AR excels at helping us visualize data in a real-world context and at connecting people remotely -- two common areas of enterprise that have been crying out for innovation.
Executives are already missing opportunities by not investigating augmented reality as a workplace tool for their business. There are a few key areas of business where AR-enabled solutions are already offering tangible advantages.
The incredibly scalable nature of augmented reality -- accessible from dedicated headsets to simple smartphone apps -- makes it ideal for remote technical support. For instance, using AR, technicians would no longer have to try to explain a fault in machinery to an engineer since the engineer would be able to see the issue from their own point of view, and potentially diagnose the problem remotely. One of the key metrics for support issues is time to resolution -- a measure of how much downtime is lost while equipment is offline. AR can help resolve these types of issues more efficiently.
“We have a factory in South Florida and a partner of ours has a factory in Guadalajara,” explained Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson when she appeared on the "Leadership Next" podcast. Due to COVID restrictions, “we couldn’t send engineers back and forth. We were trying to bring up our next-generation product and all travel stopped. So we have our own production engineers in Guadalajara who may not be familiar with this new equipment for the next-gen product. They can make calls back to our engineers in South Florida who can see what they see. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know that we’ll put engineers on airplanes in the future.”
In a recent webinar, Taqtile CCO Kelly Malone noted that frontline workers no longer have to wait for someone to be available or for a supervisor to free up time. “They can reach out to a colleague who’s familiar with the system. And because it’s integrated, they can see [through the device] who recently worked on the machine, who authored the procedure, and who else performed the job. That information is actually right there, at their fingertips, so they can reach out to knowledgeable individuals instead of making a scattershot call and hoping the person they reach out to knows the answer to the question.”
The ability to create detailed 3D models that are viewable in AR means that design teams can work remotely from the same data with greater confidence. Unlike 2D video conferencing, designers can collaborate in AR on prototypes and products while each sees the model as if it were in their hands. AR solutions, like Magic Leap, augment traditional collaboration approaches by not only enabling deeply immersive remote collaboration, but also adding context and knowledge to in-person communication.
This aspect of AR is at the heart of MakeSEA, a design visualization platform available on Magic Leap. Designers can upload 3D computer models of their work to a library, which can then be shared with their collaborators. As the design evolves, so does the model in the library, ensuring everyone is always looking at the most recent iteration.
As with remote assistance, this collaborative function of AR is now helping to shape our next generation headset, Magic Leap 2. “The 2D experience with our current video conferencing doesn’t quite fit the needs that design teams have. We can now gather our teams in my own physical space here. I do it often,” explained Peggy Johnson. “I can bring my teams in using the Magic Leap headset, and we can look at our next-gen product, make changes, move it around, expand it, walk around. It’s really been a tool that’s going to go on post-pandemic.”
Over the past few years, all of us have been getting used to connecting with our teams over video calls rather than around the boardroom table, but inevitably there is a frustrating sense of disconnection that comes with it. The shared space and viewpoint that AR business meetings offer means that they are more collaborative and engaging, as attendees can view and interact with objects rather than sitting passively watching a slideshow.
Spatial is one of several companies using Magic Leap for its virtual meeting platform. Among Spatial’s clients are Mattel, Ford, Purina, and international banking group BNP Paribas. “Spatial is the only solution we want to use for meetings from now on,” said Florian Couret, BNP Paribas’ Head of Digital Innovation. “We use Spatial on Magic Leap for real estate development planning across several offices. Being able to review 3D information and feel like we’re actually in the room with colleagues helps us cut down on a lot of travel.”
(Image: Gemba Walks, courtesy of Ericsson)
Augmented reality can truly redefine what the traditional idea of a company “meeting” looks like. The concept of the Gemba walk is well established, and AR has obvious benefits for companies using this technique, something that communications giant Ericsson has been exploring using Magic Leap. Ericsson’s AR-enhanced Gemba walks show managers context-relevant overlays, pulling from back-end data on resource planning, equipment efficiency, analytics, and shop floor performance, as they walk around their smart factory. The headset even allows them to make and receive video calls on the move so that issues that are identified can be raised and shared in an instant.
Traditionally, rolling out training programs for employees across a large company is time-consuming and often requires hiring specialist trainers and bringing them into multiple workplaces or sending staff out to external sessions. Either way, the cost and logistical requirements are steep. With AR learning, staff can be instantly connected to the best trainers in the world, across all your locations, and benefit from the same hands-on tuition wherever they are.
Magic Leap partner Talespin has not only been creating new immersive platforms to deliver AR training, but it has also conducted an in-depth study of the benefits of extended reality (XR) training solutions in conjunction with PwC. Among their key findings, they found that users of XR training picked up new skills 1.5 times faster than those using online e-learning and four times faster than those in a classroom environment. The same statistics also applied to learner focus; those learning in AR/XR were four times more engaged than class-based learners and 1.5 times more focused than e-learning users.
Most importantly, the PwC study found that the ROI from XR staff training kicks in sooner than you might think. For companies looking to train just 375 staff members, using augmented reality can be cheaper than physical classroom learning. At 1,950 staff members, it becomes more cost-effective than e-learning.
It can be tempting to think of augmented reality as something only relevant to cutting-edge technology startups, but it already has the power to improve any company -- particularly at the enterprise level -- with practical improvements to essential processes. Those benefits won’t only be felt in the C-suite either. One of the long-term advantages of wearable technology like AR is that it brings data and connectivity to deskless workers who have traditionally not had that access.
“I believe [AR] will be deeply integrated into the workflow processes of companies,” said Peggy Johnson. “Frontline workers don’t usually go back to a desk with a PC on it, and [AR] can be the PC for those workers. I think it will be very empowering for something like 3 billion frontline workers in the world today who don’t have that kind of access and the tools that we take for granted.”
There are already everyday uses of AR that are directly relevant to enterprise companies. Those who aren’t investing in AR right now are not only missing out on immediate benefits, but they risk being left behind as the technology matures.
Stay tuned for our final installment in the “Augmented Reality 101” series. If you missed the previous posts, they’re available here: