The Augmented Reality technology has started within the advertisement and entertainment industries with the first commercial AR application launched in 2008 in Munich. Then we had the overwhelmingly famous Pokemon Go game and finally, AR has proved its value to such industries as logistics, healthcare, and education. Below we will look at the most common examples of AR use cases in real life and the ways this technology reshapes industries.
Field service and remote maintenance
As the name implies, field service means any work performed “in the field”, outside company facilities. And while it may sound bizarre, AR actually found its place within this niche.
The most common case of field service is when a technician arrives on the site to fix a certain technical problem. It certainly takes a while for the technician to identify the problem and come up with the best way to fix it. But with the help of AR, the specialist arrives on the site with an AR set and can immediately see problem areas and suggested solutions. Such an approach helps reduce time spent on problem fixing and improves efficiency a lot.
Credit: Israel’s National Water Company.
In addition to that, AR also enables remote specialists to provide their guidance on the problem by being able to see it. Hence, AR in field service is all about quickly identifying the errors, making faster repairs, improving the training and skills of novice technicians, and decreasing costs.
Warehouses and logistics
Warehouse and logistics operations can be quite complex, especially in big companies with massive inventories. One of the biggest challenges that logistics specialists face is finding the right item for the delivery - it may actually take about 50% of their time. So how can AR help?
By using a head-mounted device (HMD for short) equipped with the AR technology, logistics specialists get access to the following benefits:
Quick product detection;
Navigation to the needed item (with the help of AR and GPS technologies combined);
Better inventory management;
There is a good example of how big companies use AR to their advantage. BMW equipped its workers at the Munich plant with smart AR glasses with an aim to speed up inventory identification and to reduce the number of errors. The results were astonishing: 22% reduction in inventory identification time and 33% reduction in errors. In this way, the BMW case proves that even though the implementation of AR may be costly, it will bring significant ROI in the long run.
While this is not an industry but more a use case, the use of AR for training purposes has become increasingly popular. It is especially relevant for those specialists dealing with complex technical equipment when the traditional training costs can be too high.
Numerous studies prove that trainees better understand and remember the information presented with the help of AR rather than in text. Just compare a detailed 3D model and a traditional 2D diagram - hands down the 3D model presents information in a much more clear and understandable manner.
Credit: Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University
AR is used for training purposes across multiple industries, such as aircraft assembly, healthcare (surgery), engineering, etc. And judging by the positive results, it’s safe to assume that AR will soon become not a luxury but a commodity.
Immersive user manuals
In relation to staff training, the next use case for AR is user training through immersive manuals. Of course, it won’t be applicable to all products and services but in some cases, AR-powered guidelines will be more than useful.
Some of the examples of AR user manuals include:
Nespresso: allows users to scan the package and get instructions on how to descale a coffee machine;
Ikea: AssembleAR app for easier furniture assembling process (paper instructions are overlaid with animation and life-sized references).
Hyundai: instructions on vehicle maintenance, such as engine oil changing, brake fluid check, etc.
As you can see, AR for user manuals is mostly used when there is complex technical equipment that might be hard for comprehension for a regular user. AR helps users with the following:
Product setup and configuration;
Troubleshooting without the need to call a specialist from a company;
Not only does the use of AR helps users quickly get acquainted with the product but it also contributes to boosting user satisfaction and brand recognition (which, in turn, leads to higher profit for the company).
Personalization and unique user experience have always been a staple for successful product selling. With AR, store owners can take personalization to the next level and offer an ultimate shopping experience to their customers.
AR in retail is used in many ways. First, there is online shopping which rose in popularity during the pandemic. To engage customers and promote buying, stores are launching AR apps that allow users to “try” products at home. One of the good examples is Ikea with its app that allows “placing” the items from the catalog in your own apartment to see how it fits. Another good example is Sephora which app lets users “try” the makeup on their face to see how it looks.
Second, AR is also used in physical stores. Apps powered with this technology can guide customers through aisles, help obtain information about products, and can overall serve as personal shopping assistants. Which, in turn, has a very positive effect on customer satisfaction and user experience.
One more AR use case that’s becoming more and more popular is using this technology in education. People tend to comprehend videos and images better than text and it’s been proved by many studies, including the one published in the Advances in Human-Computer Interaction in 2019. The study described the effects of using the AR technology by the undergrad health science students and the results showed a 31% increase in attention and a 14% increase in motivation after using AR. So how exactly does AR benefit education?
Visualization of complex subjects and topics;
Gamification element for better comprehension;
Higher student engagement;
And since modern education is shifting towards individual needs and better interactivity, it’s safe to assume that AR in education is here to stay and will probably grow in popularity in the future.
Does your business really need AR?
This is a tricky question. On one hand, AR is a really valuable technology capable of bringing customers in, educating employees, and overall contributing to the efficiency of your processes.
On the other hand, the implementation of AR is quite costly. Plus don’t forget about further maintenance and possible needs to add more AR solutions. So how do you decide whether you need AR for your business? Here are a few indicators:
Employee training involves work with complex technologies and takes too much time and money;
Employees spend too much time identifying issues and looking for the best ways to fix them;
Your customers have issues with setting up and configuring your products upon buying;
You need a unique competitive advantage.
And obviously, you need to understand that AR implementation is a major financial investment that should bring you ROI in the long run. Hence, when considering it, carefully analyze all pros and cons and see whether it can really boost the needed KPIs (% increase in user engagement, % reduction in time spent on a certain process, etc.).