Top 3 Augmented Reality Commercial Use Cases

If you’re a business owner, marketing manager or software development manager, the time to start thinking about Augmented Reality (AR) is now. If you haven’t already, it’s worth taking the time to understand how AR technology is evolving and how it’s likely to impact your business sector. It’s also worth taking the time to understand how AR fits into your current software offering and how you can potentially extend your desktop/mobile app into AR. Interest in AR related technologies is exploding right now, as innovators and early adopters seek to understand the ramifications of this emerging, rapidly growing and highly lucrative commercial opportunity. When it comes to workforce/sales enablement and customer experience/interaction related applications, the opportunities associated with AR could be enormous and have a profound impact on your company’s existing operations and how you do business. We recently explored how to develop apps for Hololens, the key facts your business needs to know about AR and the impact of Apple ARKit on businesses and brands. Today we’re exploring the impact of AR technology on different industry sectors and focusing on the top 3 Augmented Reality commercial use cases.

Augmented Reality Market Value
Commercial interest in Augmented Reality technologies is starting to grow rapidly, especially with new mobile-based innovations such as Apple ARKit. The launch of ARKit is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, ARKit enables brands and businesses to kick-start an AR initiative that can potentially tap into millions of consumers using existing iOS11 compatible devices. This effectively makes ARKit the biggest AR platform in the world. Secondly, it means that if you’re a business or brand considering deploying an AR app or prototype, your vision is not constrained to developing software for a heads up display (HUD) such as the Hololens, which has a much narrower reach in terms of audience size. Having said that, HUD’s provide some compelling commercial use cases that fit extremely well in certain situations. Overall, the AR software market is starting to generate a significant buzz because brands and businesses now have a quick way to an extend an existing software offering into AR via ARKit by accessing millions of iOS devices.

Companies are now starting to take notice of the capabilities of AR technology across a diverse range of business functions, from sales enablement to field worker use cases and many more. The emergence of AR technology presents significant opportunities for brands and businesses to transform the way they operate and interact with their customers. AR has the potential to completely redefine business operations and the way customers interact with customers and stakeholders. Taking advantage of the commercial opportunities requires agility and the ability to develop something quickly. There will be lucrative commercial rewards available for brands that move quickly into AR, as competitors ponder the benefits of a mid to long term AR initiative. The trick is to get something up and running in AR quickly and ARKit offers a highly compelling and risk-managed approach to experimenting with an AR app or prototype.

It’s envisaged that Ar will be a significant driver of growth within the technology sector as a whole. It’s estimated that by 2020 the AR software market will exceed $100 billion in value. Analysts predict that by the year 2020 that 21 million AR headsets will be shipped within a 12 month timeframe (this represents a compound annual growth rate of 78% between 2015 and 2020). Total revenue generated by the AR market are also anticipated to grow at a rate of 73% during the same timeframe for dedicated AR hardware sales, in addition to mobile driven AR, AR content and AR software development revenues. In terms of AR market growth, these numbers make for compelling reading. From an IT spending and commercial standpoint, the question is which vertical business sectors are most likely to be impacted by the emergence of AR technology, and what can be done about it. ABI Research has conducted research that indicates revenues will be split between a number of key industry verticals, including manufacturing, retail, education, healthcare, entertainment and retail. The report suggests that healthcare and manufacturing will be early adopters of AR software and will account for 54% of the overall market value. It’s suggested that healthcare and manufacturing/engineering verticals will drive adoption of AR software due to increasingly progressive technology adoption habits combined with compelling use case applications.

What is the difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
Augmented Reality is designed to enhance or expand real life by injecting virtual objects into the end users real-world surroundings. AR is a partially immersive experience, whereas Virtual Reality is a fully immersive experience that completely divorces end users from the real-world. It’s suggested that AR has the potential to be a larger market in terms of applicable use cases around enterprise problem solving and industrial process efficiency, whereas VR is a better fit for gaming and entertainment. Here are some of the industry sectors that are likely to heavily impacted as AR technology starts to infiltrate mainstream awareness:

Retail
If you’re a retailer thinking about how the next wave of technological innovation (particularly AR) will impact your software offering, there will be huge opportunities to get ahead of the competition in the next 2 to 3 years. One brilliant example of how AR is impacting retail is the ARKit app designed by Ikea. Ikea’s has teamed up with Apple to develop a consumer facing AR experience that enables users to visualise how furniture will look in the context of their own homes. The application is being designed to reduce buyer dissonance and accelerate the decision making process when it comes to browsing and buying new furniture online. It’s said to be the first AR app of its kind in terms of its ability to help customers make buying decisions quicker. Ikea has now stated that all new furniture products will be made available through the ARKit app first, before its website and printed advertising mediums. It’s estimated that when the app launches there will be more than 500 products available to view in 3D in the context of your own home. Until recently, developing AR apps was confined to HUD’s such as the MS HoloLens, which represented a serious barrier to entry for retailers (very few consumers own an AR enabled HUD). However with the advent and launch of ARKit, this changes everything. Retailers now have a means of targeting millions of iOS users through ARKit which provides a compelling commercial justification for investing in the technology.

