Verizon is one of the Many Fortune 500 Enterprises Embracing Augmented Reality in the “New Normal”
Is Enterprise Augmented Reality becoming the “New Normal” for businesses? According to Business Insider, it might happen even though companies have been resisting it for years — because of the onset of the pandemic. Business Insider discusses how one enterprise, Verizon, has used AR to transform a critical aspect of their operations at a time when they desperately needed to keep customers happy.
It’s been an uphill struggle for enterprises to truly adopt augmented reality as a way to serve customers and drive growth — that is, until the advent of the recent pandemic. When the novel coronavirus upended society, the stakes never became higher for businesses who wanted to keep their customer satisfaction levels up while still protecting their employees and honoring social distancing and shelter-in-place initiatives. The solution? Rethink in-person visits and embrace the power of Augmented Reality. Verizon is a key example. Obviously, it became no longer possible to send technicians to customers’ homes to solve their phone, Internet, and video problems. But with the power of augmented reality, Verizon experts could suddenly identify and resolve customer issues using the power of chat, online tools, and Internet consultations — without even stepping inside the customer’s house! In essence, the technical know-how of the Verizon technical staff could be communicated via AR without any reduction in customer satisfaction levels. Indeed, this change in business strategy became imperative since such in-visits were prohibited at both the state and the local level, and Verizon leadership itself shut down in-person appointments in order to ensure the protection and safety of its workers. All of these factors caused Verizon to dramatically speed up the adoption of innovative augmented reality technology.
Corona Changes the Game for Enterprise Augmented Reality
Nor is Verizon alone: The co-founder and CEO of Scope AR, Scott Montgomerie, remarked that in the past, large companies were simply unwilling to take the risk of incorporating new, untried technology and altering the status quo that had existed for decades. But now? There’s simply no alternative, and the sea change caused by the pandemic will likely mean that augmented reality is here to stay. Once this “forced adoption” of AR occurs, enterprises such as Verizon will finally recognize the incredible benefits of time savings, reduced travel expenses, and high customer satisfaction. As a result, the “new normal” will include a rapid adoption of augmented reality technology — and it won’t go away anytime soon.
Enterprise Augmented Reality Platforms: COVID-19 Ushers in a New Era
We agree with Contol’s assessment: Technology for enabling remote interactions such as virtual conferences, online collaboration tools, and remote workflows have been gaining traction in recent years. But as Keith Larson points out in this incisive article from CONTROL, it’s nothing compared to the transformation that has occurred, in an incredibly rapid space of time, due to the onset of COVID-19.
We all know about the disruptive effects of social distancing as well as the unfortunate damage wrought on industries of all sorts: hospitality, retail, and travel, just to name a few. But what’s also happened is that enterprises have begun to face the reality that their slow, careful adoption of augmented reality platforms needs to suddenly speed up and become a clear, decisive strategy.
Larson points out that areas of society exist that have already done this — there are well-known and successful companies that have already allowed remote workers and virtual conferences to be the name of the game; in-person meetings and office workers are a far less important component of their culture. But for many companies, remote workforce strategies are new. No longer. For example, Cisco Webex has seen an exponential increase in adoption of its virtual meeting platform in countries around the world. And Cisco is by no means alone.
The Slow Traction of Enterprise Augmented Reality Platforms and Other Remote Tools Suddenly Accelerates in the COVID Era
Another company that has seen increased adoption of its technology is Scope AR; its Augmented Reality Platform has experienced a swarm of new users as a result of the current crisis. The WorkLink enterprise augmented reality platform is in heavy use by a company based in China — which manufactures food and drinks — and it leverages the technology to keep important processes going smoothly during a highly critical moment in the company’s history. According to David Nedohin, the Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder of Scope AR, knowledge is scarce — and it simply takes too long (and costs too much) to share knowledge by forcing someone to physically fly from country to country. Rather, knowledge can be communicated and spread much more quickly using a virtual solution.
The bottom line is that a rapidly changing international environment means that companies need to find new approaches to age-old problems. To that end, enterprise augmented reality platforms are a key strategy for organizations that need to support employees and ensure that business initiatives are completed without violating social distancing rules or putting people in danger. Larson concludes by pointing out that in a matter of months, we’ll know the true adoption rate of these enterprise augmented reality platforms and similar tools: the strong implication is that they will continue to skyrocket.
