Once reserved for science fiction, augmented reality (AR) is now infiltrating the workplace. Advances in computer vision and IT software have seen the technology integrated into glasses and headsets that are poised to dramatically change everyday life, as well as how we do business.
Augmented reality works by overlaying virtual elements, such as 3D images, sound, and text, on a real-world view. Many AR headsets also let users make gestures with their head or hands, or use voice commands to control the device.
But why is it so revolutionary?
First, it’s great for streamlining product design. Its advanced visualization features can reduce the need for physical prototypes, speeding up design and shortening time to market.
It can also boost workplace efficiency by giving employees instant, hands-free access to real-time information. For example, it could allow factory floor workers to identify the right tool or process without referring to a computer screen.
It can also make workplaces safer. Some companies already use smart AR glasses in interactive safety training, where hazardous situations can be simulated in real workspaces as a 360-degree experience. Workers can also use vocal commands to call up required information whenever they need it.
Other key areas where AR is being trialed include:
As the technology evolves from pilot projects to big business, Gartner predicts the AR/VR industry will generate US$72 billion in device revenue alone over the next decade.
AR is growing into a global phenomenon, and the Middle East is no exception. The area’s commercial AR market is expected to boom as the technology attracts investment in segments such as distribution and services, real estate, manufacturing, and resources.
A common anxiety of the digital age is that technologies like AI-based automation and robotics will potentially replace millions of human jobs. AR promises a brighter future because, rather than replacing workers, it expands on human potential, allowing people and technology to function better than they could alone.
So what kind of AR future can we expect? AR technology is being produced that provide realistic CG images blending with surroundings in real-time, enhancing design and production processes in the manufacturing and construction industries. AR is also being built into sunglasses, and it’s even being tested in contact lenses, which could make it as ubiquitous as smartphones.
Ultimately, AR is set to radically reshape how we do our jobs, replacing phones, computers and other input devices with a dynamic virtual workspace we can take anywhere. It will no doubt have a major impact on how we work, learn, connect and play.