Augmented Reality Finds Its Feet in the Workplace

    There are great expectations for augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR). Earlier this month, IDC released research that projects that 99.4 million augmented and virtual reality headsets will ship in 2021, which is almost a tenfold increase from the 10.1 million that it said shipped last year. That constitutes a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58 percent.

    The commentary in the release says that 2016 was a key year because products began reaching users. Enterprise use was apparent in 2016 and expectations are for it to continue. In 2016, commercial AR/VR constituted 79.9 percent of the market. In 2021, its slice of the pie will shrink to 61.5 percent, though, of course, the pie will be much bigger. Overall, IDC found that AR will not ship as many headsets as VR, but the value of what it does ship will be greater.

    AR is making good progress in manufacturing. Computerworld reports that AR is gaining traction in a wide variety of applications, mentioning three companies with widely different uses. Lockheed Martin is employing AR to help with design, walk production floor personnel through procedures and, if necessary, let experts see what the tech is seeing. DHL is using AR to instruct workers in the most efficient way to load carts. Shipbuilding Huntington Ingalls Industries is using it for inspections, maintenance and training purposes.

    Magid Abraham, the executive chairman of Upskill, an industrial AR smart glasses software firm, makes the case for AR in the workplace from the macroeconomic perspective. He notes that productivity in the United States is dropping and that there are comparatively fewer qualified candidates to fill jobs. The situation is unlikely to be quickly alleviated because the workforce is growing older. The skills gap is growing as well, he writes.

    The best approach to these problems is increasing productivity of workers that are available and on the job, and AR can be a key to doing this, he writes:

    Wearable augmented reality devices are especially powerful, as they deliver the right information at the right moment and in the ideal format, directly in workers’ line of sight, while leaving workers’ hands free so they can work without interruption. This dramatically reduces the time needed to complete a job because workers needn’t stop what they’re doing to flip through a paper manual or engage with a device or workstation.

    The story makes the case that AR can improve efficiency by high double digit percentages compared to other approaches. Abraham points to an average improvement of 32 percent.

    A good example of the type of AR application aimed at business is DOTTY, which was featured last week at TechCrunch. It is a three-dimensional visualization tool that can be used with both the Android and iOS operating systems. It has been integrated with TurboSquid, a three-dimensional image library.

    AR and VR are often grouped together. That makes sense in most cases, but doing so can lead to oversimplification. It seems that AR will have a broader set of uses in business – and that adoption is well under way.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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