I’ve been reading a lot about augmented reality (AR) lately and I’m getting pretty excited. I think it’s the next technological advancement to make a big difference in our work lives. It has practical uses right now, unlike other technologies such virtual reality, which is cool but is searching for use cases in the workplace.
The biggest advantages I see for AR are its ability to dig out inaccessible information from company computers and literally put it right in front of on-the-job employees wearing AR-enabled eye wear or ear buds. The benefits generally fall into two baskets, training and actual work. Let’s take a look at each:
AR is able to train people in ways never before possible. One example is a new heart surgeon learning to work on live patients without endangering the actual patient who might be a thousand miles away. Another may be a utility line worker experiencing how to repair high voltage lines without actually being there. In other words, it’s a happy medium between classroom training and the real thing… a big step forward.
In actual on-the-job use, AR will be a huge productivity enhancer. Imagine a hotel front-desk employee being able to identify return guests as they walk in the front door. The guest will be greeted by name and pre-checked in before reaching the desk. Or, think about a field technician working on a jet engine repair on the tarmac. He’ll be able to look up mechanical drawings instantly and see what’s wrong and immediately order the correct part. He’ll then be able to see an overlay animation showing how to remove the defective part and install the replacement. What about a bartender? She would be able to mix any drink, know the exact measurements and type of glass to use. Even a doctor, who would be able to examine your bloodshot eyes or the strange rash on your arm and give an instant and extremely accurate – diagnosis and treatment?
All these things are becoming possible by taking information that has been available, but buried deep inside computers and databases. Extracting this information and displaying it between the worker and the task at hand vastly expands its usefulness and immediacy. Of course, there will be cool AR games for break time too!
All of these examples are now in practice, but mostly in trials and small roll-outs. Over the next couple of years, we’ll start to see this everywhere and likely experience it ourselves.