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7 Uses of Augmented Reality That Will Matter to You, Your Business, and the World

July 25, 2017

Forget Pokemon Go.  That’s kids’ stuff.  Think instead about cardiology and the future of cities.  Think about what it is to reinvent the shopping experience.  Think about better bridges and more effective surgeries.  Think about better surgeons.  Think about more effective food distribution to nations in crisis, and more accurate strikes against terrorists.  Think about less collateral damage and improved economic policies.  Think about a trillion dollar industry.  Think about fixing your engine in minutes after a roadside breakdown. This is the promised land of Augmented Reality (AR).

AR is a future within our grasp.  Moreover, it’s a future tech investors have sunk billions into and is already transforming how we buy, design, perceive, and think. AR is not just a flag planted in the future of commerce, it is the future of how we’ll see.  

With help from thought-leaders across the industry’s fields of marketing, tech, art, design and medicine, we ask you to consider these 7 predictions for the top future uses of augmented reality.

 

Ok, AR is coming, but what does it mean for me?

AR’s best weapon, ARKit, Will Change How We Use Smart Phones

“The first thing to understand about AR is that it will change handheld computing,” says Charlie Fink, a writer at Forbes, “first by making things we are already doing much better and more social. The camera will become the primary mobile interface for many apps. FB, Google Maps, and Snapchat will certainly take advantage of it, as will Apple itself (here’s another chance for them to revive Apple Maps).

In simplest terms, Apple’s ARKit places a virtual world on top of the real one that is seen by your smartphone’s camera.  For the best example of how this will alter your smartphone behavior, check out this Twitter user’s application in Maps.  Watch the video and try not to think, “Wow, I will never get lost again.”  But that’s just the beginning; that’s what we can do today.  

Anyone who has ever assembled furniture, tried to figure out what is wrong with their car engine, or wondered more about a painting in front of them can easily understand the practical implications of having a virtual tutorial. Every sci-fi training scenario you’ve seen—from the X-men’s proving grounds at the mansion, to the woman in the red dress from the Matrix—is one step closer with ARKit.  Whether we’re training doctors, mechanics or CIA agents, immersing them in virtual surroundings has never been so easy, thorough or practical.

Wonder what’s over the horizon? Your smartphone, and ARKit can literally show you.

Furthermore, ARKit’s easy use will encourage the development of more AR apps and software, which will compound scalability. The integration of AR into every app, on every phone will, “Make the magic happen” says Glen Gimore, one of Forbes’ Top 20 Digital Media Influencers. “AR will move from fun games we sometimes play to rich content and capabilities we always use.” The key here is “always,” as in part of our every day, as a part of any app.  This is how AR will scale, massively and irrevocably.

That sounds like a lot of tech and not a lot of fun, except….

The World, Including Work, Will Become a Game

Everyone loves games! It’s ingrained into our culture and brains from a ridiculously young age.  Gamification will be a key to AR adoption: whether it’s sales or customer-service tasks, introducing concepts like points, rewards and scoreboards can make learning AR extremely fun and addictive.

Jobs—everything from waiters upselling wine to retail employees restocking shelves—can be influenced in this method: “Brands have already discovered the benefits of gamifying their mobile apps or products, increasing user engagement and brand loyalty. Now, businesses can use the same technique to help employees feel more invested in their work, more motivated to complete daily tasks, and happier in their jobs,” says Daniel Newman, Futurum’s founding partner.  He goes on:

“Create a mobile AR system with scoreboards or game-like elements that react to objects or actions in the employee’s real-world environment, and let top performers earn immediate rewards or accrue points that can be turned in for later rewards, such as gift cards or paid time off. Gamify sales and customer service training by using AR to place employees in realistic situations, and then reward correct answers and behaviors.”

How does this translate into dollars and cents for brands and businesses?

Ecommerce Redefines Its Borders

Of course, search marketing is just the first step in a redefinition of what Ecommerce can be.  Investors haven’t sunk 1.7 Billion into the VR and AR development market for no reason.  The potential is enormous (a 2015 study by Walker Sands concluded that 35% of consumers said they would shop more online if they could interact with products virtually, and that was two years ago!).  As a recent Entrepreneur article explained, AR will make shopping more efficient, novel and enjoyable in the following ways:

  •   Usefulness – Sephora’s app uses ModiFace tech to let users take selfies and then virtually apply makeup to their faces before making a purchase decision.
  •   Original ideas for the shopping experience – Apply Warby Parker’s “try-on” functionality, virtually, to a myriad of products.
  •   Customizability – Stores famous for customer service, like Nordstrom, could design or employ AR apps that make their sales reps available while browsing, at point of sale, in the dressing “room,” or even when matching a recently purchased item with one’s wardrobe.

“Consumers are on the edge of widespread AR adoption,” says Brad Waid, international speaker named as the #14 top influencer in Augmented Reality .  “The world where Minority Report meets Joe Consumer is just around the corner.”

There is no end to the options: see your pizza cooking in the oven; have the chef take you through the tasting meal he designed; test to see whether the Barbie dreamhouse will fit in her/his room; try the turning radius of a new car for your driveway…these all add up to a better, more thorough shopping experience: more satisfied customers, more delight in the experience, more goodwill towards brands.  Shopping online goes from passive to active.

