With the release of the smash hit mobile game Pokemon Go, and increasing buzz surrounding new startups like the mysterious Magic Leap, 2016 is the year that placed augmented reality, or AR, solidly on the business map. AR is meant to allow us to interact with our physical surroundings in new and increasingly more organic ways, and until now, a lot of the perception of AR has framed it as entertainment, the next big thing in movies and games. A look at the financial future of AR technology shows it could be a $90B dollar market by 2020, with games and other entertainment being a big chunk of that pie, generating revenue through app sales, subscription services, or in-app purchases.
However, those same reports speculate that an even larger chunk will be dedicated to eCommerce, the buying and selling of products online and through mobile devices. The biggest part of the AR pie, however? Hardware sales, at more than a third of projected future market share. This category includes wearable computers and other technology that allow consumers to interact with the AR experiences. This expansion of available technology will lead to a corresponding expansion of utilization, with AR developers making good use of all the new tools that will become available to them.
Financial reports show a growing potential for the use of augmented reality in business models, and the possibilities for how a smart business might make use of AR to promote their product, sell their merchandise, or simply make their business run more smoothly, are growing every day. Consumers will be seeing more and more AR in their shopping experiences in the coming years, but here are a few ways that businesses are using AR today.
#1. Wearable Technology for Industry
In the Oil and Gas industry, being mobile and flexible is vital to creating a successful business model. When so much of your infrastructure is in remote and sometimes hard to reach areas, having access to computing power to help workers complete necessary construction or repairs can be a nightmare. Wearable technology, more specifically AR glasses and the software that runs on them, can help bridge the gap for many heavy industry applications, from showing rig workers exactly how to make a repair, to assisting surveyors with identifying and accessing new reserves or deposits, by allowing users to be on-site more of the time, creating a more efficient workflow and saving time and money.
#2. Next-Level Prototyping
When entrepreneurs have a vision for a new product or technology, it can be easy to see where they want to go with it, but hard to get there. Prototyping new products can be an incredibly expensive and time-consuming process, with many iterations often required before a perfect, marketable version of the next best thing can be brought to investors. With augmented reality, inventors can create virtual models of their technology that they can interact with in real time, and in the real world, allowing them to spot issues and refine their product much further before moving on to physical prototyping.
When a business’s products are stored in the sort of sprawling warehouses that are commonplace today, getting products and people from point A to point B in the least amount of time can be quite the headache, especially when it’s not one person or product, it’s hundreds. AR navigation is already solidly in the public consciousness, with car HUD technology expected to roll out for the common consumer some time in the next 5-10 years. However, industries of all sorts can take advantage of these kinds of technology right now, allowing warehouse workers to navigate via tablet, or wearable computers, and get products where they need to go much more efficiently and with far less human error.
#4. Virtual Showrooms are Showstoppers
When it comes to selling merchandise online, the most advanced sales teams might use video files, or, if a company is particularly cutting edge, 360-tour type experiences. These methods are an attempt to recreate the experience of handling a product in person, and sometimes they can fall a little short. AR can help bridge that gap significantly, by creating experiences that help customers interact with the product, or give the consumer more information at a gesture or word. AR can even augment the in-person shopping experience by creating “virtual salespeople” that are always on hand to answer questions or demonstrate features. These features would free up the work hours of employees and give shoppers a personalized, interactive experience that is controlled by the business to ensure highest quality, and that the specific message they want to promote is getting through to their consumers.
#5. AR Business Cards
When it comes to making an impact on a potential customer or business connection, the business card is an old, well-used tactic. Giving someone a tangible reminder of who you are and what you can offer is a great first step, and with AR, it’s possible to take that reminder even further. The person with an AR-enabled business card could view that card with a smartphone or a tablet and unlock features like further information, video files or pitches, website links, and even apps or other programmed features that help the holder of that card know exactly who they might be dealing with.
What Does the Future Hold?
These are only a few examples of the many ways that business are expanding into the AR market today. Companies from Ikea to Topshop are finding ways to use augmented reality, and even those are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a growing technology with new applications being discovered every year, and new possibilities as hardware advances alongside. With tech giants like Microsoft and AR startups like Magic Leap alike going for broke developing software and hardware elements, augmented reality is a market with practically limitless possibility, and huge potential to increase profit for businesses of all kinds.
Images: Author’s Own