Cutting edge augmented technology potential in business

Long promised in the land of science fiction, augmented reality technologies are now finally entering the mainstream. Though their primary uses are often touted in gaming and medicine, almost any business could see significant advantages through the integration of this new tech. Taking a look at what this tech is and what it could do could give you a glimpse into the coming generation, to help you get ahead of the curve.

What is augmented reality technology?

As we noted back in this Retail Times article in 2011, the potential for AR in business has been a long time coming. As for what the term means, augmented reality could be seen as an approach similar to virtual reality. The difference is that while virtual reality strives to create entirely digital worlds, augmented reality aims to overlay digital information on top of the real world.

This is accomplished through the application of camera and display screen systems, as are commonly found in smartphones. According to Cyber Crew, 87% of adults in the UK in 2020 already own smartphones, with a mobile internet penetration rate of 72%. Since the UK has an adult population of around 54 million, this means roughly 39 million users in the UK alone have access to AR tech already.

Building on existing business models

For an illustration of what AR and VR technology could bring to different forms of business, we could look at a variety of already existing and potential coming systems over a range of industries. These run the gambit from simple systems to broad and complex integrations, demonstrating the level of flexibility that VR makes possible.

Here in the UK, footwear brand, Hotter Shoes has been working with fairly simple AR systems for months now, as we explored in this Retail Times article. For these systems, Hotter works off photos of a person’s bare or socked feet, which are then run through AI programs. This AI uses metrics taken from the photo to recommend shoe length and width, even overlaying visual examples of fitted shoes. While this can’t relay feel, it still cuts down on a huge amount of guesswork, making visits to actual stores or buying online that much easier.

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Another business in the UK we’ve explored at Retail Times is Currys PC World, which again implements AR for their products. In their AR system, Currys PC World allows users to select their product and use their mobile phone to digitally superimpose the device within their home. This reduces ambiguity about placement and makes it that much easier to ensure a satisfactory fit that matches a home’s overall design.

For potential systems, the entertainment space could also see some major changes with AR implementation, even if not in operation yet. Consider the roulette Betway games as an example. With classic games, an AR projected table could add a new level of realism, boosted further in titles with live dealers. Similar promise could also be found in viewing sports matches, with potential for giving out real-time stats and other key information, as noted by CNCB.

It’s not just examining products that AR can help with either, as even finding what you want within a store could be aided with AR systems. Like Shopify explores, rather than asking staff, a simple AR guide could point shoppers directly where they need to go, as well as offer insight into helpful related products.

Taking the next step

Given all the advantages that AR provides, it might seem strange that integration is still limited in scope. There are good reasons for this, however. The first is that, as a newer technology, augmented reality still has to prove itself to users. As with any technological leap forward, there can be hesitation in making the jump to the unfamiliar and seemingly complicated. Since AR continues to prove itself and become more user friendly by the week, this issue will lessen over time.

The second major contributing problem in some forms of implementation comes from the need for mobile phones. While this can work perfectly well sometimes, such as the footwear example above, phones can render the tech clunky in more applications that require the user to stay active. After all, staring at a screen can lead us to bump into our surroundings. The saving grace here could come from AR glasses, which while still in their infancy, still show immense promise.

Though the first generation of AR glasses were clunky, newer iterations as explored by CNet are far more streamlined, powerful, and lighter than ever before. Also offering greater viewing angles, smart glasses like the TCL NXT Wear Air could one day become a common sight, at least once the price tag drops below the current $650 mark.

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As for whether AR could be of use in your business, that much will usually depend on cost. While cost/benefit analysis of augmented reality integration might not make them viable for you yet, this is likely to change before the end of the 2020s. For this reason, we’d recommend readers stay abreast of the latest AR business news, and consider how the technology might affect your industry in the future. AR’s a big step forward, but it could also pay off.

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