Tech industry analysts and visionaries say augmented reality will revolutionize business.
- Augmented reality is set to be a $50 billion industry by 2024.
- You can use AR to train new employees.
- AR can also allow customers to try products before they buy.
Interest in augmented reality is exploding as innovators explore its business relevance and the roles it can play in workforce enablement and customer experience and interaction. This emerging technology holds tremendous promise for changing the way businesses operate.
AR is also projected to be an economic driver for the tech industry. Industry forecasters say the market worth for AR will reach $50 billion by 2024, according to MarketWatch. For instance, AR smart glasses are forecast to ship 21 million units in 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 78% from 2015 to 2020. Total revenues for the AR market are projected to grow with an estimated CAGR of 73% during the same time period for both dedicated AR hardware sales and mobile as well as dedicated AR content and software revenues.
But which vertical markets will embrace this new technology? Industry experts such as Eric Abbruzzese, research analyst at ABI Research, say revenues will be split between a number of major verticals – education, gaming, healthcare, industrial and retail, to name a few.
"We expect revenues to primarily favor the healthcare and industrial verticals, owning approximately 54% of the market, thanks to more progressive technology adoption habits along with strong use case applicability," said Abbruzzese.
How augmented reality is used in business
One way augmented reality is used in business is 3D modeling. This is often used during the design process for items such as homes and cars.
It can also be beneficial for training. Companies such as Walmart and Chipotle use AR to train employees. This gives them a hands-on training experience without the risk of costly real-world mistakes.
For retail businesses, AR offers a way for customers to try products before they buy. For example, Sephora has an app that lets customers see how their makeup products will look, and Wayfair uses AR to show customers how furniture will look in their home.
What's the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?
Augmented reality improves, enhances or expands real life by inserting virtual objects into the user's real-world environment. Virtual reality creates a completely virtual world that users interact with using devices that isolate them from the real world. VR grabs headlines, but researchers say AR will prove to be a bigger market over time.
Use cases for AR abound, but here are five that we consider the top ways businesses are already using AR to give you a taste of what's possible.
Any smartphone or tablet can be an AR platform to create a shopping environment for customers, whether that's within a traditional brick-and-mortar or online store. AR application company Marxent helped Harley-Davidson create an iPad app that provides a virtual shopping experience, giving customers the ability to try out different body types, seats, lights and other options for a truly custom bike design.
An online-only retailer could use AR technology to create a 3D shop that virtually replicates the experience of shopping in a traditional store. Giving customers the ability to try an item before buying it improves their satisfaction and reduces costly returns.
2. Industrial field services
Fieldbit, a leading developer of real-time AR collaboration solutions, streamlined field repair services for Israel's national water company by deploying AR smart glasses and a mobile app platform. The solution enables dispatched field engineers to access real-time remote help from experts or vendors located anywhere in the world.
AR allows the remote expert to superimpose markings, message and diagrams directly onto the engineer's field of view, and the use of smart glasses keeps the engineer's hands free to simultaneously perform fixes.
Use of AR in the field can improve safety, reduce confusion, and take the pressure off engineers who can't possibly be experts in all technologies and infrastructures. AR can empower a mobile workforce, linking workers to experts around the globe.
3. Design and modeling
AR app company Augment implemented an end-to-end AR solution for Watermark Products, a leading supplier of inflight products for the airline industry. Using Augment's plugin, designers visualize product mockups at scale using tablets. Rather than creating costly prototypes, they can give clients an AR experience that depicts side-by-side comparisons of new and old products, allowing the clients to quickly understand the impact of the proposed new products.
AR can be used as an aid to early-stage product design and development, giving designers a precise view of product form and function.
4. Training and education
AR is gaining momentum in medical education. Through a partnership between the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve, health education students can take a 3D holographic anatomy program. The program allows a Microsoft HoloLens wearer to see virtual cadavers and take a deeper dive into the human body. This ability saves dozens of hours in the traditional cadaver lab, according to school officials. Case Western also sees applications across other educational fields of study.
Using AR to train employees or students at any level of education provides an immersive, multisensory experience that's often more effective than traditional methods such as lectures, flash cards and textbooks. The result is greater depth of training and quicker mastery.
5. Repair and maintenance
In 2015, Hyundai became the first mainstream automaker to launch an AR owner's manual. Using a smartphone or tablet, consumers get how-to information for repairs, maintenance and vehicle features. The app contains how-to videos, 3D overlay images that appear when users scan various areas of their vehicle (like the engine bay) and dozens of informational guides. Hyundai expanded the AR owner's manual program in 2016.
AR makes it possible for even inexperienced people to identify problems and perform repairs by following step-by-step instructions using AR overlays, improving customer satisfaction by reducing downtime and the associated costs.