Augmented Reality for Businesses: Practical Guide to Unlock Opportunities
Augmented Reality is sweeping the globe with dynamic information delivery and innovative ways of making and selling products and services; what is it? What can be done with Augmented Reality in business? What value can it potentially hold?
What is Augmented Reality and how does it work?
Augmented reality is a method for layering digital content on real-world spaces. It adds to or enhances the natural world as one perceives through the natural senses. The information added by augmented reality includes image, sound, or vibration. It can highlight certain things, improve understanding of an event, or provide relevant data at the point it is needed. Over the last couple of years, AR showed vast potential for improving business processes and delivering information in the digital world.
Types of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is represented by 5 below-listed major types.
- Marker-based augmented reality basically comprises a camera used by a user and a marker recognized by the camera. An image is put in the spot of the marker code, augmenting the physical reality captured by the camera.
- Recognition-based AR identifies real-world objects by barcode or QR code and then provides the user with information about the object. This type of augmented reality correlates to marker-based AR.
- Due to fast proliferation of mobile devices with GPS, businesses widely use location-based markerless AR, when objects are identified near the user's location and overlaid with AR features.
- Projection-based AR sends digital images on real-world objects creating interactive connection between them. For example, the technology can project a numbered keypad on your palm. You can press the numbers like a regular keypad and interact as dialing a phone or providing a passcode.
- Superimposition-based AR completely or partially replaces the real view of an object with a digital object. For example, user can download image of an item from a virtual furniture catalog and then it is superimposed into the home interior.
Augmented vs Virtual vs Mixed Reality – how do they differ?
- • Augmented reality adds artificial objects to the physical world seen augmented only by the user.
- • Virtual reality is an environment completely made of artificial objects. It gives a total immersion experience in which the device uses all of the user's senses to create a convincing environment. Virtual reality environments do not mimic the physical world.
- • Mixed reality combines virtual and augmented realities and uses digital and physical attributes that interact. We can place people or real-world objects into a virtual space and interact with them.
How are Augmented and Mixed Reality used in business?
Worldwide spending on Augmented and Virtual Reality expected to double or more every year through 2021, according to IDC.
Augmented reality has been part of our daily experiences for several years. Now the use of digital imagery in augmented and virtual reality devices can transform the way we do business. This digital transformation has begun in many industries and professions. AR and VR have triggered waves of innovation that can save billions and expand the range of critical needs like medical care.
Digital search is a vibrant trend. It follows voice search in the global evolution of online search. Digital search turns a camera into a pair of eyes; instead of a photo, the camera operates like the sense of vision. The device captures the object then turns it over to a brain function that interprets it. A picture of a hat can yield a seller's line of hats.
MR can build upon a base of an x-ray image of the surroundings such as a home. This technology could lead to indoor GPS and mixed reality where objects would not be fixed but move around in the mapped space with awareness of the real-world objects in it.
Brian Blau, Research Vice President at Gartner: "We predict by 2019, AR, VR and mixed reality (MR) solutions will be evaluated and adopted in 20% of large-enterprise businesses."
Augmented Reality apps for business: where is it used?
Midsized businesses and large enterprises are the primary drivers for adoption of augmented reality technologies and innovations.
Industrial Augmented Reality
Industrial processes can benefit from the use of AR at nearly every stage of processing, production, and manufacturing. AR at the enterprise level can help organize huge amounts of data and put them into interactive environments and displays.
Industry 4.0 is the age of cyber-physical systems; the smart factory or production facility can oversee its operation autonomously. It can make a working model of the real-world environment and manipulates its parts in sync with the natural environment. It can use the virtual information to interact with real objects. AR—combined with cloud computing advances, data science, machine learning and the Internet of Things development—provides a solid technological basis for Industry 4.0.
The augmented reality factory is the smart factory. It can communicate over the Internet of Things to cooperate with machines and humans. It can combine internal and trans-organizational relationships into a chain that produces value. Augmented reality is an innovation in manufacturing that advances traditional methods. The past practice of testing and prototypes can advance much more quickly and accurately with the use of environment mapping, augmented reality, and modeling. AR in manufacturing can avoid enormous costs associated with testing, prototypes, and perfecting production tolerances.
AR has the potential to keep more humans and fewer robots in advanced manufacturing. Many complex tasks require human flexibility and problem-solving ingenuity. The AR technology can enhance the human worker by providing information and assistance at the point of action. For example, a human assembly line worker can have a set of goggles that provide an overlay with instructions, responds to her voice commands and snaps specifications and drawings into view upon request.
Augmented Reality in real estate, architecture, and construction
Augmented reality business ideas do not stop there. Construction and architecture share sets of problems concerning stresses and loads in the design and building processes. AR can simplify these types of issues with its capacity for customization models and realistic presentations. One can manipulate data and insert a variety of materials or other solutions to design and building problems. Real estate can benefit in many ways. Primarily, the sales opportunities can multiply when salespeople can offer a guided walk through of any property from any location. Commercial real estate, in particular, can use the computer-generated images to model layouts and build-outs for office space, business facilities, and retail space.
