How to Get Beyond the “Cool Demo” to Full Deployment
Like many other technology innovations, Augmented Reality (AR) often presents challenges to adoption for industrial enterprises. These challenges include: the need for workforce transformation, changes to business processes or simply a lack of perceived timely business benefit. AR, however, differs from many other technologies in that it is straightforward to showcase its potential benefits with a compelling “cool demo.”
But the cool demo can result in a so-called “proof of concept purgatory” where enterprises get locked into a sequence of demonstrations but fail to move beyond these to proceed with solution deployment within their businesses.
In keeping with the AREA’s commitment to advancing the AR ecosystem for the benefit of technology suppliers and enterprise users, we believe this is an important consideration to overcome. That’s why we asked AREA members for their perspectives on how best to proceed from the cool demo to enterprise adoption. Here’s what they told us:
Peter Antoniac, CTO, Augumenta:
An industrial AR project should always start with solving a concrete customer problem. A cool demo does not mean it is useful for the end user. A best practice is to start with a clear problem and find a usable and efficient way to solve it for the end user – taking into account all the variables, like device usability, environment, workers habits, and narrow it to the most reliable way possible including picking the best hardware for the deployment. That means working very closely with end users, listening to their feedback, and responding to it as diligently as possible.
Harry Hulme, Marketing and Communications Manager, RE’FLEKT:
Scaling AR solutions into production and breaking through the pilot purgatory is a problem faced by many businesses today. Countless companies are making substantial technological investments but fail to plan correctly before implementation. Like any investment, it is unwise to simply rush in. Instead, you should ensure to optimize AR deployments around the factors that will make or break its success.
The name of the game is to set up an AR deployment to succeed. That happens by winning over the key stakeholders who can share in its victory (people); solving the biggest operational problems (product); and doing all of the above in ways that are methodical, strategic and follow best practices (process).
The success gained by following these steps will protect your technology investment. After investing time and money in vetting AR, launching pilots and proving its value, that value will only be realized if it’s given the chance to succeed. And once it does succeed, there is real bottom-line value to be gained.
Damien Douxchamps, Head of R&D, Augumenta:
In manufacturing use cases, deployment requires integration with the factory backend, and that’s where the big challenge is. In addition to that, sturdy hardware, reliable applications and means of interaction are needed when the user base increases. With that larger user base also come different people, and the hardware and the software must fit each and every one of them.
David Francis, CMO, Theorem Solutions:
It is commonplace for an organisation that wants to start an XR project to either go to an external agency or to develop a capability in-house as a limited-scope proof-of-concept (PoC). That’s because it is difficult to go “beyond the cool demo” until you know in some detail what you need to do and how XR will benefit your organisation. So, the only way to get the answers is to run a PoC.
The problem with this approach is that the scope of the exercise either hasn’t been fully considered, or it is extremely restricted simply because it is a PoC. Getting buy-in from the senior leadership is difficult as you are trying to get approval for something that hasn’t been tried and tested. Therefore, the budget is usually only sufficient for the one use case that is within the scope of the PoC. Of course, I have identified these as negatives, but if there is a likelihood that the PoC will not lead onto something bigger, or might fail, then this is the best and most pragmatic approach, isn’t it? But, what if it doesn’t fail?
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are now technologies and technology partners that can help develop the business case. The technology doesn’t have to be suitable for that one-off PoC. But, if you develop in isolation (i.e., in-house or with a creative agency) then it probably will be.
One of the largest problems of using this technology is getting the 3D content into XR in the first place. There are lots of importers on the market that are transactional (i.e., they do conversions one at a time manually), which for a PoC may be fine, but this isn’t scalable. If, for example, your use case is manufacturing, then you don’t want to be manually importing 3D CAD assemblies every time something changes. You’ll need a scalable, automated process. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with identifying this as a must-have requirement right from the start. Just having some isolated data in XR will not adequately prove that your solution is fit-for-purpose; you’ll only be testing that one aspect.
So you need to really understand why you think you need XR; what is the value to your business and how would you implement it if you weren’t doing “just a PoC”? In fact, if you don’t do this, then your PoC isn’t really valid. Often, we are so keen to get our project started, that we skip past these steps, and even reduce the scope in order to get just enough money to be able to “have a go” with exciting new technology. You must resist the urge to do this, as whilst this may get your project off the starting block, it will not do you any favours further downstream.
In order to prove the value, you must adequately specify your project to prove the value of all of the requirements. If, to achieve the business value you require, regular 3D data changes, then specify it. If you require a collaborative experience, then you must specify it. Additionally, you must also consider the output device; these things change regularly with new devices popping up on the market every few weeks, so make sure you specify a device-agnostic approach.
Tero Aaltonen, CEO, Augumenta:
Measuring results is vital for making any decisions about continuing to a wider deployment from a pilot. You should make sure that there are proper meters in place to observe the productivity, safety, quality or other factors, so that customers can calculate the ROI based on facts, not opinions and guesses.
There are two common themes that run through these various perspectives from AREA members. The first is that diligence and planning, as in most successful endeavors, are critical to ensure that there is a tangible way forward from the cool demo to enterprise deployment. This can help mitigate any possible perception that the cool demo is simply a dead end. Secondly, ensure that the cool demo adds identifiable business value by solving a problem or enabling an opportunity.
These are just some ideas for getting past the cool demo to full deployment. You can find more ideas and advice at thearea.org.