Stuck in the middle
Augmented reality (AR) opens up endless possibilities for marketers. But what will be its sweet spot? Some have argued that AR will be the next big letdown, but AR just needs to find its niche.
Early AR successes have buoyed marketers’ hopes for mainstream adoption. IKEA and Tesco, for example, use AR to allow customers to ‘see’ furniture products in their own home.
But while exciting, these cases do not necessarily mean AR will go mainstream. We can’t ignore the roadblocks. Sometimes, the solutions are gimmicky or don’t work as advertised, leaving users asking, “What was the point?”
Other times, there are more systemic problems. Google Glass caused privacy concerns and was banned from many businesses before it even had a chance to succeed.
Some speculate about a dystopian future where we can’t escape ads or other digital ‘enhancements’ to our day-to-day lives. Anyone who remembers flashing, moving, pop-up ads knows that new technology can quickly wear out its welcome. So, if AR needs more time to go mainstream, in what industries can it develop and thrive?
Augmented Reality in manufacturing
It may not be as sexy as an intuitive home furnishing app, but AR has serious business benefits to manufactures and industrial operations, where uptime, accuracy and productivity are crucial.
AR technology can be used along with sensors to revolutionize day-to-day maintenance in factories and assembly lines, enabling the machine to ‘tell’ workers what’s wrong and provide a visual representation of potential failures before they happen. Companies including Airbus have been using AR since 2011, superimposing virtual images over products as they’re built.
With the aid of AR glasses or a smart device, engineers can get a visual representation of the fault or abnormality. This predictive capability gives companies an advantage, and makes their maintenance operations safer, faster and more effective.
Augmented Reality in healthcare
The healthcare industry has some fascinating uses for AR that can improve the way doctors work and even save lives.
Medical students at the Cleveland Clinic use AR to interact with 3D representations of the human body. This provides a more complete picture of what’s going on and improving the way they understand diseases and treatment.
AccuVein developed a handheld scanner that projects onto skin, showing where veins are and reducing the pain and anxiety of getting blood drawn. An app called AED4EU quickly shows users where to find an automated external defibrillators (AED) in an emergency.
AR could have wide-reaching implications as it is adopted by medical professionals who need to visualize and understand vast amounts of information.
Augmented Reality in automotive industries
In addition to improving car manufacturing, AR could also be handy for drivers. AR-based features projecting real-time information, such as directions, speed, etc. onto the windscreen allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
The newest developments take it a step further: Using GPS and sensors to pick out objects in the car’s environment to improve obstacle detection and avoidance. AR could become very useful in marking busy city streets safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. As driverless cars more closer to reality, even more applications for AR begin to emerge.
Mainstream use of AR might be some way away, but adoption across key industries will help people become familiar with the technology; making them more open to new applications and services. With the backing of major companies, AR will benefit from even greater development leaps over the next decade.