Came from a science-fiction concept to a science-based reality, Augmented Reality (AR) is frequently considered with games like Pokémon Go and other such recreations, but this innovation has developed past the gaming area. Today’s AR uses digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike the Virtual Reality (VR), which contains a completely different environment, AR has the existing environment with information overlayed on it. The AR apps are written in a special 3D program in which an animation or contextual digital information is involved to work in the real world.
It all started with a fairy tale book in 1901 when Frank Baum, a famous American author mentioned AR kind of technology in his book, “The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale.” The book describes the adventures of a 15-year-old boy to whom a demon gives various gifts including the gift of ‘Character Marker.’ Today, AR technology has become a real thing, and not just a science fiction concept. It has rather quickly emerged as a technology that can solve key operational problems across different industries. Recent breakthroughs in AR include Google Glass in 2013 and Microsoft’s HoloLens in 2015.
Here is a portion of some popular industries that are utilizing AR technologies:
Manufacturing industries are implementing AR in their manufacturing processes such as design, training of employees, maintenance, repair, and assembly.
In the design process, the design team can see potential designs of the machine or its parts just by wearing an AR headset. The designers can leave comments in AR, access prototypes, make changes in them. The engineers can also compare how an already assembled model matches the initial design.
- Assembly and maintenance
While doing assembly and maintenance of a machine, one doesn’t need to carry a laptop because every machine part is right before the eyes. With voice commands, employees can discuss with each other to solve complex tasks. This made the identification of fault sources and repairs in a machine quick and efficient.
The trainees can view the live holographic rendering of the machine parts as well as the instructions and guidance related to the particular equipment, which makes it easier and more exciting to learn new concepts.
AR in education will soon affect the conventional learning process. Students can learn about the things, which they can’t see directly, like DNA, genes etc. in all angles. They can also look inside organs which can give them an overall idea about it. This makes the classes more engaging and interesting for students. AR technology has the ability to render the elements and turn them into 3D objects, which are hard to imagine because theoretical knowledge is not enough to obtain practical skills. Teachers can show the animated content, including 3D models, historical data, and fun facts. In turn, students can scan any element from their books and receive the text, audio or video tips related to it. Potentially, AR is the best way for students to gain practical knowledge and to visualize the complex concepts.
AR innovation is positively upsetting the universe of healthcare. The technology is converting complex medical ideas into more simple and easy to understand 3D visuals. In addition, AR offers realistic 3D perceptions of the organs from the diverse points, enabling the specialists to make exact decisions, which in turn, increases the success ratio in medical operations. Surgery requires monitors in the operation room to show the statistics and images are delivered by an endoscopic camera. Due to AR, surgeons can wear smart glasses during operation and stay focused on tasks. AccuVein is a handheld device which scans the patient’s body part to display veins on the patient’s skin so that doctors can easily locate the veins before inserting the needle.
AR is also adding life to the static advertising mediums because it allows customers to see the ads in a 360o environment, which means, viewers can see ads in their peripheral vision. Users can experience virtual tours in the store to learn about products or services. Marketing organizations are advertising their products by taking the AR technology to a large-scale campaign. Recently, a company installed AR mirrors with face-tracking technology in the bathroom of a cinema hall, which certainly shocked the people as well as marketed the company products. The mirror was actually an AR system including a camera with 65-inch full HD screen, which was connected to a single computer running Windows 7.
A comprehensive 2018 study shows that more than 75% of fashion retailers plan to invest in AR in the year 2018-2019. AR is changing the form of the fashion industry by providing customized assistance to help them choose the right product.
For instance, one can try on shoes using an AR mobile app. Another retailer of fashion products incorporated AR into their in-store mirrors called as magic mirrors. Customers can try thousands of fashion products of different sizes and brands without actually wearing them and they can see a full version of themselves wearing those virtual apparels.
By using Google Tango AR technology, customers can create a shopping list in the app, which will guide them to the exact product in the store. This indoor geo-location technology is a mixture of computer vision, depth processing and special memory combined in a single package.
