Let’s start six years ago. In 2016, Pokémon Go took the world by storm. The augmented reality (AR) mobile game transcended age groups and demographics, engaging users by tasking them with “capturing” Pokémon characters that appeared as digital entities overlaid onto the physical world. The game encouraged users to interact with their surroundings and move around, which contrasted with previous mobile and computer games. Today, Pokémon Go still retains a dedicated fan base.
Although the technology had been invented decades earlier, this was, perhaps, the world’s first widespread, mainstream introduction to AR. And in the six years since, it has soared to new heights. In fact, in a 2017 article in Harvard Business Review, Harvard University’s Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, predicted that AR would become the new “interface” between humans and machines — and so far, they have proven pretty much correct.
Augmented Reality is expected to grow from USD 6.12 billion in 2021 to 97.76 billion in 2028. So, how can you harness its power at your organization? And is it worth it?
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality is a type of technology that uses devices like mobile phones or wearables such as smart glasses to superimpose digital entities and information over the real world. Effectively, it means that this digital information and the physical world are blended, which enhances our own experiences with the world that surrounds us.
There are many examples of AR already, and use cases are growing in sophistication and complexity. Early instances have included the aforementioned Pokémon Go, as well as the ever-popular Snapchat filters.
Although both technologies involve simulated realities, AR and virtual reality (VR) are different concepts. VR creates a fully immersive experience, completely separating the user from the physical world to put them in a digitally-created one. Users usually need special equipment like headsets to tap into the power of VR. Meanwhile, AR seeks to enhance the real world with digitally-generated content, and users are able to manipulate their surroundings.
Why do you need an AR strategy?
AR is more than just a “cool to have” tool organizations can keep in their arsenal. It is already proving integral to a huge range of industries, including:
- Art and architecture
- Beauty and personal care
- Education and academia
- Military and defense
- Social media
- Travel and tourism
We can use AR in a variety of services and contexts, from marketing to training employees to conceptualizing new products. It also leads to improved engagement in consumers and employees alike. And it can mean stronger customer retention. This is why some of the world’s most well-known and successful businesses and organizations, from Amazon to the U.S. Navy, are experimenting with the technology.
What does it look like in practice? Take vehicles as an example. Some automobiles are now equipped with navigation displays that project your car’s position in context with external traffic, thus alerting you of potential collisions and road hazards.
In retail, meanwhile, shoppers can overlay clothing and products on pictures of themselves to effectively try them on digitally, prior to making their purchases.
How to create an AR strategy
1. Start with the problem — not the solution.
Rather than attempting to apply AR to anything and everything, think in terms of your existing problems and plans. Start with your mission as an organization — what are you trying to do? Then, reflect on how AR can help you reach your goals. In other words, don’t just apply AR because it seems like an amazing tool. Really think about the specific ways in which it can benefit your team in particular and serve your overarching objectives.
2. Research industry trends.
AR is being applied across a wide variety of industries in many different, innovative ways. When you’re developing your own AR strategy, look to other organizations in your field, particularly close competitors in your niche, to see how they are leveraging the technology. Closely study trends, considering how you might be able to use AR to make your products, services, and efforts even better.
Assess these real-life use cases as inspiration to inform your own plans and strategies. Wha can you add to the landscape that’s different?
3. Consider internal uses.
Remember — it’s not all about forward-facing initiatives. While there are many ways to leverage AR for external use, bear in mind that it has numerous applications for internal use, too. It can, for example, be leveraged as a training tool for employees and collaborators, through the creation of a more engaging, hands-on, immersive experience. Think of the potential to replace the typical static, non-interactive videos and manuals we’re accustomed to.
Take warehouse employees. These individuals can receive visual guidance on how to, say, operate complex machinery in real-time, which will not only help them understand the steps but also contribute to preventing unsafe conditions and accidents.
4. Research tools and equipment.
There are many tools, such as apps, to help you build AR products. When researching the appropriate ones for your team, consider:
- Your team members’ skill sets
- Ease of use
- Your specific needs for the project
It’s best if you have someone on your team who has experience with AR. Otherwise, consider outsourcing your project to an external company that specializes in AR development or has deep expertise in this area.
5. Consider scalability.
AR isn’t going anywhere — that much is clear. Therefore, when you’re building your AR strategy, think well beyond the here and now. What will you need to do to ensure that your actions and initiatives persist into the future? How can you ensure that scalability is part of your plan? It’s critical to think about growth and the long-term success of your overall business, with an eye on how AR will play a role in it.
A well-honed AR strategy will prove vital across industries and businesses of all types. Already, this important technology is making waves. Can you afford to be left behind?