Spatial Transformation: 6 essential steps to drive AR success in enterprise

"You can't use an old map to explore a new world." – Albert Einstein

For the past decade, a focus on digital transformation has been the hallmark of any successful, modern enterprise. From IoT, big data and AI to integrated collaboration tools that flow seamlessly between desktop and mobile, the digital revolution has changed the global business landscape dramatically. Customers expect response times within seconds. People have more options than ever to choose where and how they perform their jobs. The power of human machine interactions and continued advances in machine-learning have redefined the nature of work. And recent world events have pressure-tested the digital capabilities of businesses in ways that never could have been expected. 


In his 1995 Yale University thesis titled, “Spatial Computing,” Simon Greewold’s abstract defined spatial computing as “human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces.” Greenwold noted,  “It is an essential component for making our machines fuller partners in our work and play.” 


Smart cities, 5G mobile broadband, advances in end-point and cloud computing, 3D data visualization, IoT, digital twins, and virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are all becoming ubiquitous. For the first time since Greewold wrote his thesis over 25 years ago, the convergence of the digital and physical worlds is no longer relegated to science fiction and academia.  As we look forward to the next decade and beyond, a new wave of transformation has arrived — and  it is spatial. 


Though broad awareness of mobile AR with geospatial capabilities occurred when Pokémon Go exploded onto the scene, the true value is being leveraged in enterprise applications across virtually every industry.  From remote assistance to training to collaboration, Spatial Computing has advanced into a technical reality. While there are challenges in deploying any new technology, businesses not yet actively engaged in AR and spatial projects risk getting left behind. For enterprise transformation leaders, it is essential not to forget the lessons of the past, but also realize that the path forward to spatial transformation is not yet well traveled.


Let’s take a closer look at what I call the 6 essential steps to spatial transformation:


01. Align your AR strategy to your company’s digital strategy and transformation goals

The first step in a successful spatial transformation journey is to make sure that your overarching AR strategy is aligned with the goals and outcomes of your business.  Your spatial transformation program will look very different depending on if your organization is looking to drive new growth or optimize for higher efficiency. With Magic Leap, we have been able to support a wide spectrum of use cases - from enabling new disruptive business models in the health space with early stage startups to improving operational efficiency for large scale manufacturing companies. Having a clear idea of ROI goals is vital in measuring success. Spatial computing and the high-end AR capabilities it delivers are being tested and trialed by innovative companies all around the globe. But time and time again I meet with innovation teams that cannot answer the question of, “What problem are you solving for your business and why do you think AR is the right solution?” 


02. Obtain leadership commitment from C-level executives through middle management 

After you have your high-level spatial transformation strategy aligned to company goals, it’s time to seek commitment from your key stakeholders. You should plan that these leaders will want to have input into your plans and I recommend engaging them in your strategy early. As you gain their commitment, be sure to ask them how they want to be connected to the project. Some leaders may be comfortable with regular updates while others might want to be more involved. I find most modern leaders want to be actively involved in spatial computing projects. There are only a few times in a leader's career when a strategic inflection point and something as magical as augmented work converge. Who can blame them for not wanting to miss the opportunity to be part of the process? 


03. Choose a strategic starting point with clear outcomes for AR efforts with continuous monitoring of progress 

It is at this point that the “rubber meets the road.” It’s important to identify a starting point that clearly sets you and your team in the direction of achieving your strategic goals. Be sure to define clear outcomes, measurable KPIs and ROI projections. In a recent project with our partner Taqtile, a leading manufacturer set a goal to improve time to resolution for machine maintenance tasks. Their maintenance procedures were taking 2 hours to complete, and reducing that time meant the machine could go back online sooner.  This is a good example of a clear goal and a measurable ROI and Taqtile anticipates that as mass roll-out occurs, this effort will provide meaningful operational improvements. 


04. Retain knowledgeable partners and expertise aligned with your vision and goals

To maximize your chances of delivering a truly transformative project, sometimes you just need to “phone a friend.” Spatial computing is new and ever-evolving, and establishing a relationship with a knowledgeable partner-- especially one with experience executing enterprise-class AR projects-- will help you avoid common pitfalls and unnecessary complications. Consider what you might need early on in your journey. It’s much more cost effective to engage expertise early rather than after you’ve run into a snag.  


05. Deploy the crawl-walk-run methodology of deploying new technology by starting with quick wins to generate momentum within the organization 

The brilliant Martin Luther King, Jr.  once said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” This is an often repeated phrase in business. Whether this resonates with you or leveraging an agile approach makes more sense, the most important next step is getting started. Often starting with a very simple use case or prototype can go a long way toward engaging key stakeholders and inspiring team members. Throughout the last decade companies have embraced the agile approach to launch new businesses and deploy new technologies. It is crucial to take small and decisive steps that allow you to generate quick wins and learnings and prove potential ROI to your organization. Many people simply don’t have any frame of reference for the power of spatial computing. It truly is a case where “seeing is believing.” 


06. Test, measure, regroup, refine and scale the highest value use cases, then repeat

This sixth step is where the real magic happens. It is an active and continuous process of learning with any new technology. You will fail along the way and it is okay - you want to do this early on and you will generate a wealth of learnings that will help you in the long-run. The leading manufacturer I referred to earlier was able to reduce their 2-hour machine maintenance procedure down to just 40 minutes. Whether it’s a complex technical procedure or a routine task, augmenting a worker’s environment with context and spatially aware content can result in measurable improvements in productivity and even the company bottom line. 


As mobile technologies have changed consumer and enterprise behavior for the past decade, we strongly believe that AR and spatial computing will be the next generation computing platform for this decade. The ability to understand your surroundings contextually and overlay the physical words with a digital one will unlock the next wave of digital value creation and disruptive business models. Organizations have learned over the last decade the power of digital transformation and it is a continuous journey. We believe that you should not wait to start engaging with AR and spatial computing transformation.