We had the opportunity to attend the Augmented World Expo (AWE) Europe 2018 held in Munich on Oct 18 and 19. During the 2 days expo we took the chance to meet players and young startups active in the ARVR space having insightful conversations with technology providers to understand their roadmap and try their devices and listen to major announcements and interesting speakers. We were involved in the event and had the pleasure to moderate the Energy panel. The key takeaways from the event are summarized below.
AR means enterprise
The highest potential for Augmented Reality (AR) technologies is in the enterprise space where there are existing business challenges that AR can easily solve, there are several ROI-driven use cases and devices are getting mature enough to serve the purpose they were built for.
In terms of industry and use cases, AR technologies found fertile ground in those use cases where workers have a high mobility and hand-free needs, such as:
- Remote assistance and maintenance
- Instructions assembling
- Process documentation
- Material handling (picking, packing, shipping)
- Quality assurance and control
Industries such as Manufacturing, Logistics, Healthcare, Telecommunications, Utilities/Oil & Gas, Retail are leading AR adoption. Additional information on ARVR adoption by vertical are available in this report where are examined trends by vertical for innovation accelerators, including ARVR.
Furthermore, applications in the enterprise space benefit from a high stability in the form factor as devices have become lighter and cheaper while ensuring high performance. There is a broad range of devices available, each of them best suited for a specific set of use cases. Therefore, avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach is crucial. At the expo, some of the major AR/Mixed Reality (MR) providers were present, such as Vuzix, which announced November as the shipping date of the Vuzix Blade to enterprise partners, Realwear, Kopin or Hololens. Next step will be making AR technologies compatible with all personal protective equipment to account for all types of dangerous use cases.
Partnerships and Compatibility to Scale
Besides devices, the other important pillars for AR are content and software. Content production must be use case-driven and aligned with current business needs. The growth of partnerships between software and device providers delivers a single, customized, ready to deploy solution to clients and is paving the way to even faster development in the industry. For software platforms such as Upskill or Vuforia the mantra is:
- Compatibility across different devices
- Integration with existing enterprise systems
- Scalability across several use cases
Most cases, these software platforms started with a single use case. As enterprises begin understanding and using these platforms, more use cases arise, and providers have to keep up with the demanded features and integration. This has led to a healthy evolution of an ecosystem of providers who strive to offer all of the expected features (the so called “low hanging fruit” use cases that require an easy integration and already have documented ROI examples), as well as synergies with complex forward-looking use cases and devices that integrate seamlessly with existing processes and operations.
ROI to justify investments
The common denominator across enterprise adoption in new technology solutions is being able to justify the investment through tangible outcomes and benefits for the company. Reduction of errors, improved accuracy and productivity increase are just some examples of measurable outcomes companies are achieving thanks to AR applications in the commercial space.
Moreover, the path to deploy AR starts with a review of the current status quo. A company can’t measure improvement without establishing a baseline; which means companies looking into the AR space shouldn’t be looking to go from zero digitization to a “Minority Reportesque” workplace. Instead, there are several steps to be taken, and most of them tend to lead to improved processes even before a full deployment.
Open AR Cloud Organization
Perhaps one of the most interesting developments at AWE was the introduction of the Open AR Cloud Organization. The Open AR Cloud Organization is a working group with the vision of enabling an open, interoperable AR world, by developing standards, guidelines, tools and data in order to connect the physical and digital worlds. These standards would be created through consensus of an active and diverse community.
The main denominator for this working group, besides fostering an open ecosystem and allow deeper integrations, is privacy. Privacy is such a priority because the underlying technology required to build a truly ubiquitous AR Cloud would be able to sense the identity, location, physical context and behaviours of users, both in public and private spaces. Which means that the misuse of the collected data stream could have terrifying consequences since there’s a technical plausibility that a platform such as the AR Cloud could be used to get visual and/or auditory surveillance of individuals.
There is still a long way to go on the AR Cloud journey, but it is good to see a push for joint efforts and openness in a developing market with such potential.
The Augmented Reality market is quickly maturing both in enablement tools and real use cases. Hardware is getting better and more reliable whereas software platforms keep on empowering new and more developing use cases while lowering the friction of entry into this space.
Now, the focus is on achievable benefits that solidify the AR market’s real value proposition, while new and exciting features evolve at a staggering pace.
AR found its home in an industrial setting for now, but with mobile AR educating and empowering consumers about its potential, it’s just a matter of time before the complexity of the experiences increases and employees start to demand access to these enablement tools.