AR’s Practical Uses In Business Today
AR applications seem to have evolved toward more practical business applications. For example, sportswear company Lacoste has an app that allows in-store shoppers to place their foot on a designated spot to view the shoes of their choice through their smartphone, showing product details, custom sizes and how it would look on the customer. And The New York Times used an AR app in connection with its 2018 Winter Olympics coverage to allow users to bring up athletes on the screen to explain their maneuvers just as those moves were taking place.
The latest Apple iPad and Google smartphones feature enhanced AR capabilities through advances in camera technologies. And applications from companies like Warby Parker (virtual eyeglasses try-on) and IKEA (virtual furniture placement in rooms), among others, are providing enhanced AR experiences without the need for specialized hardware.
Further, until this year, the primary method for installing or repairing a complex piece of industrial machinery was to have an expert from the machine’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) jump on a plane and fly out to service the company’s equipment on site. Then Covid-19 hit. One of its many consequences has been a sharp reduction in business travel. But the need to service sophisticated industrial equipment in factories, airline hangars, power plants, offshore oil platforms and other continuously operated facilities hasn’t declined.
At TeamViewer, one of our solutions is remote virtual assistance and visual instructions enabled by AR. For many of the business leaders I’ve spoken with recently, AR has been the key solution for their equipment repairs during this time.
The way this type of AI solution works is a technician at the facility, using only a smartphone with an AR app, can point their camera toward the machine while an expert views that image on their own device. Using a variety of techniques to highlight critical features of that image, including drop arrows, finger-drawn circles, graphics, colors, text, Internet of Things (IoT) data and more, the expert can talk the on-site technician through diagnostics, repair procedures, replacement part identification and any other support needed to enable on-site personnel and enhance the facility’s workflow. Sessions can be easily recorded and retained for step-by-step training and instruction for real-time use in similar situations at other locations.
The Future Of AR In Workforce Training
The way I see it, the AR capability is particularly important now due to the industrial world’s shifting workforce demographics. For one thing, many technically skilled workers are aging out of the workforce. As they leave, the decades of experience and expertise they had accumulated leave with them. Those who replace them, including millennials, contractors and workers retrained and recruited from other industries, simply don’t have the experience of older workers and, in many cases, can be more difficult to retain.
Despite the much-touted journeys of digital transformation being undertaken by many companies, when it comes to their operations on the factory floor, manual manufacturing techniques often still rely on legacy tools and methods to capture information and share knowledge. A 2018 white paper by ARC Advisory Group noted that most workers on the factory floor remain disconnected from the rich informational ecosystem that the rest of the organization has come to rely on. By adopting AR solutions, the paper states, manufacturing organizations can empower their factory workers in training and guidance applications.
By integrating AR, you can lead your team toward the democratization of knowledge and solve a key roadblock shared by logistics, manufacturing and field service: the experience gap. Based on my perspective in the industry, AR has moved well beyond the proof-of-concept stage, particularly where it involves guided manual assembly and maintenance. Using it, we can equip our young employees and newcomers to perform complex tasks, leading to reduced costs, higher quality and increased on-time delivery.
To meet the growing demand, an ecosystem of AR devices powered by platforms being developed by IT giants is evolving rapidly. AR has now arrived in the industrial mainstream. In the next few years, I believe we will see it grow exponentially, transforming business processes and mitigating the knowledge gap resulting from today’s retiring generation of experienced workers.