Augmented Reality Creates Business Values

Recent technological advancements have made it possible to seamlessly overlay computer-generated virtual images onto real- world objects. This is done in such a way that the virtual content can be viewed and interacted with in real-time. Known as Augmented Reality (AR), this technology has a variety of uses across different industries. The computer-generated images are essentially the result of data analytics, and AR technology is believed to have a profound impact on people’s daily lives in the future. Beyond the entertainment game Pokémon Go, AR is being applied in far more consequential ways—in both consumer and business-to-business settings. According to one estimate, the number of mobile AR users is expected to reach over 800 million and is forecasted to grow to 1.73B by 2024.

AR powerfully magnifies the value created by visualization, instruction/guidance, and interaction. To be specific, it improves how people visualize and perceive the new monitored data, how they receive and follow instructions on operations, and how they interact with the products. AR promotes business values by transforming its key capabilities into product attributes, performance enhancements, and decision enhancements, as demonstrated in the examples below.

Intelligent AR COVID-19 Social Distancing App in Healthcare

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The COVID-19 virus has spread extensively to the entire world and has caused a significant number of deaths in recent three years. A great number of measures have been taken to curb the spread of the virus, including AR-driven applications. For example, a Google-developed Sodar application enables smartphone users to be alerted if a person is closer than the mandated distance from one another.

Intelligent AR Asset Manufacturing and Repair Support App in Manufacturing

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In factories, AR can display critical information from control systems, sensors, asset management systems, and knowledge repositories to make visible important monitoring and diagnostic data about each machine to aid in the diagnostic and repair process. Seeing information in-context helps field technicians understand problems and take timely and even proactive actions.

At Boeing, AR is used to guide trainees through the 50 steps required to assemble an aircraft wing section involving 30 parts. With the help of AR, trainees completed the aircraft assembly work in 35% less time than trainees using traditional 2-D drawings and documentation.

AR drives efficiency, by providing step-by-step instructions by highlighting elements, such as screws and faceplates, on a computer screen or hologram projection, in the correct order in the workflow. It also animates the elements to show how they are removed, replaced, or reassembled. As shown in the above picture, an employee at the agricultural equipment company AGCO views AR instructions for work on a tractor hydraulic valve stack. It was reported that the use of AR resulted in a 40% percent improvement in early-hour repair frequency for the tractors and applicators manufactured.

AR also ensures human safety, for example, a worker can view a piece of equipment and see its running temperature, disclosing that the equipment is hot, and warning them that it is unsafe to touch with bare hands.

Intelligent AR Navigational Guidance in Transportation

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Until recently, drivers using GPS navigation had to look at a map on a flat screen, and then mentally overlay the image in the real world (left image in figure above). This forced drivers into the unsafe behavior of continuously taking their eyes off the busy road to gaze down at a map, to ensure they didn’t miss their target exit ramp on fast moving highway.

However, with AR heads-up displays, navigational images are overlaid directly over what the driver sees through the windshield (right image in figure above). This solution is not only much easier, but much safer, as the reduced cognitive mental load maximizes focus, prevents unnecessary gaze aversion and distraction, and minimizes driver error.

Intelligent AR Fitting Room App in Consumer Fashion

Picture Source: Synsam Group

A Swedish eye retailer, Synsam, launched an app (“Stylelab”) to make choosing spectacles and sunglasses more fun, personal, and easy, no matter where you are. The app helps customers see what they would look like wearing the product, without actually having to go into the store to try out different eyeglasses physically. The range for adults consists of ten designs in ten colors, combined with a choice of ten different lens colors for a total of 1,000 different combinations. Consumers reported that the use of AR technologies immensely improved their shopping experience and customer satisfaction. AR enabled apps maximize customer experience (CX) and customer delight by providing a fun and helpful remote option for product interaction.

How AR Works

AR consists of three major components. Each component has its own challenge in the AR realization process, as outlined in the diagram below.

First, Perception, to accurately superimpose digital information on the physical world, AR technology must recognize what it is looking at and understand its own situation. For example, before providing navigation information, AR needs to track the locations of a car and recognize the lines, marks, signs, and other objects on the road. These perceptions require advanced computer vision technologies to accurately and quickly process data collected from multi-sensors.

Second, Computation, after data has been processed, AR may need to optimize the instruction or guidance provided to users to reduce operation costs/risks and increase efficiency. For instance, in manufacturing, processes are often complex, requiring hundreds or even thousands of steps, and mistakes are costly. It is generally challenging for AR to analyze the data and solve the problem in real time.

Last but not least, Display; AR delivers the computed instructions or other synthesized information to users by making these instructions or information visualized. It is crucial to determine the proper content delivered to users in the right way such that people can absorb and process the information almost instantaneously. Data visualization, therefore, plays a key role in displaying the content by making the content visualizable in the 3-D world. Intuitive Data visualization can significantly reduce human efforts in understanding information, as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Due to the above challenges that AR faces, it is still in its infancy stage. However, by overcoming these changes and gaining business readiness, AR has a bright future because AR enables human intelligence to seamlessly leverage the advantages of artificial intelligence. As depicted in the concept of augmented intelligence, the combination of human directing, adjusting, and focusing the elements of artificial intelligence results in achieving the desired results much more efficiently than traditional approaches.

About the Author

Xuesong Lu

Xuesong Lu is a Business Analytics Consultant at Kavi. Xuesong has a broad background in data science, applied mathematics, combinatorial optimization, and emergency management with a B.S. degree in Automation at NEU, an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering at NYU, and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering at UConn. Xuesong enjoys jogging, swimming, and ice skating.