Office worker wearing 3d glasses with augmented reality screens over glitch effect background
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Augmented Reality is not a new technology — in fact, it's just over half a century old now, as it was first developed in 1968 at Harvard University by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland. It has been used for decades through the use of head-mounted displays for simulations in the aviation and military industries, and has been improved by everyone from labs at universities, to corporations and the military.

This market has been growing and each year we ask is this the break out year for this technology. With that said, IDC predicts AR/VR spending to increase to $18.8 billion in 2020, a 78.5% increase over their 2019 projections. Furthermore they expect the lion’s share of that spending to be done in the commercial sector.

What can AR do to help your organization? Well, there are many benefits to using AR that can enhance your business right now. In fact, this article will show that many familiar companies are already doing just that, along with how it is providing them with real value. 

Augmented Reality Takes the Store to the Customer

AR is being used by companies such as IKEA, who have leveraged the technology to provide their customers with the ability to experience firsthand just how IKEA's furniture would look in their homes. It is a unique experience to be able to place a virtual piece of furniture in your home, and see what it would look like if it were actually there.

Converse, is getting in on AR too. Providing an AR-enabled Shoe Sampler app which enables customers to see how Converse shoes would look on their feet. Converse and IKEA have created mechanisms that more deeply engage than typical apps that simply drive customers to market, as their AR apps allow users to visually experience the products as if they already had them. 

These deeply engaging apps answer the question of what will this product look like on me, or what would it look like if I had it in my home?

Another example, the app from Beauty supply company Sephora's  not only allows online shopping, but includes an AR makeup area where prospective customers can try on blush, eye-shadow, lipstick, lashes and more. The product is virtually applied to the user's own face using AR. No photos are even required, as it is done in real-time without even a click. Using the app is a very fun, useful entertaining (and enticing) experience for those who wear makeup and accessories.

AR Enables Unique Opportunities for Immersive Reality

Other content creators are delving into AR in ways that haven't been tried yet, such as the creation of an AR-based social network. Snaappy is doing just that — enabling users to create AR videos and location-based messages. Users are able to create and experience location-based AR throughout their own cities through the creations of other Snaappy members, all of whom are using the Snaappy app on their mobile device.

Some business models, such as WallaMe, are engaging people in a way that gets them out into the world in search of AR experiences, in much the same way that Pokemon GO did several years ago. It allows users to leave AR-based messages pretty much anywhere, and on anything, potentially including products, in the real world, and once a WallaMe-using friend has the location, they are able to go to that location and view it live.

AR Provides Children With New Levels of Interactive Experiences

Other AR-enabled companies have included BIC Kids, whose DrawyBook app has enhanced the whole creative drawing process for children, allowing them to view their drawings through the DrawyBook tablet app, and then add even more colors and shapes to their artwork, experiencing the awe of bringing their artwork to life.

European grocery and general retail brand Tesco partnered with Disney to bring Disney's Frozen-branded products sold in Tesco stores to a whole new level, enabling parents and their children to explore a Frozen-branded sticker book and take selfies of their kids with their favorite Frozen characters. The use of Augmented Reality changed the experience from simply looking at a book into something that the children would talk about for days, often sharing the resulting pics with their friends and family members.

AR Provides Safety Technology for Automobiles

Jaguar's Virtual Windscreen uses head-up-display technology, along with software-enhanced effects to show the driver real-time data that is able to interact with physical objects that can be seen through the windshield of the vehicle.

GMC (https://www.gmc.com/) is also entering the AR arena this coming year with its 2020 pickups using AR to provide a “transparent trailer view” option. By using a camera view (which shows up on the dashboard screen) that comes from the back of the trailer being towed, they are able to superimpose the image over the actual view, essentially making the trailer that is being towed disappear.

Mercedes (https://www.mbusa.com/) has been working with AR-enhanced navigation for a while now, layering instructions over objects in the live camera view on the navigation screen. The view on the screen includes street names, turn instructions and the addresses of buildings, which all show up at the approach of the upcoming turn. They already have plans to move the AR from the dashboard navigation console to the windshield in upcoming models.

Additionally, car makers such as Audi, Porsche and BMW are experimenting with AR as a way of engaging with prospective car buyers before they ever head to the car showroom, enabling them to experience the cars as they imagine them, selecting options and colors, or engaging with them in an AR-enhanced game-like experience.

AR Allows Workforce Training Without Risk

AR is now being used by the United States Army, who recently signed a much-debated $480 million dollar contract with Microsoft to license their HoloLens 2 technology for training, simulation and combat. The military's version of HaloLens, which is called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, features its own version of night vision, and will initially be used for training, but will be fully capable of being used in actual combat. Soldiers see the IVAS as a “combat multiplier” that makes them a deadlier fighting machine, and increases the effectiveness of their training, taking soldiers to a whole new level.

The U.S. Army isn't alone in using HoloLens technology for training. The Mercedes-Benz Global Training center in Stuttgart, Germany is using HoloLens to visually examine the inside of cars as they work on them, using the transparency provided by AR to see details that would otherwise be concealed from view. Engineers are able to become more familiar with the complexities of Mercedes automobiles than they would otherwise be able to experience by using HaloLens technology.

 AR  Means Enhancing Customer Experiences

As you can see, there is already ROI for companies that enhance their businesses with augmented reality. It can involve using HoloLens or Magic Leap goggles, or it can be built into products such as automobiles, or more simply incorporated into mobile apps. There are many innovative companies using AR to enhance their customer's experience, entice them to purchase products, enhance workplace training, and provide immersive, interactive experiences. 2020 is likely to see more companies take the opportunity to use AR to bring real value to their businesses