have not taken over the tech world, but the possibilities not abandoned. Like smartwatches, some glasses feature fitness trackers and heart rate monitors but also the chance to separate from the phone.
AR, both on smartphones and smart glasses, has distinct advantages in the business world. As the technology grows and its value increases, companies who are ahead of the curve will feel the benefits.
Training new employees using AR satisfies all types of learners when the traditional classroom training comforts only 30% of the population learning by listening. Approximately 65% of students learn by seeing, and the remaining 5% need to engage in an activity to grasp the requirements.
Using augmented reality technology allows trainees to learn within a real-world environment, with instructions displayed to them via a head-up display. Using simulated training allows teaching employees quickly and efficiently.
Investing in proper training is investing in your staff and business. Properly trained employees lead to a reduction in turnover, meaning no further cost hiring new employees after losing the initial hires. One study finds that the average cost to hire a new employee is USD 4,129. Filling the position can then take weeks, and that is more lost revenue if nobody is doing the work in the meantime.
Developing AR apps is not cheap but cannot be thought of in the short-term. As long as it takes USD 28,000 to develop a training program that used over several years, the costs balance out. Based on the average cost of a new hire, keeping seven staff is enough to show improvement, but there is no need to keep all of them if the training routine remains the same.
2. Communicating solutions
In a similar process to how AR complement training, it can help to communicate ideas to established colleagues in a real-time environment. If there is a fault with machinery, for example, one worker can wear smart glasses and transmit the image back to a computer using the in-built camera.
Utilizing AR does not mean everybody wears glasses or a headset. It could be the case that only one person needs to wear them while information streamed to a colleague at a computer. While smart glasses show and assess the problem, the colleague can search for a solution online, order relevant parts and make repair recommendations remotely.
While smartphones also have video calling, AR on smart glasses displays mechanics beneath the surface.
It would be short-sighted for all business benefits to the only stretch so far as the warehouse walls. A reported 77% of Americans own a smartphone, providing marketing opportunities with the camera in their pocket. Marketing through AR does not even require potential customers to leave their homes. Roughly 40 million Americans currently struggle with some form of anxiety disorder, many of those will actively avoid leaving the house when possible.
If we consider fashion retail as an example, customers want to know how they would look in an item. They may be put off by the fuss of travelling into town, potentially discovering an item is out of stock and trying an item on if it is there. With AR, an image of the item layered on to the person through their mobile device.
It is not only fashion people may want to see in their homes. IKEA Place is an app intended for users to virtually place furniture within their homes. It is the second most popular ARKit app. The popularity of the app shows the uses for AR beyond gaming - currently the most commonly downloaded genre of AR app.
If you are designing a prototype, the first instinct may be to build it for testing. With altered reality, a prototype can be tested in a real-world scenario before it even exists. Head-mounted wearables allow technology to analyze space as you see it and add on images to replicate how a product would fit.
By only building prototypes after several phases of digital development, a company saves costs in manufacturing and labour. How much money this saves over time depends on the type of business, used materials, and how often prototypes built.
It is worth noting, this is also a distinct advantage of virtual reality, but the expenses would be more significant than AR. Augmented reality tech is likely to be more adaptable to your business with lower development costs for apps.
We are already familiar with maps as a feature on smartphones, but they have a downside; you always need your phone out and on display. If someone is in London for business, for example, their phone in hand is a risk as phone theft on mopeds continues to blight the city.
Syncing with your phone or using in-built maps allows users to navigate a city like a local. For businesses that involve extensive travel, such as consulting firms, being in new places is common. Appearing uncomfortable in a setting can mark an individual as a target.
Smart glasses are not the target for theft because not recognized value to the general public. Even as the technology gains more popularity, the tech will not necessarily become obvious. Smart glasses developed to look and function more like a regular pair of spectacles. Vuzix offers prescription lenses so you can wear the glasses even when the AR is off.
6. Collaborative working
We have covered how to use AR to show a problem, but there is an aspect that encourages teamwork for better results. Collaborative working is possible with or without technology, but this is one that adds an extra level of engagement.
Some industries, such as construction, have high requirements for the technology. Augmented Reality technology helps to see how things will fit via a computer-generated image of the complemented environment. Should it looks appropriate - everyone is happy with a change. If not, it is time to save money by not implementing an unnecessary build-up.
It is not just workmates who benefit from such a working environment. Professionals can show clients perspective changes the same way. Interior designers can deliver their ideas with a solid visual and gain approval before any work done.
7. Reducing costs-long-term
Though the initial investment in AR will range from reasonable to significant dependent on if you invest in multiple devices and developing apps. However, if used properly, the costs should be outweighed by savings over time. Staff training times will reduce, meaning they can be productive earlier and make money for your company.
Prototyping digitally and envisioning uses saves production costs for labour and materials. If colleagues can convey information as they see it to a digital screen, it can increase remote working.
Increased remote working and the consumption of fewer resources lead to benefits beyond your company. Without the commutes and production of materials, there are environmental benefits. Fewer vehicles will pollute the air stuck in rush hour, saving air quality and wallets. Fuel is expensive, with both employees and managers wishing they could spend a little less.
There is no other cost reduction except the one that affects the planet.
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