Imagine sitting at home on your tablet looking for a new coffee table for the front room. You open an app, choose the piece of furniture you like, and place it in the room to see how it looks – all on your tablet.
This is augmented reality (AR). Once the stuff of Hollywood movies, businesses from every sector are betting big on the technology to boost sales and productivity.
Augmented reality is when digital images are superimposed on to the real world, often through a headset, and an increasing number of businesses are seeing the need to use it.
“We have loads of enterprise customers who have ordered them. We’re actually shipping these now. I can’t name names but what I can tell you, lots of Fortune 500 companies,” Kayvan Mirza, CEO and co-founder of Optinvent, told CNBC, speaking about the company’s Ora Smart Glasses.
Optinvent’s $949 device is aimed at the enterprise market. Demonstrations on the company’s website shows a man playing golf with the Ora Smart Glasses on. In AR he can see the wind speed and distance to the hole. Mirza said companies from the warehousing and medical industries have expressed interest.
Oil and gas
AR has gone mainstream for businesses. Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled a headset called HoloLens which projects a holographic image that users can interact with. At the launch event, Microsoft showed off how designers could manipulate the image to create shapes that they wanted, highlighting the potential engineering use of the device.
“Oil and gas is leading the way. Other industries like manufacturing, anything with heavy industry…is a strong player for this,” Brent Blum, wearable lead at Accenture, told CNBC at the Wearable Technology Show in London earlier this week.
Blum said that using AR glasses would free employees up from using computers when they are in laboratories or out on the field. He gave the example of a group of chemists that the company is working with who are using AR goggles to see metrics such as the pH of a substance.
AR is not just limited to industrial situations. A company called Cimagine has created a platform for retailers. Cimagine announced a partnership with retailer Shop Direct to allow potential customers to virtually place a piece of furniture in their house using their tablet. This works by users taking a snapshot of their room then digitally placing 3D furniture images in the area they want.
Companies in the AR space are bullish on the technology despite it being very young, warning that businesses slow to adopt it could fall behind.
“Forward-looking companies that are experimenting with augmented reality today, it’s giving them a bit of an advantage in the market,” Blum said.
“Now if a company were to not deploy an augmented reality solution today, I’m not sure that they would be entirely left-behind, but they’re missing out on operational efficiencies.”
Image credit: CC by Tom