We’ve only ever seen industrial AR, not enterprise AR

Augmented reality seems to be gaining traction in the enterprise market, and experts believe the appetite for it will grow significantly.
29 June 2018

Augmented reality will transform the enterprise completely, forever. Source: WaveOptics

If you’ve been in the enterprise technology space for a while, you’ll swear by the fact that there are several examples and real-world use cases of augmented reality (AR) in the workplace.

You’ll even cite Honeywell and Fonterra’s AR-based training centers as examples. However, WaveOptics CEO David Hayes sees things differently.

“We haven’t even begun to see enterprise-grade applications of AR,” Hayes told TechHQ.

The reality is, Honeywell, Fonterra, and all use cases announced by multinational companies with quite a bit of fanfare are, in reality, just industrial applications of AR.

These are systems and solutions that companies will (in the future) use in factories and plants to fix systems, and in training facilities to quickly and effectively demonstrate and simulate real-world scenarios.

True enterprise application will be a case where everyday employees will turn up to work, get to their desks, and wear a pair of AR goggles – plugged into their computer or their smartphone.

Through the goggles, the user will be transported into a world where everything is part of a 3D digital canvas.

You’ve got all your dashboards in front of you, a swipe of the hand pushes them away and brings up a 3D model of the building you’ve been working on with some colleagues in Europe and Australia, and calls with colleagues are more ‘interactive’ to say the least.

“That will be true enterprise AR, and we’re not there yet,” said Hayes, who believes there are several factors that make building-out this technology difficult.

First, and most importantly, is the practicality of the goggles. They’re bulky and uncomfortable, especially for daily, regular use, long-term. Next, they’re expensive. Often, north of US$2,000.

For these to make financial sense at the enterprise level, they need to be more user-and-budget friendly. Once that’s achieved, employees will drive the transformation themselves.

To a certain degree, it seems like IDC agrees with Hayes, and that true enterprise applications of AR will come soon.

His company has just announced a partnership with a leading supplier of wafer bonding and nano-imprint lithography equipment last month. Together, the combination will allow AR wearables to come to market for US$600 by 2019.

“Commercial interest in both augmented and virtual reality continues to accelerate as new hardware ships, improved software appears, and more use cases evolve,” said Tom Mainelli, vice president of Devices and AR/VR at IDC.

“A recent IDC survey of U.S. IT decision markers showed a huge percentage of companies testing both technologies and we expect that appetite will only grow as major industry players roll out the next generation of AR and VR experiences throughout the rest of 2018,” Mainelli added.

The truth is, the enterprise-application of AR sounds really cool. If it becomes a reality, there’s definitely going to be a huge appetite for devices and solutions. The question is, who’s going to bring it to life?