For many countries, tourism is one of the most essential industries in their domestic economies. AR has brought the excitement and enhanced travelers’ experiences. Just by holding the phone up and waving the camera around the building, shop or any historical structure, AR will show more information related to it, for example, the dimensions of that structure, history related to it and lot more facts. The user can also look at the nearest restaurant, attraction, tourist attraction, information center, and places. Moreover, AR with natural voice recognition will translate voice in real time for the two persons talking in two different languages.
Additionally, users can access 360-degree visits to the restaurants, guest rooms, hotels prior to the booking without going anywhere.
A navigation app with AR can provide directions, route, next stop and places of interest by simply pointing the phone to the transportation object. For example, one can turn a metro map or other maps of a city into an interactive guide in multiple languages. Some navigation apps use a smartphone’s GPS and camera to employ AR-powered GPS navigation system. The AR app features a real-time camera preview to check conditions on the screen without impacting driving safety, which promises better accuracy than other conventional navigation apps. While driving a car, using the phone for navigation can take the driver’s eyes off the road for a second and it can divert the driver attention, which is very unsafe. A heads-up display (HUD) known as Navdy with integrated AR solved this issue. The connector cable connects directly to the ODB cable of the car, and it draws power and information from the car’s computer. It can easily be attached with the hook and magnet system on the dashboard of the car. The display needs to be connected to the smartphone using its app and doesn’t need an internet connection throughout the journey, due to its inbuilt GPS system. The preinstalled voice recognition system enables the user to make and answer calls, SMS, and play or pause podcasts, music or radio.
The AR innovation is widely embraced by e-commerce retail industries in helping clients to try what they need. An eyewear company is utilizing AR to sell their products. According to the instructions, the user has to record a selfie video of the face. The related video will be uploaded to the AR engine and it looks so realistic that one can see exact replications of oneself trying different eyewear goggles of their choice. A reputed eyewear company implemented this technology and came up with impressive results. There was a 20% increase in user engagement with their website. AR can analyze and match the products for every type of face and skin, and the user can easily find out what suits them and make the purchase. A furniture company uses AR to place their products in real time to know how they will look after installation so the user doesn’t have to worry about space requirement for the furniture.
Food and Beverage Industry
A recent report suggested that AR helped the people to visually guess the actual size of the food portion so that they can order proper food as per their requirement. In QR-based AR system, by simply scanning the QR code of the restaurant through the AR app, the customer can easily access the menu of the restaurant, check the dish ingredients, see the serving size of the dish in 3D, and watch the actual video of how the food is prepared. Additionally, they can pay the bill and even comment in the app about the food customization. After scanning the QR code, AR app downloads all the data related to the product in the AR experience, which can be later accessed easily. AR glasses are used for the training of waiters such that, hotel waiters can be trained in their actual surroundings.
Product Development and Troubleshooting
Smart engineering machines with marker-based AR technology enable the user to repair them and perform the basic service procedure step by step from the start. The marker technology is implemented by PTC, Inc.’s own AR software, ThingWorx Studio, which understands engineering data, product structure, and sub-assembly. All these data about the machine is stored and encoded in the marker for AR scanning. For instance, if a motorbike has the marker data patched on it, then after scanning the marker, it will show battery level, fuel level, tire inflation etc. Engineering CAD data is of very high fidelity and is built to do highly sophisticated things like manufacturing, CFD Analysis, which is Gigabytes of data, but ThingWorx studio reduces that data to less than 10 Megabytes making the process compact and lightweight to encode it in the AR marker.
In spite of the fact that AR is advancing continuously in every industry, it is yet to be utilized to its enormous potential. AR is enhancing the manner in which brands associate with the clients and boosting the customer engagement. According to the new research report, the AR market is expected to grow from the US $2.39 billion to the US $ 61.39 billion by 2023. The increasing demand for AR devices and applications in healthcare, retail and e-commerce and rising investment in the AR market are the major drivers for the growth of AR technology.
The upcoming years are going to be breakout years for AR because there are software creation platforms that are empowering developers to build new AR experiences, and it is becoming a much more valuable and strategic implementation for the brands. This highly anticipated technology with a huge scope of development will continue to evolve and change the way people interact with their machines and surroundings.