AR will let us see, try on, experiment with, and visualize the items we are looking to buy in a way that will render our current use of the word “search” redundant.  You will be able to see inside the mall or the aisle, know the ripeness of the fruit, assess the chaos of the checkout line, before you ever leave your home.  Life, especially even consumerist life, is about decisions, and they just got easier and better informed.

“Augmented reality will contextualize our reality,” says Cathy Hackl, AR expert. “This is the key. It will change not only the way the consumer experiences a brand but also change their behavior. You’ll start to see a shift in the way people shop for clothes with AR mirrors and AR apps that facilitate shopping for them.”

You no longer look at products, you dance with them.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the product, which gets better, too.

Industrial Design Gets a New Engine

Product design is one area where AR’s involvement is a virtual no-brainer. It will be a revolution.

AR will empower designers to ditch 3D models and actually sit inside the cars that they’re creating.The cost of testing and experimenting drops dramatically.  Designers can try more things; cars get better.  Cheaper, too (less R&D equals a lower price sticker).

And this is just cars, imagine what can be done for shipping, nuclear facilities, electrical plants, large-scale farms and factories, machines that make other machines….

“When you look at for instance a 3D model inside a computer screen, you can’t truly understand it’s size in relation to the objects around it or the space that it’s supposed to be used in,” says Y Media Labs Senior Product Strategist Steven McMurray. “AR will have an immediate impact in solving this problem.”

AR will allow designers to stop imagining their product, and to see it and its applications, shortcomings, and potential, long before they begin to build it.

So, this is just about selling people better things?  No, we’re talking about…

Safer, Better, Working Conditions

Economies, local or global, that depend on natural resources and manufacturing look to factories, mines, plants and assembly lines as the vital arteries that carry their lifeblood.  AR will make these environments not only safer, but more productive, and better equipped to deal with accidents.

Companies like world leader in professional grade AR, DAQRI, has already produced a smart helmet that empowers workers and operators to become aware of unseen anomalies in their highly active, high-stress environments.  Thanks to the helmet’s Intel processor, workers can collect environmental data to spot dangers well in advance of any potential  breakdown, leak, or catastrophe.

Everywhere from the robotics assisted assembly lines in Detroit, to mega-factories in China, to potash mines in rural Canada, workers will be safer, protected, and ultimately more productive because of AR.

 

That’s great for workers, but what about the rest of us?

Cities Will Benefit; Communities Too

Towns, and Provinces Too; AR Will Redefine How Government Behaves; Let’s Start at the Local Level.

How many people cross a street in a given day; traffic patterns; criminal records—cities collect and maintain huge amounts of data, and AR apps will be the beneficiary. Municipalities spent huge amounts of money planning for eventualities, be they the next big snow storm or something more caustic, like a terrorist attack, riots, or the outbreak of an illness or a nuclear meltdown.  They do this  by simulating hypothetical situations and training their first responders accordingly.  This is, simply put, the ballgame.  The people in charge respond to emergencies the way they’ve been trained to.

AR will change and enhance this process.  Police, fire departments and health practitioners—as well as those who direct them—could be made to “see” how such scenarios could play out. Naturally, this will help them respond more efficiently.

But there are larger implications.  After all, no matter how dire, emergencies are rare.  Architects and city planners will confront and utilize and entirely new world of transportation grids and cityscape models to demonstrate to clients, city councils, and other officials.

We will move from a blueprint to a living, breathing, map of life.

Are there any benefits for the world at large?

Higher-level Healthcare; Access For Millions

“As a former Registered Nurse, I am bullish on Augmented Reality and its future uses,” says Tamara McCleary, CEO of a sought-after tech and health marketing agency.  She points to the simple process of IV insertion, 40% of which fail on the first try. “Now we have at our fingertips AR devices on the market right now that externally visualize the vein of a patient and show the healthcare provider a clear 3D outline of exact location of the patient’s veins and their precise anatomic structure. Your healthcare provider can see where the valves of the vein are located along the entire blood vessel, enabling a near perfect placement of the needle in just one perfect stick.”

We’re talking about IVs, the starting point of medical procedures. Imagine the possibilities with stents, brain surgery, ablations, ligament repair.  “The incredible consumer relevance for anyone being able to harness the power of AR for surgery is limitless,” says McCleary. An injured ligament is a perfect, layered example: AR is employed by the doctor to enhance the success of the surgery, and then by the patient during physical therapy.  AR could be used to creates guides for exercises, helping to hasten repair time, and prevent against re-injury—all the while gamifying the process.  

It’s not just about the market either.  She points to situations where a doctor is not available, where citizens or soldiers are forced to perform procedures.  “Augmented reality actually shows you on a 3D image what to do, where to cut, how deep, what it should look like.”  Moreover, for the 5 billion people worldwide who do not have access to safe and affordable surgery, “The lifesaving capacity and true hope that AR brings is mind-blowing to say the least.”

Conclusion

Augmented Reality is coming to every phone, app, and quite possibly, every surface and facet in our lives.  It will redirect us, guide us, and help us make better choices, not only in a consumerist context, but in our lives.  

New AR applications will change healthcare, production, design, marketing, advertising and the entire shopping experience.  It will change how we learn and how we communicate. It will change everything.  AR will become inseparable from our apps and phone functions. We may no longer see our phone’s cameras as cameras, but as windows to the world, as a third eye with which we perceive.  

These changes are coming. It’s time to prepare. And then innovate the next change.

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