Augmented reality (AR), a nascent technology that is advancing by leaps and bounds is expected to have a multitude of applications across different industries in as quickly as 2020 according to a team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM). AR is expected to revolutionize products, services, organizational workflows, and impact the entire business model in certain industries. In a nutshell, augmented reality enables users to see virtual or computer generated imagery (CGI) around objects in their surroundings, for instance, you can point your smartphone at a product and see pricing information or a 360 degree model of the product. This is different from the more common Virtual reality (VR) technology which creates an artificial environment for users to interact with through a visual medium.

Researchers from TUM conducted a worldwide study that included over 40 industries and highlighted key industries will face radical disruption from 2020. The AR industry is poised for exponential growth between 2020 and 2030. Besides, a study from Deloitte conducted back in 2017 indicates that over 150 companies across multiple industries including 52 Fortune 500 companies are involved with either the testing or the deployment of AR technologies. Listed below are the key industries that will face disruption from AR over the next few years. As a software solution company in the frontier of AR development in Sri Lanka, we have seen increasing demand for AR-based technology solutions in the island over the past year.

The Manufacturing Sector

The study highlights that AR development will enable manufacturing or production companies to streamline workflows, enhance operations, reduce operational costs, and ultimately increase production. Virtual models offer a vast number of real-world applications, such as facilitating remote training and in some cases, AR could eliminate the need for a trainer as virtual models could teach workers how to operate machinery. The possibilities are endless as visual cues and models are known to expedite the learning process.

The Automotive Industry

With the advent of hybrid and electrical automobiles, procedures for manufacturing and repair have become more complex from a technical standpoint. The sophistication of modern cars is increasing by the day, with computerized sensors and chips monitoring every movement the car makes. The manufacturing and repair processes have become extremely complicated as a result. AR is bound to make the training and operational procedures in manufacturing plants and workshops a lot easier to learn as workers could utilize the technology to learn how to conduct repairs or operate manufacturing equipment.

E-Commerce & Retail

AR technology can provide massive benefits for retailers and consumers alike. Retailers could demonstrate products to consumers in innovative ways and get rid of the perennial problem of a high rate of product returns in the e-commerce sector. The primary reason behind product returns is that consumers receive a product different to what they expect, this is because they are not allowed to- inspect the physical product prior to purchase. Visual models in AR could certainly overcome this problem by, for instance, allowing retailers to have 3D product models with a 360-degree view.

The Education Sector

The education sector is being taken by storm with Virtual Reality (VR) technology being used to revolutionize learning as we know it. AR technology complements VR in classrooms to facilitate more innovative, intuitive, and interactive learning methods. Future generations of society are likely to be extremely tech-savvy as the world they grow up in will give them heavy exposure to technologies like the internet of things, smart homes, and driverless cars.

Real Estate

The real estate sector relies on visuals to demonstrate flats, houses, and office space. AR could be particularly useful in this context as the technology could be used to provide 360-degree views of properties. This gives potential buyers a better understanding of the property. Additionally, the technology facilitates remote exploration of properties which can help reach potential buyers overseas. AR could be used by realtors in innovative ways such as the utilization of animated prompts to give potential buyers an informative and interactive experience.

Challenges

Widespread adoption of Augmented Reality is limited due to challenges in development. The technology is wanting in good user experience design which is critical to the success of any nascent technology. 3D interface development is costly and challenging owing to a lack of limited workers with the expertise to implement 3D models in AR environments. According to Gartner research, one of the principles of AR technology is to provide a hands-free user experience. This concept is, however, facing stiff competition from smartphones. The extremely ubiquitous technology has a powerful developer base and is expected to lead the charge when it comes to AR adoption.

Despite the challenges, the outlook is sanguine for the technology as a whole. Not only does AR provide opportunities for the industries highlighted above, but it also provides numerous applications for other sectors such as petroleum, construction, and logistics. AR could be incorporated into any operation that requires training, hands-free access to information or visual models. Medicine is another area that can benefit greatly as visual modelling can provide immense assistance during surgeries that require great precision. The time is right for enterprises to transition from seeing AR as an experimental technology to a fully-fledged enterprise tool that can provide myriad benefits.