AR Technology and VR Overcomes Challenges and Accelerates Adoption
Is the time right for augmented reality technology to become widely adopted by enterprises? The answer may be “yes” based on recent research.
David Kariuki, writing for Hypergrid, summarizes a report released by Perkins Coie as well as XR Association and Boost VC, which reveals that over 66% of companies plan to buy more augmented reality technology and VR in 2020 than in the previous year — with AR being much more widely prized than VR. This point was echoed by David Nedoin, ScopeAR’s Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder, who elaborated that major enterprises are now taking the leap to truly incorporate augmented reality technology throughout their organizations and achieve real Return-on-Investment from its use. To that end, ScopeAR has unveiled a program, called “Quick Start,” that enables companies to use ScopeAR technology to solve business challenges during the current COVID-19 situation. In addition, ScopeAR is making its WorkLInk platform available, free of charge, to teams that are manufacturing ventilators.
The reality is, as a result of the pandemic, society is seeing heavier usage of virtual tools of all sorts and that includes augmented reality platforms. Enterprises can use solutions such as these to help train and develop their remote employees, and do it by spending far less money than if they performed these functions in-person. One could even speculate that, ironically, the pandemic itself has forced companies to realize the sheer ROI they can achieve through augmented reality technology, virtual conferences, and other online collaboration tools. Without the pandemic, it would have been a much slower, steeper adoption curve.
Augmented Reality Technology Poised for Growth
Part of the reason for this is that it’s simply not enough to use a video conferencing setup. Users also want the ability to interact in an environment that they both share, which is a much more interesting experience than just a Zoom call with a custom background. This is why you see industries such as medical professions adopting augmented reality technology in addition to the usual suspects in gaming and video. To some extent, VR lags behind AR — because the technology isn’t quite there yet. More sophisticated computer technology is required to make the user experience more smooth in regards to VR, so experts suggest that true VR adoption may be as long as three years out.
But AR? With the kind of augmented reality technology provided by solutions such as ScopeAR, and with the current state of the world and the need for virtual technology and collaboration tools, AR is taking off in a way that few experts would have predicted.
Automated Reality Glasses Reduces Time for Complex Engineering Tasks by a Factor of 12
When it comes to a mission to space, any technology that can significantly reduce the time it takes to perform complex tasks is highly prized. Augmented reality glasses have proven to be indispensable for difficult and complex projects on key NASA missions. And the content for these glasses is created exclusively by ScopeAR. Linda Harridge’s article for NASA provides all the details in regards to how this works and how AR fits into building space-ready ships.
One of NASA’s contractor’s, Lockheed Martin, is leveraging augmented technology glasses to enhance its engineering teams’ ability to create a spacecraft for the Artemis II program, which will be sending astronauts to Orion. One of the technicians who works with Lockeed Martin wears augmented reality glasses in order to help other engineers understand where to install key parts of the spacecraft. These glasses are extremely adept at helping shed light on the complex task of assembling difficult hardware. In legacy processes, engineers would have to figure out what to do from simply reading books or looking at video screens — but with augmented reality glasses, the instructions appear as actual, fully dimensional images sprayed across the surface where the work actually needs to be done. It’s like a living guide to assembling the spacecraft!
The time savings is immeasurable. Previously, it took at least a week to assemble the complex software using the old style of instructions; with the augmented reality glasses, the same work can be done in roughly 10% of the time. Engineers use the glasses to see precisely where to put objects on the spacecraft, at what angle, and what reference number to use with them, which makes for an extremely fluid and speedy process. Nor is the use of the goggles expected to go away anytime soon. Rather, Lockeed Martin has been using augmented reality glasses for several years already, and they are looking to continue heavy usage in order to ensure that spacecrafts are ready for their voyage. Another example cited is the use of click bonds, which help secure the wiring harnesses to the spacecraft; such harnesses can be miles in length. Augmented reality glasses helped the crew locate the click bonds in record time, saving weeks of time. Goggles will also be used to put several important modules on the spacecraft, as well as to put together the actual seats for the crew.
