Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a 10-year roadmap for Facebook. Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) are central to his vision for the future of the Internet, and Facebook has even announced plans for consumer AR glasses.
Some see this as Zuckerberg signing the death-warrant for the smartphone. After all, who wants to be tied to a smartphone screen when you can have smart-glasses that project wall-sized images wherever you need them?
The key questions for me are: How quickly will this technology be adopted? And what does it mean for the enterprise?
Most analysts are predicting that the enterprise AR market will lead the consumer market. Even Facebook thinks that consumer smart-glasses are at least five years away from becoming a ubiquitous fashion accessory.
We predict that enterprise adoption will be much faster, driven by the need to improve safety, productivity and efficiency.
5 Killer Use-Cases for Enterprise AR
With that in mind, here are 5 killer use-cases for augmented reality in the enterprise:
- Connecting remote workers: We are seeing massive benefits in effective collaboration by facilitating hands-free communication channels. This allows a remote expert to see exactly what the worker sees and direct them to complete tasks. Some examples of this scenario are: engineers on an oil-rig; linesmen on power-poles; or medical first-responders treating a life threatening injury.
- Assisting with complex tasks: Using AR to overlay instructions has been proven to reduce error-rates in manufacturing assembly by as much as 90%. When it’s critical that the job is done right, smart-glasses are used to overlay precise instructions on to the work area and guide the worker through each step accurately.
- More efficient warehousing and logistics: Logistics accounts for 9% of Australia’s GDP – so the ability to improve warehousing efficiency has enormous economic potential. Smart glasses have been shown to provide 25% efficiency improvements for warehouse pick-and-place operations by effectively guiding the workers and avoiding mistakes.
- Enhanced learning outcomes: AR training packages are creating vastly more effective training and supervision outcomes for understanding the workings of complex equipment or high-risk environments. Supervisors are able to mentor and assess capability, resulting in higher-quality work with less mistakes.
- Real-time data & analytics visualisation: Board-room-sized, 3-D views of a business can be created to show exactly what is happening and where. This allows managers and planners to communicate effectively using real-time data and analytics, facilitating shared understanding of operations, and improved decision-making.
This is not “Imagineering” or lab-experiments. It is happening in workplaces today, with commercially available technology that works even in harsh industrial environments.
Are Smartphones Really On the Way Out?
When consumer AR smart-glasses become ubiquitous, we may find a whole range of consumer electronics become obsolete.
Currently, our smartphones are the most direct and personal connection we have with the digital world. But we become disconnected whenever we put the phone in our pockets.
In Facebook’s vision, we will remain constantly connected through our smart glasses. They will show us emails, our friends faces on Skype or directions to a new café around the corner. There will be no need for smartphones when this becomes our primary digital channel.
But I believe it’s not just the smartphone that will become obsolete.
Watching Netflix on my HoloLens gave me an idea of what the future will be like. I was able to “place” a virtual display on my living room wall and make it as big as I liked, instantly creating a large screen that was bigger than my expensive wall-mounted TV. And I could create similarly sized screens in any other room in the house, at no extra cost!
It may be that all devices with screens – tablets, laptops, TVs – become extinct.