Augmented Reality in medicine and healthcare
Augmented reality in healthcare has had an impact that only continues to grow. Capability exists to provide enhanced treatment and examinations with wearables. Doctors can use Glass-type devices when performing exams and call up medical records and histories in real time. They can also use augmented reality to model a difficult surgical procedure in advance of applying it in real time. The uses in medical treatment, information, and education seem boundless. Medicine must often provide service to patients in remote locations; AR can provide additional knowledge and information to remote practitioners or equip an emergency medical treatment.
Augmented Reality in sports and fitness applications
Augmented reality can enhance a fitness quest by providing information, insights, and amusement. A user can have a prize that opens up after they set a new pace for a mile run. AR can monitor body functions to keep the user in a cardio zone conducive to weight loss and fat burning. When it comes to mobile app development, sportspeople can get personalized workout videos that they can use at the gym. It is like having a portable instructor on an iPhone.
Augmented Reality for marketing and branding
Mobile augmented reality has already entered the market as a means for customer engagement and retention, implemented in a variety of business solutions. Using AR for marketing, businesses offer interactive experiences for a wide user audience, increasing brand awareness among potential and existing customers. Check our video demo to see what it looks like and what value it holds for business.
Augmented Reality for education
Augmented reality is a natural fit for many sectors of the education sector; young people already use AR on their smartphones and devices for communication, social platforms, and entertainment. Some use it for work and study, but there is vast unrealized potential. Augmented reality can make classroom learning more engaging and effective and extend the range of learning to the bounds of the student's curiosity.
Augmented Reality for indoor navigation
Considering the fact that smartphones offer the largest user audience in comparison with other AR-supporting devices, it's only natural that mobile AR is on the rise today, with viable use cases steadily emerging. For example, AR can be used in solutions to such daily problems as easy and convenient indoor navigation in large offices, hospitals, airports, and shopping malls. Check this video demo to see how it works.
Augmented Reality and real-time communication
Combinations of shared augmented reality and real-time communication technologies—such as WebRTC—allow to create remote assistance and collaboration solutions, effective and convenient for mobile users. For a good example, check this video demo.
Augmented Reality for delivery of information
One of the simplest use cases that concerns delivery of information is a manual. What could be more convenient that scanning the device for a comprehensive manual?
Our case—shown in the demo below—involves a coffee machine to keep things simple. However, this is the same perfect way to create extensive virtual manuals for more complex devices, including smart home appliances, cars, industrial machinery, and medical equipment.
Augmented Reality development for your business
AR can transform a business by reforming its basic functions and improving related processes. The key to utilizing augmented reality may be found in customized software for your enterprise or line of business. Developing or outsourcing AR solutions can accelerate your market entry and increase customer retention. AR testing will deliver user satisfaction with your product.
In development, the technical goal of AR is to blend two types of light; the light in the natural world and the synthetic light that carries an image or information that only the user can see. Augmented reality works through devices that arrange the natural light and synthetic light in the proper sequence to produce a layered effect. Most AR devices do not require wired tethers or connection to a computer to function.
Processors function like miniature computers, and they perform lightning-fast calculations to provide a seamless immersion for the user. Perception devices use sensors and cameras to capture the natural world and map the environment for true alignment of images and information. Projection and reflection use curved mirrors to add depth and texture to images. Manufacturers often combine controls in the form of virtual touchpads or voice controls that permit hands-free operation.
AR/MR involves two categories of hardware: the first one comprises iOS and Android-based mobile devices that have recently embraced AR with the help of such development tools as ARKit and ARCore, respectively. The other category comprises wearables, Microsoft HoloLens arguably being the most renowned device, which has a great deal of potential for practical applications in medical and manufacturing sectors, as well as product presentation (for more on that, check our HoloLens demo). Similar devices can be a major part of the expected boom in augmented reality from 2018 through 2021.
Benefits of Augmented Reality for business
As of now, the future of augmented reality looks promising: AR remains one of the top innovations capable of actual business-driven application. The first companies to realize and apply it will gain an edge over the competition and/or actively occupy new niches. Meanwhile, those who avoid changes run the risk of falling behind. As AR/MR hardware evolves and new devices emerge, software development companies create solutions for top market players in various industries. Let's make a brief recap of what can be achieved unlocking augmented reality for business.
- • While AR remains an innovation, it is highly engaging for your customers, who love being a part of this innovation. You can surprise them with products that are functional, visually impressive, and thoroughly personalized at the same time.
- • Mobile devices have become a vital part of the AR market. These are millions of people that can become loyal followers of your brand.
- • AR technologies are continuously developed by innovation leaders, particularly Apple, Microsoft, and Google. They will bring in more and more functional capabilities and stunning visuals over time, whether we talk about mobile apps created with ARKit or specialized HoloLens solutions.
- • Eventually, the goal of innovation is to boost your sales and customer retention. And it's not just an idea—mobile AR, young as it is, has already earned a number of successful business cases and motivated people make purchasing decisions.
Whereas businesses may have clear ideas of what they want to get, the actual creation of a tech solution and its implementation is the job of augmented reality companies like ours.
Oh, and one more thing – for a complete list of our video demos on this topic, feel free to check our Augmented Reality Demo Collection.
About the Author
Andrew Makarov is the Augmented Reality Solution Architect at MobiDev with more than 8 years of software development experience, as well as in-depth expertise in encryption, prognostics, numerical computing, and algorithmization. He is an active speaker at world's top tech events, and his latest passion is development of mobile Augmented Reality software.
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