Augmented reality (AR) blends the virtual world with real objects and locations. This emerging technology is transforming industries in ways never before imagined. It enables museumgoers to conjure guides that resemble holograms; students to dissect virtual frogs; shoppers to envision how a chair will look in their living room before buying it; surgeons to visualize tissues underneath patients’ skin; architects and designers to collaborate on their creations in novel ways; drone operators to control remote robots with enhanced imagery; and novices to speedily learn new tasks in fields ranging from medicine to factory maintenance. AR imposes digital elements on a physical environment over what the user sees and interacts with using touch, voice, and gesture control.
This can be as simple as a video game that superimposes virtual characters on the real world, such as in the popular Pokemon GO, or as complex as an augmented medical image that overlays information about a patient’s heart and blood vessels over their chest. The information can be manually entered into the program by a human or generated automatically by sensors connected to an object, for example, when the car displays data on its reversing camera to help drivers back up safely. In industry, AR applications can help reduce costs by enabling workers to do more with less training, equipment, or resources. They can also enable new employees to work alongside experienced teammates in an immersive way that’s often safer than the real thing.
This can help businesses to differentiate themselves in a competitive retail landscape, for instance by offering customers the ability to try on clothing or furniture in their own homes or offices, or by showing how products will look in their surroundings before making a purchase. Some AR technologies require hardware such as headsets to operate, but advances in computing and memory capacity are making the experience faster and smoother, while reducing the demand for power on the devices themselves. In addition, software toolsets are appearing that give low- or no-code users the ability to build applications through drag-and-drop interfaces. The automotive industry is a prime example of how AR is helping companies to cut costs and increase productivity. Throughout the design, production, and service phases of manufacturing, an augmented view of the product can provide workers with the data and tools they need to optimize their processes.
This can reduce return rates, boost conversions, and enable a more streamlined transition for new employees. Augmented reality is also helping to reduce costs for consumers, too. For example, AR is used in vehicle showrooms to allow prospective buyers to interact with virtual models of vehicles before they buy them. This can make it easier to select the right model and color, as well as reduce the need for return visits or repairs later on. It can even be used to help customers order spare parts and accessories from a warehouse, so that they can be delivered directly to their doorstep.