Augmented Reality Glasses Enable Nasa Moon Missions
The bottom line is that the augmented reality glasses allow engineers to completely grasp the nature of the task that needs to be performed, and they don’t have to guess at what needs to be done. Lockheed builds the content for the glasses using ScopeAR’s WorkLink, an augmented reality software program. It gives NASA’s engineers the confidence to complete complex tasks quickly, and will even enable them to land the first woman on the moon shortly!
Automated Reality Devices are a way for Enterprises to Scale Knowledge without Travel
What’s the impact of COVID-19 on the adoption of augmented reality devices? Quite a bit, according to David Nedohin in this passionate article on how enterprises can adapt and change to the current, volatile environment.
He begins by pointing out that downtime in an industry such as manufacturing can quickly translate to a loss of millions of dollars. It’s not easy even in the best of times to maintain a great operational cadence without unnecessary waste, and something like the current crisis situation can really shine a light on inefficiencies. As the virus continues to spread, this fact is becoming even more stark and clear. Employees are discouraged from going on flights, and sometimes actually prohibited from doing so. And that means for enterprises that rely on travel for growth and revenue, the crisis is even more intense.
Manufacturing is definitely feeling the brunt of the disruption to normal operating procedure, because it depends upon employees being physically present in order to function. One of ScopeAR’s customers, for example, has a sizable facility in Vietnam — but now they’re using the ScopeAR augmented reality device WorkLink to keep critical functions running and ensuring that the factory stays on track. In this regard, what we see is that augmented reality devices can facilitate a new way of communicating for organizations — enabling them to spread their knowledge without the requirement of knowledge workers actually boarding a plane. The ScopeAR approach to virtual collaboration has made this a reality.
Augmented Reality Devices Keep People Connected During Coronavirus Crisis
How does this work? Augmented reality devices can transmit important data across countries, connecting people worldwide with employees who work in manufacturing. When you put this together with the ability for AR to provide self-guided work instructions, international enterprises can rest assured that their employees will have instructions that are simple and can be followed again again — a key prerequisite for ensuring that factories can continue to stay open even in the face of the global pandemic.
The result? Scope AR customers have reduced their manufacturing downtime by half as a result of the WorkLink platform. That would be an amazing result in any year, but it’s an extraordinary metric to achieve in the midst of the current crisis. That’s especially true when it’s simply not possible to fly knowledge workers directly to manufacturing sites.
Nedohin concludes by pointing out that when times are tough, we rely on technology to keep us in contact with one another. That’s why we’re seeing more and more companies rely on augmented reality devices and other remote work tools in order to ensure that business stays on track. This may be the moment when AR solutions truly rise to the occasion and claim their place in the modern workforce.
Augmented Reality in Business Provides Critical Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Writing for Hypergrid, David Kariuki describes the importance of the ScopeAR WorkLink technology in a time where knowledge workers are forbidden to travel to China due to the dangers of COVID-19, and how augmented reality in business keeps stability and ensures safety while enabling critical business operations to be completed.
Kariuki points out that enterprises no longer have to be physically on-site in order to repair machines and ensure the normal flow of business operations. Rather, factory staff can contact an expert for help with a critical business process. But at that point, they don’t have to simply listen and follow instructions; rather, they use WorkLink from ScopeAR to receive detailed, actionable information on how to complete their task, even if they have no prior training in regards to machine repair. Think of it like an expert hovering next to you, over your shoulder, guiding you in real time how to complete an important repair or perform an important task. Images can also be employed with notes above them, providing important real-time information. The result is that factory operations continue without interruption, ensuring growth and revenue that would otherwise be lost as a result of the pandemic.
David Nedohin of ScopeAR told Kariuki that Chinese enterprises could potentially face millions of dollars in lost revenue as a result of the current environment, but the WorkLink platform ensures remote guidance and actionable instructions to factory workers and therefore helps organizations ensure normal business operations during an extraordinarily difficult time. The platform is also being used to join teams together virtually and help with key business fundamentals such as logistics, supply chains, and other strategies to ensure high-quality output.
Augmented Reality in Business ensures stability in a volatile environment
Augmented reality in business has other use cases as well: enterprises can publish best practice protocols and put them into a training module on the ScopeAR platform, creating a library that can be used on an ongoing basis. This is far superior to 2D instruction manuals and complex guidebooks. Nedohin compares the process to using video conferencing, but with augmented reality in business incorporated into the process. ScopeAR also offers metrics and monitoring to help organizations determine who is using the platform and how.
