Holographic military training, simulated surgery for medical school students and interactive engineering blueprints that never touch a table – with augmented reality, these previously unthinkable scenarios are realisable.
What exactly is Augmented Reality (AR)? Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), which transports a user into an entirely virtual environment, AR combines the user’s physical environment with a virtual overlay. As both virtual and real worlds co-exist, users are able to see and interact with an enhanced version of their environment.
Like any new technology, AR brings with it an element of fun and experimentation. But AR can deliver serious business benefits as well. Forward-thinking companies can use AR to train employees in new roles or workflows, improve workplace safety and even ideate and troubleshoot potential problems before initiating a significant product launch or investment.
Benefits like these are the fuel behind the incredible growth projections for the AR market.
According to IDC, worldwide spending on AR and VR is forecasted to be $18.8 billion in 2020.
AR/VR products and services will achieve a five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 77% throughout the 2019–2023 forecast period. A recent Grid Raster survey found many organisations are looking to scale up their AR/VR capabilities to enable productivity while minimising physical interaction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last year, Microsoft introduced the HoloLens 2, an untethered holographic computer and what Microsoft calls, “the ultimate mixed reality device.” HoloLens 2 bridges the digital and physical worlds using recent advances in the intelligent cloud and at the intelligent edge. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Julie White says, “We’re now in a place where this technology is solving real-world problems. You can really begin to see what this new wave of computing looks like and how it translates into real business outcomes.”
AR’s ability to blend the human element of critical thinking with the computing power of a device brings new possibilities to organisations in several industries, from manufacturing to education. Let’s explore the potential of augmented reality in the workplace and how it can enable employees to place information where they need it the most: in the real-world context of their work.
What if, instead of leafing through pages or scrolling through an online manual, you could simply see your way through a task?
AR allows manufacturing workers to see complex procedures animated directly on the equipment they’re using. This consistently reinforces best practices and incorporates the most up-to-date instructions in easiest way to learn: direct demonstration.
AR also enables things like interactive simulations, animations and 3D graphics to serve as step-by-step guides for trainees learning new equipment. This is already being used by some of the largest oil companies in the world, including BP. The technology has enabled trainees to quickly master complex procedures and processes without the risk factors that come with real-life situations or using actual equipment.
Reality-based training allows virtual instructors to survey a facility and point out safety concerns or display complicated refinery models with links to pressure and temperature readings in real time. This type of training also enables crisis managers to access digital facility models connected to real-time security and safety software.
From interior design to architecture and construction, AR is helping professionals visualise their final products during the creative process. The use of AR headsets enables architects, engineers and design professionals to see exactly how their designs might look in real life — and even make virtual, on-the-spot changes.
Additionally, urban planners can model how entire city layouts might look using AR for visualisation. Any design or modelling job that involves spatial relationships is a perfect use case for AR technology.
AR has the ability to boost the depth and effectiveness of medical training in many areas, including imaging equipment training and simulations of complex surgeries. Doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital use the HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to communicate hands-free and share information with other clinicians in real time.
“I was in the operating theatre performing a complex repair on a little heart, no bigger than the size of a strawberry. By using the Hololens, we were able to transmit live the view of the heart to other colleagues, as well as reviewing the echocardiogram at the same time.”
Rafael Guerrero, Director, Heart Unit, Clinical Director of Innovation and Chief of Congenital Cardiac Surgery
Digital imaging overlays can also give medical professionals the ability to render Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM), MRI and CT scans in real time. Surgeons are taking advantage of AR capabilities to run simulated operations using 3D imaging of actual patients’ bodies.
While tablets and other smart devices have become widespread in educational institutions, educators are ramping up the student learning experience with AR. The HP Reveal app (formerly known as Aurasma), for example, is already being used in classrooms to allow students to participate in classes via a smartphone or tablet for a richer learning experience. Such solutions are pivotal at a moment when education is being reimagined with the aim of promoting and maintaining public health.
Students learning about astronomy can explore topics through a full AR-generated map of the solar system, while those in a music class can use AR to see musical notes in real time as they learn to play instruments. In higher education, AR is being used for immersive learning, enabling chemistry students to experiment with and create complex 3D visualisations of molecules.
Imagine the first time you’re dropped in a military hot zone, the first time your boots hit the ground. Your pulse is racing, you hear gunfire in every direction and you have seconds to decide what to do and where to go. Sure, you’ve done some pre-deployment training, but most of that time was spent in the barracks, conceptualising war using two-dimensional models. Nothing has really prepared you for this — but the Army is about to change that.
The Synthetic Training Environment (STE) is an immersive augmented reality system designed to place soldiers in diverse operational environments, stress them physically and mentally, and bolster readiness through a gruelling series of virtual scenarios.
The same type of training could apply to police officers and departments looking to improve de-escalation capabilities, implement anti-racism measures and earn back the trust of communities.
Leveraging AR for your organisation requires more than a device purchase. How do you ensure you’re getting the full value from your investment? How do you rally talent around this new technology to solve for business challenges? You need an expert who can guide your efforts and help you realise the full potential of AR.
Insight offers expertise and support to help you integrate mixed reality into your business using the Microsoft HoloLens 2. Enlisting the help of a partner like Insight can fast-track your time-to-value and help you capture more benefits along the way.
Across sectors and industries, it’s clear we’re just beginning to realize the capabilities of augmented reality. The question is: Where will AR take us next? From what we’ve seen so far, the answer is anywhere.
See through a different lens. Microsoft HoloLens, available from Insight, can enhance the computing experience in your organisation.
Experience the new Mixed Reality with HoloLens 2 at this year’s Virtual Technology Conference. Register your place today.