Augmented reality (AR) involves overlaying digital elements over the real world. This can be accomplished through the use of special wearable devices, like glasses or headsets, that project a digital image onto the lens, or by inserting those same elements into a camera image, like a smartphone screen. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which is completely immersive and blocks out the real world, AR is more like a filter that alters how people perceive the world around them. This means that AR users are untethered from a purely digital environment; they can walk around and interact with the physical world while still viewing digital elements.
As augmented reality technology continues to improve, there are a number of potential applications being developed across several industries. Here are a few ways that AR in business and other sectors will have an impact on the world in the coming years:
The medical field already utilizes a number of technologies that provide valuable information to doctors, surgeons, and nurses, making is one of the best use cases for AR. With AR-enabled devices, this information can be applied more effectively than ever before. Whether it’s medical students using training programs to practice surgical techniques or doctors being able to observe a patient’s vitals and refer to images from MRI or CT scans during treatment, AR technology will help to bridge the gap between digital data and the medical professionals who utilize it.
Many retail chains have gone to great lengths to roll out augmented reality technology that allows shoppers to use their smartphones to learn more about products and make better choices that suit their needs. It’s no surprise, then, that the retail industry is among the leading AR use cases. IKEA customers, for example, can use AR to get an idea of how a piece of furniture will look in their home by projecting a digital version of the piece right into their smartphone camera. Wearable AR devices will allow retailers to send notifications and deliver a customized shopping experience based on consumer preferences.
The interactive nature of augmented reality technology makes it an ideal fit for the classroom of the future. An augmented reality device or program can scan materials like books, worksheets, or flashcards and provide additional information and resources for students to engage with on their own terms. Interactive games and activities can also be designed to reinforce key concepts and help students learn more effectively. The technology can also help students with disabilities overcome challenges in the classroom, making education one of the best use cases for AR.
With AR technology, visiting popular tourist sites could become a dynamic and interactive experience. Smartphone apps and wearable augmented reality devices will allow visitors to museums and historic sites to learn everything they ever wanted to know about them with a quick scan of the area. More elaborate programs can even provide an interactive experience that brings historic locations to life for visitors. Imagine visiting the Colosseum of Rome and seeing it as it might have looked in its heyday through an AR display. As the technology improves, the tourism industry will surely be one of the leading AR use cases.
Many automobiles already incorporate augmented reality technology with modest heads-up displays (HUDs) that project information like speed and mileage in the corner of the windshield, but many manufacturers are investing in far more ambitious projects. Future AR-equipped cars will be able to display road conditions, weather alerts, GPS directions, and real-time information about their surroundings. Paired with other smart city technologies, AR could help to improve safety and optimize traffic patterns to alleviate highway congestion.
The combination of AR and wearable devices that gather physiological data could revolutionize the way people exercise and train. Although a variety of smartphone apps are already cleverly using AR games to promote a more active lifestyle, future wearable augmented reality devices will take these concepts to the next level while also integrating health information to help people customize the ideal workout for their fitness needs.
Perhaps among the most obvious AR use cases, the entertainment applications of the technology became immediately apparent when Pokémon Go first hit app stores in 2016. Digital photo filters have become a ubiquitous feature of social media images, and AR games continue to dominate mobile gaming. Major media companies are also rolling out AR campaigns to promote their brands and properties, engaging audiences in new and exciting ways to build awareness.
The factory floor has always been a complex and potentially hazardous environment, but AR technology could provide a new level of visibility. Workers can now use augmented reality devices to have ready access to important technical information as well as identify what machinery is in use and where danger zones are located. Boeing, for instance, now utilizes AR glasses to assist technicians while wiring many of its planes, cutting production time by 25 percent and greatly reducing errors.
The US military has been experimenting with different AR use cases for several years now in its effort to deliver actionable data to personnel without overloading them with choices. By incorporating data drawn from multiple sources, augmented reality devices will allow soldiers to identify threats, access GPS data, and obtain remote views of the battlefield. Perhaps the most noteworthy (and expensive) success in this regard is the F-35 fighter jet’s $400,000 helmet, which not only allows the pilot to look through the plane itself, but also identifies and provides information about any object in the pilot’s field of view.
Field service technicians are faced with the difficult task of working on myriad equipment with varying technical specifications, often in confined or hard to reach spaces. With AR headsets, they could have all of the information they need displayed right in front of them while keeping their hands free to work. Sophisticated sensors could also deliver real-time data about the status of equipment, helping to identify parts that need to be replaced soon or highlighting potential dangers that might not be visible to the naked eye. Field service may not be one of the first areas that come to mind with this new technology, but it represents one of the best use cases for AR.
As more companies implement augmented reality technology in the coming years, data centers will have an important role to play in their strategies, providing the computing power, storage, and connectivity necessary to make it all work. Thanks to edge computing architecture, companies will be able to integrate a new generation of AR-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices into their existing networks. Although there are many potential AR use cases in business, the technology will be far more effective when it’s accompanied by a comprehensive data center strategy.