By Andrew Mort
Augmented Reality (AR) is fast becoming an accepted part of our lives. A recent survey indicates that more than 68 million people are already using AR, and that number is expected to grow to 85 million by 2021. This rate of adoption has prompted Goldman Sachs to predict that AR will be an $80B market by 2025. Meanwhile, Gartner estimates that by 2020, AR applications on mobile devices will be adopted by 30% of large enterprises as part of their digital transformation strategies. New Augmented Reality enterprise use cases are constantly being discovered. Business leaders should focus on those that offer real value and can make significant and lasting impacts on their organizations, such as field services, logistics, training, user manuals and immersive analytics.
1. Field services
AR technology is on its way to becoming firmly entrenched in the field services industry. The ability to utilize a hands-free collaboration tool like AR, where graphical information is displayed over a physical environment, provides technicians with all necessary data and instructions in real time. Using a head-mounted device (HMD), a field technician can view a digital overlay of the equipment and see step-by-step instructions explaining to proceed. If additional help is required, a remote expert can provide real-time visual guidance overlaid onto what the technician sees. Augmented Reality enterprise use cases such as this are all about helping technicians quickly execute field repairs and avoid errors. These virtual field service tools deliver clear cost savings, enable faster repair times, decrease costly repeat technician visits by increasing First Time Resolution rates, extend expert reach, and streamline the training of novice technicians.
Scope AR developed AR versions of paper standard operating procedures (SOPs) in a manufacturing environment for a global pharmaceutical company. Using Microsoft’s HoloLens as its HMD, the AR solution was deployed over a 24-hour shift and resulted in a 25% reduction in task completion time and a total elimination of quality deviations.
AR technology empowers logistics staff by providing the right information at the right time and in the right place, an efficiency that is especially important to complex distribution networks. In warehouses, AR-enabled HMDs can be used to improve processes for product picking and packing, assembly, inventory management, and to assist with the training of warehouse staff. For example, a worker can see task instructions overlaid on their HMD, which can be configured to assist with GPS navigation within the facility or with auto-reading of barcodes.
With a DHL Trend Research Report estimating that drivers spend 40% to 60% of their time locating the correct boxes for their next delivery, there is a clear need to find ways to slash this wasted time. For example, with AR technology, boxes could be overlaid with digital information that would highlight the package slated for the next delivery.
BMW has piloted the use of smart glasses at its Munich plant to display picking information in the worker’s field of vision, while barcode scans enable interaction with the warehouse management system. The pilot resulted in a 22% reduction in inventory identification time and a 33% reduction in errors over a typical eight-hour shift.
AR-based hands-free devices are proven to be an engaging and efficient training tool, as they can overlay virtual tutorials onto wearable equipment to provide new personnel with quick, visual demonstrations. Clearly, it’s much easier to learn when viewing a digitally rendered 3D model than a 2D diagram.
Augmented Reality enterprise use cases like this are especially effective when it comes to highly complex tasks. Boeing implemented an HMD for assembling wire harnesses for commercial aircraft, which helped the company cut production time by 25% and lowered error rates to nearly zero, while improving safety and enhancing the consistency of their SOPs. Japan Airlines also uses AR to provide supplemental training for engine mechanics and flight crew.
4. User Manuals
Replacing user manuals with immersive, visual AR experiences helps customers navigate initial product setup, configuration, troubleshooting, and routine maintenance. From the enterprise standpoint, AR-delivered instructions achieve better results, significantly alleviating the pressure on the service operation. There are fewer calls to contact centers, less need to dispatch technicians to customers’ homes, and decreased return rates due to lack of customer product knowledge. The most advanced AR user manuals are built around Computer Vision technology, which auto-identifies an issue and guides the customer toward self-resolution.
For example, IKEA’s AssembleAR app — built on Apple’s ARKit — utilizes the original diagrams in the paper instructions, but overlays them with animation and life-size references to simplify the assembly process. Nespresso enables users to scan their packaging and get step-by step coffee machine descaling instructions. And Hyundai’s app allows a motorist to point their smartphone at different parts of their vehicle, at which point AR overlays display information such as how to change the air filter, engine oil, or brake fluid.
5. Immersive analytics
The benefits of data analytics for enterprise decision-making are well known. However, with growing volumes of data, 2D visualizations and manual processes limit companies’ abilities to detect data patterns and derive actionable insights. AR can provide new ways to visualize and make better sense of these complex datasets, providing real value to decision-makers. Immersive analytics — the combination of immersive technology and Machine Learning — enables multiple departments to view, analyze and collaborate by visualizing data in 3D.
AR in immersive analytics is relevant to any area of an enterprise where collaboration is necessary. Virtualitics offers an interactive and collaborative office environment, perfect for communicating and sharing insights with stakeholders across business units. Instead of a team of engineers discussing a new product using a 2D presentation and printouts, participants can access the same AR environment and view a 3D model of the prototype, making collaboration easier and smoother.
By combining virtual and real-world experiences, AR creates more engaging and interactive experiences, and is even more powerful when combined with Computer Vision AI capabilities. Enterprises should take note of the leading Augmented Reality enterprise use cases that can have a significant and immediate impact on almost all areas of a business and help the company on its journey toward successful digital transformation.
This article was first published on the TechSee blog.