It’s just another Monday morning at your augmented reality (AR) office. You begin your day by putting on a headset that transforms your AR desk into a futuristic workstation. On your right, you’ll see a shelf containing a selection of tools and apps that you use on a regular basis, on your left, you have the staff directory that you can scroll up or down using some subtle hand gestures. And right ahead of you? That blasted document that needs some touching up before you send it off to the boss (you can see his messages blinking in your peripheral vision).
The global AR and virtual reality (VR) market is predicted to be worth more than $200 billion by 2022. Already, we have witnessed a number of companies invest, develop or launch a range of AR devices and applications. Here's a look at eight AR companies that are changing the digital workspace.
What is AR? And How is it Changing the Workforce?
First, we need to clarify the difference between AR and VR. AR superimposes digital images and information against the backdrop of the user’s real world. VR, on the other hand, goes a step further by immersing the user into a complete computer-generated virtual environment.
Adnan Raja, vice president of Orlando Fla.-based Atlantic.Net, commented on how AR technologies can help to improve the productivity and experience of workers. “Rather than replacing humans with machines, augmented reality provides a new way to enhance the ways that machines and humans work together. Augmented reality can improve design speeds and reduce the amount of time it takes for a product to get to market by erasing the need for a physical prototype. It also improves safety and compliance efforts.”
Furthermore, Simon Wright, director of AR/VR at Daly City Calif. Genesys, explained how AR technologies not only streamline processes in the workplace, but in customer-facing situations as well. “Using AR is much quicker than trying to describe verbally how to fix something complex. It's much easier to show [the problem and solution], which is what our customers appreciate about it. This capability cuts down on time and effort, and saves money in the process.”
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UK-based firm Blippar has developed AR technologies that have benefited a range of different sectors. Blippar’s AR creator helped Cisco reduce customer support issues and become more efficient when installing machine devices. With Blippar’s technology, IT Technicians were able to see how to install the different machine parts via an AR overlay on top of the actual device. This experience removed the need for manuals, thus increasing efficiency by 30 percent, and first-time accuracy by 90 percent. Blippar has also collaborated with HSSMI, a manufacturing innovation institute, to enable workers to attain virtual safety training qualifications in their chosen language.
Microsoft entered the market with HoloLens, an AR headset that aims to improve productivity in the workforce. The headset is already being used by ThyssenKrupp, an elevator manufacturer, to view digital overlays of manuals and guides as they repair the elevator. In addition, HoloLens gives technicians in the field the ability to collaborate with remote experts. At ThyssenKrupp, offsite workers can see what the engineers are seeing, and advise accordingly.
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Silicon Valley startup Meta unveiled their second-generation AR product, Meta 2. Similar to the HoloLens, Meta’s biggest selling point, according to their website, is its 90-degree “field of view” that enables virtual objects to occupy a larger percentage of the screen.
Users can create multiple browser windows, which essentially mimics having multiple screens in real-life, and view a 3D hologram of a project. Users can also resize or rotate the screen by grabbing on to corners of the screen. Meta 2 also features a range of games and recreation applications.
4. Magic Leap
Prior to the release of Magic Leap’s AR headset, Leap One Lightwear, earlier this year, the Florida-based startup raised $2.3 billion from big names like Google, Alibaba and AT&T. The Leap One Lightwear headset is aimed at software developers and artists, and features the LuminOS operating system, a “spatial” web browser and a video player that places numerous virtual displays in front of the user.
To assist engineers installing electrical wiring on an aircraft, Boeing developed and tested its own AR technology to provide real-time, hands-free, interactive 3D wiring diagrams right before engineer's eyes. During the testing phase, Boeing has theorized that the AR technologies have shown a 90 percent improvement in first-time quality and a 30 percent reduction in the time required to complete the job.
In the automotive industry, Bosch created a development platform (CAP) that allows for device-independent AR applications. In a field of study at Bosch Car Service workshops, they discovered that the use of AR applications achieved a time savings of 15 percent and allowed mechanics to see the location of hidden components along with instructions and repair guides. This helps to avoid undertaking any unnecessary disassembly and assembly work. CAP also allows for the development of training applications as well.
In the construction sector, the SmartReality app, developed by JBKnowledge, enables engineers and architects to see their 2D designs and plans projected as 3D models through smartphones or tablets. Mortenson Construction, one of the companies that used the app, stated that the app helps architects get a “better feel of spatial recognition” of the final product before construction commences.
In the medical sector, AccuVein is an AR handheld device that allows nurses and doctors to scan a patient’s body to make a vein appear visible. According to a study presented at the Infusion Nurses Society Conference, there was a 45 percent reduction in escalation calls following the deployment of the AR device. Plus, 81 percent of nurses reported that using AccuVein resulted in an improved ability to cannulate (the procedure to introduce a thin tube into a vein).
Know of any other AR companies making inroads in the digital workplace? Let us know their names and stories in the comments below!