Three Enterprise Augmented Reality Myths
Many visitors to the AREA web site seek to prepare themselves and their teams to sell the benefits of Augmented Reality to the senior executives of their organizations. The goals of their campaigns are to receive the executive stakeholders’ support for financial resources, to ensure that the project or initiative is in alignment with the primary business goals and to get the executive allegiance to resolve major (and minor) headaches when they arise in the course of the project.
To achieve these goals, they will need data, proof of others having achieved great results, as well as strong convictions. Passion and convictions may even be more important and certainly more readily available than tangible results reported by others at this early stage of Augmented Reality’s evolution. But they also lead to myths forming in the minds of audiences that are later proven wrong.
Avoid planting or maintaining illusions about these three common myths.
Augmented Reality will Work with Anything
Conceptually, Augmented Reality works on any target in the physical world. To bring digital information into alignment with a person, place or thing, however, requires two important precursors:
- The target needs to have an experience associated with it using data that has been extracted from the target. The unique set of features associated with the physical world target need to be stored digitally
- The system the user has available must be able to detect the same set of unique features and those are the basis for identifying the experience
Then, to continue the AR experience, the system must also track the same target over time.
In a laboratory or another controlled environment, demonstrations are based on targets that have features that can be reliably extracted and matched. Many objects are unsuitable because they are reflective, or they deform or change in one or more dimensions over time.
In the real world, many other factors can interfere with reliability of target detection and experience delivery even when the target is well known and optimal. There can be changes in lighting when the detection system relies on the camera. There can be interference from large metal objects and bodies of water when the detection system relies on a compass or orientation of the user. The network-based data may not be available for a variety of reasons.
When describing AR to senior management, or to anyone for that matter, do not promise that it will work with anything and under any condition. It simply does not and probably never will.
Augmented Reality Confers Wisdom
When describing the benefits, it is tempting to attribute new and important powers to the users of Augmented Reality-enabled systems. After all, everyone wants to use new technology, right?
While people using well-designed and delivered experiences should be able to perform their jobs better and to make data-driven decisions, the value of AR to the challenge it is designed to address relies heavily on two factors:
- The raw data that was used to originally design the experience. If the information shown to the AR user is incorrect or misleading, the use of AR does not make the information correct
- The design of the total experience from the point of view of the user’s interaction as well as the integration of the experience into a larger workflow
The data needed for the employee or customer to be able to complete a task or make a decision may simply not be available to the AR-enabled system. In this case, the user’s work is no further enhanced than it would be without the AR-enabled system. Raw data may also be too large or lack analysis, making it difficult to use.
A great deal of study and experience goes into planning the data access, ensuring data quality (e.g., fresh data is important but so does data based on longitudinal studies), and data processing prior to delivery to the user. Here the organization’s history and know-how with Big Data initiatives can be very valuable.
In general, the synchronization of information with the real world can accelerate business processes and decision making, but the user remains in control and must use common sense.
Augmented Reality Reduces Costs
In general, early studies strongly suggest that when compared with traditional methods, use of AR can reduce time and lower error rates, both factors that impact production and delivery costs. At scale, the costs could be very significant and have profound impact on business performance.
What this statement fails to take into account is the cost of designing systems, equipping people and environments, testing and implementing AR-enabled systems in the enterprise. Begin with the costs associated with testing and prototyping AR-enabled procedures. These will be far higher than simply adding a Web page or a link to the user manual.
Total cost of ownership must include everything from the beginning to the final training of users. No one has accurately measured all of these costs, although AREA members are in the process of developing the tools and systems to estimate them.
Cost reduction in IT development is never a sound argument to use with management. The better metrics pertain to the return on investment that may be measured in weeks, months or years, depending on the project size and scope.
Proceed with Passion and Caution
In addition to citing the results of others who have conducted studies on the use of Augmented Reality in enterprise, advocates who seek to build support among executives for new AR projects need to use caution when describing the potential impacts of Augmented Reality. The most common myths should be avoided at all costs or the proposed project’s support may wane or completely evaporate.
What are some of the myths you’ve heard about enterprise Augmented Reality? Share them with others so they can avoid them.