Collaboration — it’s become such a buzzword that its meaning is somewhat diminished. Maybe we need a new word, a better word that really captures the concept, promise and power of modern collaboration in the workplace.
Indeed, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what it means in the digital era, how it works best now, and what we should be building toward. Within large corporations, collaboration solutions from Microsoft’s Skype to Zoom to Blue Jeans and Cisco’s WebEx offer way to stay in touch, chat, share information and power the next digital transformation. Earlier this month, even Apple said it would add Group FaceTime to iOS 12, a move that could make it more of a player in corporate collaboration.
Ultimately, large-scale collaboration solutions will go well beyond the basic communications functions we’re busy integrating today. After all, collaboration is about much more than meetings, group work sessions, and joint projects. Powerful, intelligent platforms will transform the next generation of workplace and customer communications. If you want to win that future, it’s time to lay the groundwork for hyper connectivity, IoT and advanced VR and mixed reality.
The integration of augmented reality (AR) into our workplaces is inevitable. Some might find it startlingly futuristic. In fact, the technology is here, the applications are emerging, and investment activity is full speed ahead. A recent IDC study predicts that spending on VR and AR will double each year through 2021 — that’s an increase from $11.4 billion (2017) to $215 billion in just four years.
As always, it’s necessary to figure out where we’re headed so we don’t find ourselves off course, with competitors at an advantage. So what is AR and how can businesses tap into its vast potential?
AR has been in development since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 2012, when Google Glass was announced, that AR came into public view. The release of Pokémon Go in July 2016 brought AR fun to the masses and really got the buzz going.
People are rightfully excited — AR technology holds enormous potential. The predicted gains in efficiency, innovation, insight, and knowledge sharing are very real, and not as distant as you might think. Early adopters in consumer and business markets are already using a growing number of applications on mobile devices, glasses, and more. This is a good time for companies of all kinds to explore the benefits of integrating AR into their processes — soon enough, it will be an industry standard.
Let’s look at some use cases to illustrate the vast potential of augmented reality in the workplace.
In early versions of AR goggles, one of the first popular gimmicks was the ability to place 2D objects on any surface and 3D objects anywhere in space. What might seem to be a simple idea can actually be a huge help for salespeople and their customers, constructing engineers, designers, and basically anyone else who wants to get an accurate view of how an object will look and fit into place. Real-world AR views will augment our imaginations and make our plans and designs more precise.
Think about getting the 3D version of your freshly designed machine into the actual production hall, allowing you to visualize real-world conditions. Or imagine being able to buy a new couch from within your living room, checking to see if it fits and looks right before dragging it up your stairs. Real-world AR views will certainly outrun your imagination, at least in terms of precision.
Interactive Instructions and Remote Guidance
Have you ever felt frustrated by a manual full of unclear instructions, worried you will make potentially costly (or time-consuming) mistakes if you interpret them incorrectly? Using augmented reality, there is far less room for error because instructions can be projected step-by-step, directly onto the object in question. Constructive information, warnings, and labels can be displayed onto the respective positions.
Alternatively, you can request a supporter or expert colleague to walk you through the necessary steps and feed information into your AR device from their computer.
In a maintenance scenario, by cooperating with a specialist, the technician could receive help from anywhere in the world, transmitting live video and audio to the expert. Enabling experts to see the problem through your eyes (or camera) makes it easier for them to share relevant solutions or do the necessary research in the background.
Whether you’re a consumer, trying to assemble your new closet, or a technician maintaining a ship’s engine, AR is sure to make your job easier.
Consider the last time you struggled to find your way through an unfamiliar environment. While some people might have an extraordinary sense of orientation, the rest of us rely heavily on our smartphones. With AR, a new layer of richness is added to navigation, bringing in additional information about your environment. For example, Google recently announced AR enhancements to Google Maps. The benefits of enhanced navigation (beyond the obvious personal uses) are endless — emergency response, fieldwork, gaming, event planning and much more.
Knowledge Sharing and Training
In addition to interactive instructions, remote AR guidance can be a fruitful and hands-on way to transfer knowledge within large corporations, easing knowledge sharing from experienced personnel to newcomers, even when they are in different locations.
It’s easy to see how staff training is another promising area for AR applications.
Not only does AR enable immersive training without leaving the workplace, it provides new ways for trainers to illustrate, demonstrate, and explain. It is well documented that hands-on learning is more effective for many learners. After completing a task guided by AR (or a combination of AR and expert), trainees are much more likely to recall the necessary steps the next time they perform the task.
See it with Your Own Eyes
Anyone who still has doubts about the potential of AR should put a set of those glasses on or download a couple of AR apps to their mobile device and try it out for themselves. Now is the time to start a dialogue in your company to identify where AR could be useful. You may find it most useful to start with collaboration-related needs and activities. Focus on approaches that build competitive advantage and team agility.
The nature of collaboration is transforming before our eyes. Take time now to decide how to implement AR in a meaningful way and consider whether your current systems and infrastructure will support it.