The article concludes by discussing some other key components of augmented reality in business: its ability to help during times of disaster by limiting access to the factory, and the increased ROI that Fortune 500 organizations have seen by adopting the technology. A headset that doesn’t require hands is considered a top priority, and will boost adoption of the technology tremendously. But for organizations that already recognize the incredible benefits that AR can offer, there are best practice tips for moving forward: finding an AR solution that aligns with their existing technology framework, choosing a platform that can be set up quickly, and then helping their staff understand the high-impact benefits of augmented reality in business.
With a banner 2019 behind us, I thought it would be a great time to take a deeper dive into a critical component of every single augmented reality implementation: the devices that bring AR to life. Hardware delivers what AR promises: real-time overlays, contextual data, assembly instructions, live two-way communications, and more. If AR is like having superpowers for the enterprise, displays and wearables are how you summon them.
Now that 2020 is well underway, let’s look at the state of things in augmented reality devices.
CES 2020: augmented reality wearables – hope or hype?
Like clockwork, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) swooped into Las Vegas, dazzling tech bloggers, cable news, and business press with a broad range of tech gear. Let’s be clear: this is first and foremost an event showcasing consumer tech – far heavier on products for the household than the enterprise. But there’s no question that the consumer market for VR and AR can drive feature innovation in augmented reality devices and pioneer new AR-enhanced experiences.
Were there any CES 2020 news or trends worth keeping an eye on for enterprise AR? Here are my top takeaways:
Consumer AR wearables are gaining traction. It’s worth noting that a VentureBeat writer called this year’s CES “easily the best VR and AR event I’ve attended,” predicting 2020 will be a breakthrough year for consumer AR.
No heavy-hitter device manufacturer went big on AR. Samsung maybehinted at AR smartglasses. Panasonic showed a prototype that maybe will head to the enterprise market someday. But I wouldn’t read too much into this absence: these days, major hardware players opt for their own events over the noise of CES.
A number of niche players demoed lightweight wearables, which might herald a similar evolution to the business market. (Read on for some thoughts.)
One vendor announced advances in higher-definition visuals through improved, mounted projectors, as well as a design tweaked to be fully transparent.
I’m grateful that I get to meet with executives from a broad range of industries and showcase how an AR platform can help transform their business. And while these businesses are vastly different in markets, geography, and customer segments, their leaders always ask me the same question: what’s the best augmented reality wearable device out there today? Today, I can say, without hesitation: Microsoft HoloLens 2.
This wasn’t always so easy. Like AR itself, wearables have rapidly evolved in recent years. And of course there are many good options that bring AR into enterprise workflows. But I see two key advantages unique to the Hololens 2: First, the overall user experience is stellar, from comfort to field-of-view. It’s amazing to see a customer try out a Hololens 2 — even someone new to AR. Onboarding is seamless: gesturing, eye tracking, and controls are intuitive, sometimes even automatic. Hololens 2 shrinks the AR learning curve, and it’s a shorter distance from “how does this thing work?” to “what can AR do for my business?” especially compared to the clunky interface of the HoloLens 1.
The second advantage is what Microsoft uniquely can wrap around the Hololens 2: an entire ecosystem for AR, from developer engagement, great developer tools, and built-in enterprise-grade features like Mobile Device Management that help to delive solutions aimed at the enterprise. Smaller players are absolutely vital, and will continue to innovate, but in 2020, it’s safe to expect some very compelling use cases as more enterprises try out and implement the Hololens 2 for AR use cases.
What’s next for augmented reality wearable devices
2020 promises some big steps forward for AR. But longer-term, I see some opportunities for advances in wearables to further drive adoption of enterprise AR. Just as we continue to evolve what’s possible with an AR knowledge platform, hardware manufacturers can find ways to evolve these essentials:
Field-of-view. At least one hardware provider with enterprise-market aspirations has a wearable that obscures a user’s peripheral vision — a non-starter in any potentially risk-prone environment. Further expanding the field of view beyond what today’s choices offer ensures AR visuals don’t obscure the environment that technicians need to see.
Ruggedness. Our customers are using AR in environments like factory floors and aerospace assembly rooms. Augmented reality wearable devices should meet industrial safety standards, be able to withstand impact and other factor.
