9 December 2016 | 0
The current, prevailing wisdom is that despite the huge work and money going into R&D in virtual reality (VR), it is more likely to be augmented reality (AR) that will have the greatest impact in the near future.
The immersive nature of VR limits its application in business currently goes the wisdom, and that the overlay, or indeed, augmentation, capabilities of AR allow it to be of greater value sooner.
It is already being used in situations such as training, remote guidance, customer service, marketing and design.
We have already seen the likes of Virgin Airlines using Google Glass in CRM mode to meet and greet high value customers with added personalisation. But the other scenarios are equally as tantalising. Remote guidance in particular, is very intriguing.
Imagine a situation where a mobile phone mast has a malfunctioning module in a remote area. A village or rural district may well be relying on it for connectivity. A technician is dispatched and does their best but cannot quite get the thing online.
“Imagine a blank space in which to work… on entering it, with your AR kit on, you see it configured as whatever project space you need. Complete with interactive objects or displays, it is a virtual set of materials and resources, overlaid on the blank canvas that is the physical space”
They don their AR gear, which includes sensor gloves. They connect back to the base via a satellite link. A master technician then sees what they see, and guides their actions with nudges here and there for what to do, using deep experience to troubleshoot the tricky scenario — but critically all carried out through the young technician’s hands.
While this is certainly of great value, another potential application for AR could have a far greater impact for business.
Imagine a blank space in which to work. This would a be a room that needs nothing but hard furnishings, chairs, tables, etc., and of course connectivity. But on entering it, with your AR kit on, you see it configured as whatever project space you need. Complete with interactive objects or displays, it is a virtual set of materials and resources, overlaid on the blank canvas that is the physical space. There could be several of your colleagues there too, or they might simply appear as avatars, because they are in other geographical locations.
In this physical space, overlaid as it is, you can then work collaboratively with digital assets and resources, with all the same access and version control capabilities of OneNote and SharePoint (other collaborative suites are available), but with none of the current physical interfaces necessary, bar the AR kit.
When you are finished, you just walk out of the space, and take off your AR gear. And the next person who walks in, sees their project space.
Extend this slightly, and why not have the AR capability throughout the office.
Everything from the décor to the office furniture and the coffee machine could be overlaid to appear as the viewer wishes.
You could be typing your most important email on what looks to you like a 1942 Corona, but in actual fact is merely a project object that exists only in your digitally augmented vision.
The import is that office spaces could become less and less important as anything other than enclosures onto which can be project whatever the user needs, with the inconsequential details configured according to their tastes, or mood.
Wood and brass
For some ‘don’t bother me, I’m writing’ surrounds, I would favour wood panelling, leather and brass. My colleague next door may be in a Kubrick-eqsue whitespace with some added psychedelia — whatever works for you. With the need for just basic furniture that may even have some kind of indexing marks to facilitate overlays, the kitting out of work spaces may become a thing of the past.
This has been outlined by David Tal, president of consultant firm QuantumRun, and is a very intriguing possibility.
In the same way that home working has prompted many companies to reconfigure their office space into multi-tasking or pure hot desk environments, massively reducing their real estate footprint, AR has the potential to go further, revolutionising what we call office space.