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Augmented reality: How businesses are embracing it and how you can join them

November 09, 2017  |  Lars Klint
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If you have been following the mobile space in the last 6-12 months, chances are you have comes across numerous examples and demos of augmented reality (AR). People playing Minecraft in their kitchen, robots walking down the street and virtual skeletons in your bedroom. I love all of these demos, experiments and tests that push the limits of how we perceive and think of AR. However, as impressive and engaging as they are, they don’t provide a good insight into how businesses might benefit from the technology.

Businesses are already playing with mixed reality

A variety of AR called mixed reality (MR) has been pioneered by Microsoft with their HoloLens device for the past couple of years. This space of mixing digital and physical realities has been embraced by companies like Volvo, thyssenkrupp and Stryker Communications with more coming on board all the time. However, the HoloLens is at least $3,000 per device and is aimed at large enterprise and the uber keen enthusiasts (such as yours truly). 

Truly immersive AR has been elusive—until now

The new players on the AR scene are none other than tech giants Apple and Google. Each have created their own platform that works with your current generation smartphone, such as the iPhone 8, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy. For Apple it is ARKit, and for Google the technology is called ARCore. On both platforms users need only their existing devices for the full experience. 

This is hugely exciting for the businesses of the world. Not only can you build new experiences using existing technology and knowledge, but you suddenly have 100s of millions of users ready to go. Want to improve your current mobile experience and have your mascot show users how to play a game? Done. Want to build a new experience that takes users on a journey through your product range in their living room? Done. 

I have seen many examples in the last short while coming from all parts of the tech world. Examples like a virtual tour guide that places distance signs and shows local tourist information, or IKEA placing virtual furniture in your living room to understand how it might fit. These are basic experiences that add huge value to the experience of the user.

How to succeed with AR 

In my opinion businesses need to focus on three main qualities of their AR endeavors:

Keep it simple. Augmented reality is likely a new experience for most users and if the user experience is too complex, you will lose them. 

Extend natural experiences. If the experience is too far out of this world, users will lose contact with the real world around them and the experience is broken. Virtual Reality is a better medium for these kinds of experiences.

Play to your strength. Get to market faster by using the knowledge and expertise within your current team and extend that team with AR specific skills. You know you domain better than most, and can direct the journey for the user experience. You only need the augmented skills to put it into the world.

The massive opportunity of engaging millions of users with AR experiences is here now. Only more and more devices will be capable of augmenting the reality around us, and your business can be part of that new reality.

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Lars Klint

Lars is an author, trainer, Microsoft MVP, community leader, authority on all things Windows Platform and part-time crocodile wrangler. He... See more