If you’re a retailer wondering about how AR software can benefit your business, the time to start thinking about an initiative is now. For most retailers, the physical retail location is the strongest company asset. Ikea has over 400 stores globally and is now seeking new ways to complement the existing retail experience using cutting edge AR technology. If Ikea’s vision for the technology is likely to be successful, chances are that competing furniture retailers will be quick to develop similar experiences. As the technology becomes more prominent and useful from a consumer perspective, having an AR app will go beyond being a ‘would like’ sales and marketing tool to a ‘must have’. If you’re a retailer considering the impact of Augmented Reality and how it can be used to accelerate your customers buying intent, we’d love to hear from you.

Industrial Field Services
Thyssenkrupp recently unveiled an app for Microsoft HoloLens which has the potential to completely redefine the way in which field workers operate. The company, who specialise in elevator service operations, has equipped 24,000 field engineers with the HoloLens device in order to streamline and optimise the efficiency of its current operations. It’s estimated that the global elevator service industry is currently worth in excess of $44 billion per annum and that there are more than 12 million elevators used by over 1 billion people on a daily basis. As such, maintaining smooth operations and conducting vital repairs in a timely manner is a critical consideration. Using the Microsoft Hololens, engineers and service technicians will possess the ability to visualise site specific problems before arriving at a job. The technology will also provide remote, hands-free access to technical expertise and information whilst on the job. This represents a huge shift for Thyssenkrupp who will be able to dramatically increase the speed and efficiency with which jobs can be conducted, helping to cut costs throughout the entire business. Initial experiments indicated that the HoloLens enabled field workers to accelerate their job times by over 400%. By minimising the need for technical experts on site through remote working, the company can also cut costs dramatically.

The launch of the Thyssenkrupp initiative for HoloLens comes at an interesting time as global revenues for elevator related services are set to rise by 5% to a value of $56.3 billion by 2019. This growth is being driven by rapid urbanisation throughout the globe, meaning that big cities are constantly growing taller and bigger. This means that the requirement for technology has never been greater in terms of reducing overcrowding and moving people around in the most efficient way possible. Thyssenkrupp has combined the use of web driven IoT enabled sensors with AR to produce a compelling solution capable of meeting these challenges. But it’s not just the elevator industry that can benefit from AR technology. If you’re a business involves field services, there’s never been a better time to start thinking about how AR can drive increased process efficiency and cost reduction.

Engineering
Engineers working for Japan Airlines have developed an application for engineers and mechanics that enables them to train new employees. The images produced by the HoloLens enable the mechanics to experience photo realistic environment, whereby a 3D hologram of a jet engine appears as if it is suspended from the roof within the room. Using the HoloLens, trainees can stand beside a life-sized representation of the jet engine and take it apart. This enables the trainee to explore the structure of the jet engine in greater detail and understand how it connects to other components within the aircraft system. Historically, this type of training solution has been constrained by the availability of jet engines and components that are not currently available or in use. This has always meant that training in relation to understanding jet engines has been difficult and often impossible to achieve with a heavy reliance on the use of textbooks and flat 2D images of parts and components. Using the HoloLens app, engineers can explore the parts of a Boeing Dreamliner 787 engine without having to open up the aircraft itself. This type of HoloLens based solution represents a step change in the way mechanics are trained to fix parts associated with the newest jets.

Japan Airlines is not the only company currently using HoloLens applications for engineering purposes. Nasa is also using the technology to train and educate astronauts and to enable workers at ground control to directly visualise what astronauts are seeing in space in real-time. If your business involves physical prototyping, complex manufacturing and assembly or QA, new technologies, particularly AR, are changing everything. Not only can AR be used to accelerate learning, development and understanding of complex machinery and parts, it can also be used to replace traditional physical prototyping processes and reduce (or negate) the requirement for the use of increasingly scarce and costly raw materials. This helps innovative engineering firms to bring new products and services to market in the shortest possible timeframe.

Conclusion
It’s no secret that commercial interest in Augmented Reality is starting to explode. As the capabilities of new technologies rapidly improve, the commercial potential across different industry sectors becomes increasingly apparent. It’s not just retail, field workers and design and modelling that’s being transformed by the advent of AR, industries such as healthcare, financial services, product design, marketing and sales enablement and many more. If you’re a brand or business interested in developing an AR app or prototype, we’d love to hear from you. From ARKit, to HoloLens, DAQRI, Epson Moverio and more, we can help your business to extend its software offering into Augmented Reality. Whether it’s an innovation workshop, prototype/POC or a fully fledged AR offering, contact Mozenix today to get the conversation started.