With any emerging technology there is always a debate as to where to begin. Augmented reality is no different; the technology is undoubtedly exciting the market, but many are curious as to where the starting point is for their company.
After speaking to hundreds of customers, implementing use cases across the value chain, and consistently being recognized as an AR thought leader, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann has constructed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – How to Build an Augmented Reality Strategy for Your Business – to further educate the market on AR.
Heppelmann distills this complex challenge down to 15 key framing questions to help guide business leaders to AR adoption and outcomes with measurable business value.
In this three-part blog series, we’ll delve into these 15 questions that comprise the AR playbook, breaking it down to the main components of enterprise AR: strategy, content, and delivery.
Our first installment offers an overview of the strategy portion of the playbook – and the first six critical questions to consider. The publicly-available MOOC offers much more depth and detail as Heppelmann shares his AR expertise in the space.
Formulating an Augmented Reality Strategy
Any digital transformation strategy must align the desired goals and value with the technology solution that will unlock it those outcomes. Augmented reality is unique in that it is aiming to converge the physical and digital world like never before, but the business fundamentals and implications of creating a strategy for adopting a technology do not differ drastically.
The first step? Building a foundational AR strategy based on these questions:
- What type of reality will this solution utilize?
- What are the key capabilities the end users going to need?
- What human senses will you leverage?
- What device(s) should we use?
- What operating systems and software platforms will we support?
- How will this experience be developed?
Let’s walk through each question and dive into the different possibilities for each consideration.
Question 1: What type of “reality” will your experience utilize?
Options: Assisted, Augmented, Virtual
With these three options, the use case typically dictates the type of “reality” used.
- Virtual reality, where the physical reality is replaced with a synthetic one, is popular for training situations where time can be transcended, and real-world situations can be recreated virtually.
- Assisted reality provides a convenient 2D digital window of relevant information, such as a PDF of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Augmented reality takes this relevant digital information a step further to embed it in the context of the physical world.
Question 2: What capabilities will you leverage?
Options: Visualize, Instruct, Guide, Interact, Sense, Recognize, Program
Instruct/Guide and Visualize are the top AR capabilities currently being used, according to the State of Industrial Augmented Reality report (55 percent and 42 percent, respectively).
- With visualize, the right information is placed in the user’s field of view at the right time. It’s popular for customers engaging with a product’s augmented brand experience.
- Instruct takes a step further by delivering step-by-step work instructions or procedures. Guide includes remote assistance for over-the-shoulder expert support.
- The emerging interact capability uses AR a human-machine interface, replacing 2D computer screens with voice commands and gestures to control the physical environment.
- Sense positions AR as an ‘IoT for people’ sensor, while computer vision embedded on AR can increasingly ‘recognize’ objects, things, places, spaces, etc.
- Programming overlays computer functions and logic flows to the physical asset or space.
Question 3: What human senses will you simulate?
Options: Sight, Sound, Touch
A key AR function is to augment human’s senses with digital capabilities. Some examples:
- Computer vision is adding a new intelligent digital layer of sight into our physical surroundings.
- Processing sounds through AI will both be as an input (listening to a machine’s vibration identifies anomalies & potential malfunction) and output through voice control and natural-language processing (verbally instructing machines through voice assistants to make intelligent decisions).
- With touch, AR can create simulated haptic experiences such as an end user selecting virtual dials not physically present.
Question 4: Which type of device will you use?
Options: Monocular, Phone/Tablet, Projector, HUD, HMD
AR hardware is increasingly gaining market buzz as devices become more resilient, widespread, and powerful.
- The majority of companies leveraging AR are primarily using mobile devices, including smartphones (80%)and tablets (67%), but digital eyewear (47%) is gaining traction.
- Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), like the Microsoft HoloLens 2, are creating immersive hands-free 3D experiences and Real Wear’s HMT wearables are generating 2D content.
- Heads-up Displays (HUDs) will increasingly have transportation and automotive applications as they overlay navigation and point-of-interest information onto the dashboard.
Question 5: What platform(s) will you support?
Options: Proprietary, iOS, Android, Windows UWP, Cross-Platform, Multi-Platform
The AR operating systems currently used typically align with the mobile device the end user is running the AR experience on (iOS for iPhone/iPad) However, it will be increasingly important to have operating system support for multi-platform usage because the AR hardware mix will range across the enterprise (i.e. sales & marketing might use a mobile device for product demonstration while a service technician requires a hands-free head-mounted display for service inspection and verification). Scaling an AR OS that supports hardware and different forms of content across a multitude of use cases are important strategic considerations.
Question 6: How will you develop the experience?
Options: Code, Author, Capture, Ad Hoc
- To date, most AR content has been custom-coded for specific purposes (demos, one-off applications) through popular tools like Unity and Vuforia. However, it is difficult to scale experiences with having to constantly wrap a unique application with custom coding.
- AR content authoring environments will grow in popularity with easy to use drag-and-drop tools as well other pre-built content forms that require less time developing and allow for more time creating immersive AR experiences.
- Even simpler content creation from the capture of expert workflows and repurposing of it for new workers in training.
- Ad hoc authoring refers to real-time collaboration where a worker is having an issue and calls an expert for remote assistance and over-the-shoulder support to help solve it.
Answering these AR strategy questions will illuminate the product direction for the company’s solution. Aligning the experience with the necessary hardware, software, development, and authoring approach are key foundational elements to unlocking AR value for the industrial enterprise.
Organizations with this preemptive alignment are more likely to quickly recognize time-to-value with their AR strategy; 68% of PTC’s State of Augmented Reality respondents cite transitions from AR pilots into production within a year.
Read the other installments of our three-part series: