When the digital and the real world combine, wonderful things happen. If you don’t believe me, look at the unprecedented success of Pokémon Go. I’ve seen people of all ages running around with their phones out, hoping to catch something new or rare.
While most employers worry about the effect Pokémon Go has on their workforce productivity, I argue that augmented reality (AR) has the ability to streamline work processes and go beyond classic collaboration and communication.
Virtual workspaces are the future of business, as they provide avenues for agility and places for innovation.
The face of the workplace has already changed–bring your own device (BYOD) and the ubiquity of smartphones have allowed more employees to work from their homes.
Augmented reality will take telecommuting to a new level by allowing colleagues to share ideas and collaborate in virtual spaces, regardless of where they are located. Sharing local physical elements will open new doors, even to location-free work.
The biggest challenge in any dispersed workplace is finding innovative ways to replace the collaboration that happens in a face-to-face environment. That’s why large tech companies like Google still have physical headquarters.
AR promises to shake up this notion by creating truly connected workspaces that don’t necessitate a centralized physical location.
The Microsoft HoloLens is a good example of the future of AR. Microsoft is marketing HoloLens specifically to improve the workplace, unlike Oculus Rift and Vive. While much of AR and virtual reality (VR) tech aims to gain traction with gamers, soon we’ll begin to realize AR’s full potential in the work environment.
The HoloLens project’s focus is to improve collaboration, particularly between design and engineering, by creating a 3D projection of an item than can be manipulated in real time. AR also has the potential to make board meetings and product launches feel hands-on, even while connecting remotely to the meeting.
Social media outlets like Facebook provide precedents for this idea. Facebook started out as a way to engage college students, but now it’s an essential part of any marketing strategy. I similarly see AR becoming an integral part of a corporation’s toolkit.
Businesses won’t be sequestering workers in their respective homes and offices but rather will be helping them to collaborate in truly meaningful ways. For example, VR and AR technologies can create a simulated meeting or collaborative space, allowing professionals to work together in real time regardless of their physical locations.
Learn from Google Glass
Naysayers of the AR and VR movement often point to Google Glass as a case in point, which, by most measures, was a failure. The problem with Google Glass was that they put the cart before the horse; in other words, they lacked the development to unleash its full potential. Its voice recognition program also raised some valid privacy concerns.
Even though Glass has been off the market for a while, Google still sees a future in AR, with a recent $542 million investment in the augmented reality company Magic Leap.
I think AR and VR will prove to be more than just trends, and they’ll be widely applicable to business enterprises. Not only will workers connect to one another, but we’ll be able to use AR to improve customer experiences. Such uses are going to be more widely available to more companies as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to manipulate.
Enhancing customer experience through AR is already happening, and the technology is only going to become more prevalent. For example, a business may offer an inside look at products or services by using augmented reality.
Using this technology, consumers could interact with a product as if it were actually there. Creating memorable interactions with customers is crucial for modern companies, and AR is in position to offer unique product experiences.
Get Ready for AR
Augmented reality will be hitting your workplace, whether you prepare for it or not. Agile businesses will, by their very nature, adapt to this change and seamlessly integrate this technology into their work and marketing processes. If you aren’t preparing for AR, you’re already behind.
I think we’ll see this technology combine with BYOD and mobile to revolutionize the way we collaborate in the workplace. If you’re not considering how to incorporate these technologies into your enterprise, you risk missing out on great opportunities. I believe that AR will take us to exciting new levels in the digital transformation.
originally published Aug. 29, 2016