Goldman Sachs Research predicts that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will be an $80 billion market by 2025, nearly the same size as the desktop PC market today. The technology is improving rapidly, and the headsets are set to be a popular item this Christmas.
AR is generally seen as VR's little sibling, less dramatic and less exciting. But it's AR that has already tasted real market success, with the explosive take-up of Pokemon Go. And it's not just consumer applications that Goldman Sachs and others are basing their forecasts on -- it's productive video applications that can help enterprises and other organizations use video, VR and AR to improve productivity and cut costs. (See Defining Productive Video.)
According to Heather Bellini, TMT Business Unit Leader at Goldman Sachs Research, "...[AR and VR] technology has improved since earlier launch attempts and... it's already transforming sectors like real estate, healthcare and education." (See How VR Helped Land Rover Raise the Roof.)
Given the early stage of development, particularly for AR, it's no surprise that the industry is looking for more information and answers. This has led to the formation of the Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), to help coordinate and accelerate the development of AR for the enterprise.
Telco Transformation met up with its executive director, Mark Sage, to better understand the status of AR in the enterprise today, the goals for the alliance and examples of how AR could help enterprises.
Telco Transformation: What is AREA?
Mark Sage: AREA is a member-funded alliance, set up to promote the adoption of AR within the enterprise, to share knowledge, best practices and use-cases.
Members include Boeing, Huawei, Bosch, Lockheed Martin and many others. We share content, use-cases, ROI analyses, etc. Our goal is to create a knowledgeable eco-system for AR. We also have research capabilities, which are largely member-driven. We develop good practices, lessons learned, technology insights, etc. and then distribute them within the Alliance.
Our members are experts in the field, so we are able to tap into their knowledge and experience to develop content that we can then share with others in the eco-system to help progress the industry.
TT: What drove the decision to create this organization?
MS: The need is driven by a basic lack of information and knowledge at the moment. There isn't much vendor-neutral information out there, so it's difficult to evaluate trends and there is a lack of confidence among enterprises in implementing AR solutions. Meanwhile, providers are struggling to find customers and develop use-cases.
So AREA was developed to build the ecosystem, develop and define best practices and define new standards where needed.
TT: How can AR help enterprises?
MS: One example would be to provide contextual and relevant data to someone in manufacturing who needs to learn how to work a certain part or how to fit it. Users can project a certain part using AR onto the device and simplify the training process. Overall, this saves time and makes the process more efficient.
Enterprises can also help create virtual experts, which can show and enable a new process. And AR can help with compliance capabilities.
This can help create new efficiencies. In particular, it can help save time for irregular, complex tasks -- reduce training time, minimize risk/errors and lower costs.
TT: Can you provide some examples of how this has worked?
MS: Well, Boeing would be one example of a company that is leading the charge in terms of using AR for their needs. As a major global aerospace manufacturer, it's important for them to find ways to reduce costs and improve manufacturing efficiencies.
Today, assembly procedures for manufacturing are typically published as PDFs or printed out on paper. But these are complex instructions, which require lengthy training times, and even during the manufacturing process, workers will need to refer to instructions from time to time. This can become time consuming, but any mistakes can be very expensive, requiring re-installs.
So Boeing worked with Iowa State University, which has done a lot of research and experimentation in human-computer interaction, to see if AR could help create efficiencies in manufacturing. The study asked three groups to build an airplane wing twice, with the same instruction set (either using AR or PDF instructions on a tablet). The AR users required less time to complete the wing, with fewer errors during both builds. And they required less training than the group using PDF instruction.
Another example would be the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is a division of the University of Sheffield. It's a research center, with more than 100 industrial partners. The AMRC worked with a company that wanted to build a new manufacturing facility. By using virtual and augmented reality, it was able to share detailed designs with multiple stakeholders and identify design issues and rectify them before construction had even begun. They also worked with another company to develop a digital mock-up of a product and identify issues that would have complicated manufacturing, and again change the assembly process to fix them.
TT: Why create an organization aimed at AR only, and not VR?
MS: Enterprises usually use VR for planning and design, but can't really use it when it comes to the physical components. That's where you need a projection or overlay that can tell the employee exactly how to proceed. So that's why we are focused on AR; you need the physical overlay.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation