What the hell is Augmented Reality

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As the word describes, it is a technology for augmenting your real-world view. Still not sure? Imagine you are looking at a painting to buy but not sure how it would look on your wall, you can use this technology to place the painting (augmenting it) on the wall and see how it looks, thereby saving you the time and trouble of trying things out physically. From a technical perspective, Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive 3D experience which combines a view of the real world with computer-generated elements in real time, or simply, AR is the use of technology to add artificial and digital qualities to real-life objects. 


Let’s look at an example to better explain this: While shopping for clothing or accessories online, you may not know if the item that you are looking is matching and/or fitting you, with AR you get to try on a dress or a pair of glasses digitally, and it will give you the near real experience of fitting your clothes all from the comfort of your home or at work during your break. The AR technology allows you to overlay, placing a specially formatted image of the item that you are interested in over yourself and also interact by viewing the appearance of the items in a 360-degree experience.  


AR technology can be experienced through multiple ways, some of the high-quality and high-definition work such as gaming, immersive experiences, and precision workers such as doctors and engineers use special AR devices known as AR-Goggles. With the advancement of mobile device processing power and camera technology, most mainstream applications such as retail, education and mobile gaming is using AR on mobile devices, which is providing a high commercial value and customer experience for various businesses. 



Listed below are several industries that will benefit with the use of Augmented Reality. 


  1. Retail–AR helps your clients to try-before-you-buy all from the comfort of their homes, this is a major convenience for online shoppers and is a great value addition to buyers. As a result of AR, customers are now able to have a preview of which clothing, household items and accessories that would better suit them and their homes.



  1. Manufacturing–Imagine, you need to dig through and is unsure where the electricity and gas channels are, using AR you could map and overlay such conditions before you work on a site. How about you get to experience a room before you build it and all of this at the planning phase. According to the internet of business, in manufacturing, AR can be used to identify unsafe working conditions, measure a variety of changes, and even envision a finished product. 


  1. Real estate-The most popular feature of AR in the real estate industry is that the technology allows potential buyers to take a tour of a property via their smartphones, from anywhere in the world. This omits the trouble of clients having to travel long distances for inspection and decision making. Thanks to the AR technology, this service can be accessible from the comfort of one’s home. 


  1. Education-Learning applications which facilitate the AR technology are now able to display the augmented object on the screen while providing 3D illustrations of concept, allowing students to learn and have a more engaging experience through interactive lessons. 


  1. Gaming and entertainment-A game that is AR enabled consists of a pre created virtual environment overlaying the user’s actual environment. Pokémon GO which was released in 2016, is considered as the breakthrough Augmented Reality app for gaming. The game uses a smartphone’s GPS, camera, and clock to enable a location-based augmented reality environment. 


  1. Health care–As stated by the Health Management, due to the vast amount of information that is there to absorb in the study of medicine, AR enabled applications provide healthcare professionals the ability to visualise and interact with 3D representations of human body, organs, and tissues. A recent trend indicates that AR is also used as a tool by medical professionals to help their patients understand surgical procedures and the way medication works. This gives patience hope and confidence of the procedure knowing what steps are taken and how. 





How can small businesses use augmented reality? 


Try before you buy: Arguably the most important facility of AR would be the ability for customers to “try before you buy.” Many retailing businesses such as Home Depot, IKEA, Wayfair, Target, Amazon, Nike, etc., have initiated the Augmented Reality functionality in their applications to give customers the opportunity to see how a clothing item will look on them or how a piece of furniture will look in their home before they confirm the order. 


Mapping and navigation: Yelp, a social networking site for reviewing and rating is said to be one of the earliest adopters of AR. Yelp utilised the monocle feature which overlayed information about local businesses when scanning the surroundings through a smartphone. AR has been improved to a point where basic information such as the location, distance and directions are indicated on the screen. This feature has become an impressive inclusion in the motor vehicle industry with brands such as a Mercedes Benz and Audi introducing Augmented Reality Head-Up Displays which provides information on the windshield of the respective vehicle. 


Design and modelling: 3D designing and modelling: This facility is more commonly used during the designing process of houses, transportation modes, buildings, video games, movies, machinery, etc. Utilising AR when designing mock-ups instead of preparing physical structures is one way to help businesses reduce their cost while giving an enhanced experience to their clients.  


Remote sales: Google and IKEA are the pioneers of making AR a valuable tool in the retail sector. With the ability to use AR in any industry ranging from architecture to retail, customers are now able to shop online with the help of AR without having to physically visit the store. With the in-store experience being created in a virtual environment, customers can conveniently experience the products from the comfort of their homes before making the purchase. 


Training and development: Regardless of the qualifications one may possess, it is no secret that every individual will require training in his/her line of work. Training is unfortunately time consuming and that is the time which could be spent during work duties. AR facilitates learning while on the job by providing a hands-on training experience, eliminating costly real-world mistakes. Utilising AR during training programs provide individuals with an immersive and a multi-sensory experience which is much more effective than lectures, textbooks, and handbooks. This can result in a quicker mastery of the respective craft. 


It is evident that the benefits for businesses through Augmented Reality is immeasurable. It is a tool which offers a versatile array of services despite the industry in which your business operates. Understanding which aspect of a business AR will be most beneficial for, is crucial as it will enable the business to scale, grow and make the maximum out of the opportunities available.