Lighten up. A holy-grail AR wearable would be ultra-lightweight, not dissimilar from some of those consumer-oriented models shown at CES. In the near-term, this means offloading processing power to a companion device like a smartphone. This is where major computation could happen: visual data processed, graphics drawn, and blazing-fast, two-way network connectivity. All of this requires problem-solving around battery draw, heat, and critically, no-lag data transfer to the display.
Let’s go outdoors. Augmented reality wearable devices like the HoloLens rely on infrared lasers to scan and map the real world around you. There are limitations outdoors, because the sunlight can affect what lasers can map. Overcoming this limitation will unlock vast potential for AR enterprise applications, but a lot of innovation will be required to solve this hurdle.
Lockheed Martin has leveraged augmented reality in manufacturing to reduce touch labor for the Orion spacecraft.
George Leopold, writing for EE Times, follows up his earlier reporting in regards to how Lockeed Martin is embracing augmented reality in manufacturing. Specifically, he explains how Scope AR’s content and the Microsoft HoloLens platform are working in tandem to drive major efficiencies in how engineers are preparing spacecrafts for critical missions.
In essence, Lockheed Martin is able to dramatically improve its manufacturing efforts through augmented reality by using ScopeAR’s virtual training manuals to assist in the creation of key spacecraft modules. For example, engineers are able to very quickly build modules such as fasteners, heat shields, and specialized meters. This has reduced the amount of labor required by engineers by more than a factor of 8!
In addition, the ability to put together and communicate information regarding workflow has been dramatically increased as a result of augmented reality in manufacturing. For example, the VR glasses can help a technician understand exactly where to fix a particular ship module, without having to interpret arcane and hard-to-read 2D and printed instructions. Rather, the correct location appears in the glasses — impossible to get wrong!
Lockheed Martin isn’t alone in its adoption of augmented reality in manufacturing. Other enterprises in the same ecosystem have recognized the potential benefits and ROI of streamlining tasks and enhancing training through the content provided by ScopeAR’s Worklink product. In fact, the scope of initiatives covered by AR continue to increase – PriceWaterhouseCooper reported that design and development may be the most popular use case, but it’s followed closely behind by workforce development, safety, and the operation of machinery. On some level, augmented reality in manufacturing can be seen as an extension of manufacturing strategy — sharing space in the same arsenal of tools such as robots and IoT, as well as three-dimensional printing.
Augmented Reality in Manufacturing and NASA is a Perfect Fit
The article concludes by unveiling some truly astounding stats with respect to what augmented reality in manufacturing has been able to produce for Lockheed Martin. There has been a fifty percent cut in the time needed to finish critical functions. A spokesperson for the enterprise says that important activities are able to be finished in half the time — and it’s all because AR, and the kind of content provided by ScopeAR, is not just science fiction; it’s being used by real people, and real companies, to drive critical business results and operations in the modern era.
Scope AR continues to expand its enterprise AR offerings after today announcing the acquisition of Tel Aviv based AR studio WakingApp. The acquisition will bolster the Scope’s AR development capabilities, as six of the WakingApp team’s founding members join the Scope AR mothership in North America.
Microsoft Hololens 2, Google Glass, and other consumer-oriented augmented reality (AR) devices may soon be widely employed in commercial settings as part of Internet of Things solutions. At least that’s what major distributors are betting, with Ingram Micro recently announcing support for HoloLens 2 and SYNNEX doing the same for Google AR headsets.
How do AR and IoT mesh? For one, AR glasses and AR-powered tablets and smartphones are IoT devices. For another, AR and IoT can connect physical assets with the digital infrastructure linking them. An IoT temperature alert on a printing press, for example, can call up an AR overlay of where increased friction is creating heat and where to gain access so the problem can be fixed.
Scope AR, a San Francisco-based developer of the WorkLink AR platform, bet big on Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 as an interface, with investors putting up $15.8 million in funds this year. The platform is designed for industrial-use applications such as field maintenance, manufacturing, and training.
