Is augmented reality opening a new productivity frontier?

March 24, 2016

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A look at some companies that are using augmented reality to boost productivity-and what AR advances might mean for you.

Augmented reality (AR) is quickly becoming an important technology in the enterprise. Here are a couple of examples:

AR is the technology that integrates or merges digitally generated content (checklist, data, image, chart, audio, video, etc.) with the view of the physical or real world. For instance, displaying instructions directly on top of the equipment to a mechanic who is repairing it.

The power of bringing information to the point of action in a seamless, unobtrusive manner is undeniable. Deskbound workers, sometimes also called knowledge workers, have grown accustomed to such power. But, many workers do not work at a desk (sometimes called “deskless workers”). They need persistent engagement and interaction with the physical world. Whether it’s the field technician in an oil field, or a maintenance worker for an airline, or a factory worker in manufacturing , they all depend on their hands being free to accomplish tasks. The PCs, laptops and tablets that serve deskbound workers well come up short for deskless workers, since they fail to facilitate hands free interaction.

AR solutions are changing this. Smartglasses are emerging as an important form factor for delivering AR solutions, especially in the enterprise. Their appeal stems from the fact that they are wearable, much like eyeglasses, and are also hands-free, thereby allowing a user to be engaged with the real world for doing work.

Today, the AR ecosystem is symptomatic of early days of any emerging technology: there is fragmentation across vendors, form factors, operating systems and technologies. There is also a lack of standards for sharing data and defining user interactions. Barriers to adoption are in terms of device size, weight, performance, battery life, comfort and cost. The silver lining is that innovation is robust and progress is rapid.

Key technologies that will shape AR’s future

While AR capabilities will evolve through loosely coordinated development in many technology areas, the following four areas will be key to improve the adoption of smartglasses:

  • Optics: Optical performance is at the core of AR experience as it generates the display the user sees and interacts with. Optical enhancements are necessary to improve the quality of the display, the field of view while reducing the size and weight.
  • 3D capabilities: While today’s 3D capabilities are good, progress is needed across tracking, processing, and display to ensure the virtual world and the physical world match precisely and change in real time according to user movement.
  • Authoring: Tools that enable the creation of compelling content tailored to the environment, to the work context, and to the user are needed to fuel the development of many more use cases and solutions.
  • Interaction: AR solutions are pushing human-computer interaction beyond keyboard, mouse, and touch-screen methods. Advances are needed in gestures, speech, eye-tracking, motion tracking, and other new methods to enable interaction with information in 3D space.

Over the next few months the Technology Forecast will publish a collection of articles and interviews designed to provide a realistic assessment of the pace at which the AR technology and solutions will emerge.

What questions are on your mind when you think of augmented reality? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

 

 

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Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffrey

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email