Employees have been on a seemingly rapid journey over the years, transitioning from tethered office phones and conference calls to rich multimedia team collaboration accessible anywhere on any device. But just as they have gotten used to sharing ideas, content, audio, and video with a mere mouse click or screen tap, they are now arriving at another core revolutionary turning point in how they work and collaborate.
Specifically, there is a spectrum of capabilities associated with augmented reality (AR) to consider. These may range from superimposing digital elements onto physical reality, such as visual directions from your GPS overlaid on your car windshield, to a fully immersive experience that replaces your sight, hearing, and even touch with a digitally created and interactive virtual reality. In more immersive scenarios, some sort of headgear, glasses, finger or trigger devices, or spatial gesture sensors would typically be used.
AR has been utilized since the early ’90s in specialized situations such as U.S. Air Force performance training. Given the massive improvements in computing power, video graphics processing, artificial intelligence, and digital sensors, there are many ways AR can bring the future workforce into what we can describe as “augmented collaboration.”
5 Ways AR Improves Collaboration
Here are five potential circumstances that outline augmented collaboration’s influence on employees:
Virtual reality and AR can put employees side-by-side at the table with their remote colleagues. No matter where they are, they can sit together at the same table.
There is a consensus across many studies that an engaged team is a productive and creative team. What better way to bring people together, interact naturally, and share a common experience than to bring everyone to the same virtual table, even if they work around the globe? In this scenario, an employee may be represented by a realistic 3D avatar representing his or her own upper body, head, and hands. The person’s face and hand gestures can be communicated, and he or she can write on a white board or interact collectively with holographic objects. For example, this could allow a distributed team to jointly examine a new product packaging concept or virtually experience a proposed conference exhibit layout.
Design, development, and prototyping can be experienced virtually by a project team.
Rather than dealing with physical (and not easily changed) prototypes, a project team can examine, interact with, and share a common “walk around” experience through a virtual twin. Ford Motor Company is a good example of this in new car development, wherein Ford creates virtual reality-based prototypes in the early design stages. There are many other scenarios where this could be used by teams, such as walking through a redesigned retail point-of-sale customer experience or exploring a new manufacturing floor layout that can be easily evaluated and modified as a virtual model.
Because of AR, sales and marketing teams can offer virtual “test drives” of almost any product or customer experience.
Collaboration with customers is another exciting opportunity for AR. For example, a travel agent can provide an immersive and interactive tour through a resort, enabling customers to visit the lobby, guest rooms, the pool, and the beach. Or, if you don’t have time to physically test drive a range of automobiles, you can expedite your buyer’s journey through virtual, immersive test drives of different models (even from the comfort of the customer’s home).
Remote training and support experts can “be there” with their field service team members.
Another interesting example relates to field service, repair, or diagnostics when complex or novel situations emerge or when a trainee needs enhanced guidance. Using AR glasses with embedded cameras, a remote expert can see what the field engineer is seeing in real time, offer advice, and even overlay illustrations or markings as guidance. Likewise, in more routine situations, artificial intelligence can potentially offer similar real-time guidance to field personnel in a more automated way. With AR, the opportunity to dramatically improve the quality and efficiency of field service could be significant, resulting in faster service cycle times, greater first dispatch resolution, and more streamlined and accessible training support in the field.
Urgent or emergency situations can be handled in new ways.
Imagine a public emergency, crowd control, or hazardous scenario in which a response management team must quickly understand, assess, and address an urgent situation. Here, multiple guided drones can be deployed to capture and assemble a holistic visualization of the entire situation. Through AR, the response team can be physically remote yet still provide immediate feedback and direction or bring in specialized experts. This approach also minimizes unnecessary risk to life and limb when it proves either impractical or too dangerous for team members to attend in person.
This is just a small sampling of the innovative ways teams can benefit from augmented collaboration. The rapid development and intersection of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things with AR will ultimately lead to more exciting scenarios and revolutionary ways for teams to collaborate in the future. That’s why it’s not too early for organizations to start thinking about and planning their respective augmented collaboration strategies.
Ross Sedgewick joined Unify (now part of Atos S.E.) in 2002 and has fulfilled several expert marketing roles in technologies for the digital workplace, team collaboration/customer contact solutions, and virtual team engagement. He currently handles content creation, messaging, and insight development relating to the digital workplace. Sedgewick is passionate about humanizing the intersection of people and technology and understanding how users engage and interact. Before joining Unify, Sedgewick has held marketing, product, channel, and sales leadership positions at IBM Corporation, Delano Technologies, and Siemens Enterprise Communications. In 2016, Unify became part of Atos S.E.