“HoloLens 2 fixed most of the industrial-use problems from the first version,” says Scott Montgomerie, CEO and co-founder. “Version 2 supports full gesture control, eye tracking, better security, and is made with safety glass.” He says other AR interfaces aren’t as well suited for industrial use. “Google Glass has a small processor and a small field of view. Magic Leap [an AR headset from a startup of the same name] was created more for entertainment, and the tether from the glasses to the belt pack can’t be used in an industrial setting.”
Scope AR has been working with Microsoft for over a year to get its software optimized for the HoloLens 2, which Montgomerie says Microsoft salespeople are using in demos.
More companies are starting to get excited about AR too, says German Rodriguez, USA country manager for JoinPad, an industrial AR solutions provider in Milan, Italy. “Three years ago, we were doing AR and IoT proof[s] of concept for Fortune 500 companies, because they were the ones with the budget to push the edge,” he says. “Today we’re working with midsized companies with 100 to 200 employees.”
JoinPad’s BrainPad platform and Smart Assistance software work on tablets and smartphones as well as smart glasses. “We’re changing the hardware approach to AR and cutting down the cost, since tablets are cheaper than smart glasses,” adds Rodriguez. Their software overlays information on images captured by the tablet’s camera. For example, a field maintenance application can show an inexperienced tech exactly what screw to unscrew first by highlighting it on the screen and listing the actions to take. Smart Assistance adds a remote-control link to an experienced technician who can support the field tech with a voice connection.
Founded by CEO Scott Montgomerie, David Nedohin and Graham Melley in 2011 with a mission to build AR applications for business, Scope AR has since developed into one of the leading providers of hardware-agnostic AR solutions for a broad range of enterprises. Scope AR’s WorkLink SaaS platform combines real-time remote assistance, AR work instructions, and other features packaged in an “augmented reality knowledge platform.” WorkLink is accessible via any kind of device. “The WorkLink platform is a growing thing. We’re never going to stop adding new features and stay ahead of the industry,” said Scott Montgomerie, co-founder and CEO of Scope AR.
Over the past six years, Tel-Aviv based WakingApp AR Studios, founded by Alon Melchner, Adiel Gur and Haim Maik, has been building an app creation tool that allows developers and designers to rapidly produce AR experiences as stand-alone apps or integrate mobile AR experiences into existing mobile apps. Apps can be updated on the fly and hosted anywhere. The company has been competing on simplicity and price. This is a crowded segment, filled with well funded startups. Matan Libis, CEO of WakingApp, was shopping around for either more venture capital or perhaps something more strategic at AWE 2019 in May, where he met David Nedohin, President of Scope AR.
Scope AR’s acquisition of WakingApp will expand the WorkLink platform by integrating key functionality from WakingApp. Scope’s enterprise users which include Lockheed Martin and Unilever. We wrote about their work with Lockheed here.
Montgomerie sees the acquisition as part of the natural growth of Scope’s SaaS business, which makes up 95% of the company’s revenue. Scope AR doubled its revenue this year (2019). We wrote about their Series A round of $9.7 million in March. The growing team of over 50 is spread mostly between offices in San Francisco, Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), and now Tel Aviv.
Scope’s Series A investors were led by Romulus Capital, with participation from SignalFire, Y-Combinator and AngelList.
So what’s the opportunity for channel pros? Scope AR is developing a channel program now, says Montgomerie. With Microsoft as a major partner, he expects Microsoft resellers will have a chance to get involved.
Rodriguez understands IT integrators may be intimidated by getting up to speed with AR and IoT, but “once you have a minimum level of knowledge you can have good conversations with customers,” he says. “Hardware-agnostic providers will be the most helpful, focusing on the needs of your customer.”
And while AR technology is market-ready, there are still some missing pieces and pain points, Montgomerie acknowledges. For example, desktop CAD programs use high detail with 100 million polygons. AR interfaces today—glasses, tablets, and smartphones—don’t have that much graphics processing power. Montgomerie looks forward to 5G for solving such an issue. “With a fast network, we can use cloud rendering. Those 100 million polygons may be possible to display using streaming video processed in the cloud.”
Still, the technology and pricing have come a long way. JoinPad worked with customers three or four years ago who spent $200,000 to $300,000 for AR and IoT projects. “Today you can do all those same things with subscriptions for a few bucks per month per user,” Rodriguez says, barring any custom software additions.
“You can jump into AR and IoT without any risk and a limited commitment,” he says, “then come back and ramp up when it works.”