The launch of the much-anticipated Apple Vision Pro heralds a new era of consumer productivity through spacial computing. In the enterprise, that future is here.
“In 2024 we may finally see products and apps that bring virtual augmented reality into the same functional universe as our phones and computers, maybe finally leading to mass adoption like smartphones over a decade ago.”
The release of the Apple Vision Pro is re-igniting the tech industry,
For Scope the Vision Pro is validation of a premise we’ve been operating on for years, that AR is not just a futuristic concept but a present-day reality with powerful applications in enterprise solutions, demonstrating its capability to enhance productivity, training, and complex task execution in various industries.
The picture above is of one of Scope AR’s co-founders, David Nedohin, in 2012, wearing a Frankenstein hacked-together pair of Epson Moverio BT100s. A customer asked us to build our own AR glasses for a trade show and, well, we did! We literally hacked the firmware to accept external video input from a computer. And with this experience, we realized we had more than a cool toy on our hands, we had the makings of an actual enterprise use case for augmented reality.
Cut to today: Scope AR has the most scalable, most enterprise AR platform out there. And Apple has launched its version of more-or-less the same concept, the Apple Vision Pro.
The hardware has caught up to the demand for highly practical — and in the case of our customers — business-critical use cases that require precise communication of complex tasks . We’ve known for years now that AR has strong applications in manufacturing, technical training, and industrial productivity, now the Apple Vision Pro will unlock productivity across consumer productivity use cases, and boost enterprise user experience in the process.
As Scott Stein says, AR will experience a moment in 2024 and beyond. Having innovated in AR for over 10 years we have both a unique and nuanced view on what it can do now and where it’s heading.
Here’s what AR looks like In 2024:
AR has use cases—
We’ve seen AR evolve from emerging technology to mature enterprise solution and we would argue that AR is what it has been for years — practical, an effective productivity tool — but now broadly no longer tied exclusively to gaming or virtual escape from reality.
In fact, AR is uniquely positioned to improve the outcomes in several critical use cases. Take learning and skill development. Our enterprise customers have reported up to 90% improvement in time to train and certify staff, customers, and technicians on shop floor activities and other technical skills. This is because AR moves learning into applied practice, where the learning and retention rate is higher. We anticipate considerable acceleration of applied learning as tools like the Vision Pro broaden the usage and application of AR to our everyday work.
AR is Enterprise
In our early days, even with clear-cut use cases, it was challenging expanding from early piloting of AR driven by research or Innovation teams to actual usage on the shop floor. But today AR platforms like WorLink offer an end-to-end enterprise solution, and innovations in hardware, data integrations, IoT, and AI have furthered the Digital Thread by uniting systems across product lifecycle management, the shop floor, and manufacturing execution.
And the enterprise is now applying AR cross-functionally, across use cases and teams. Take Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, one of the world’s leading industrial groups, spanning energy, logistics & infrastructure, and industrial machinery. We’ve seen the applications of our WorkLink platform to their business expand even beyond the initial use cases of manufacturing work instructions. Beyond the shop floor for work instructions and training, their customers have adopted it as a support tool, enabling a higher-level service level. Even further, their sales organization has adopted AR for demo and training of sales staff. For MHI, AR is an amazing accelerator, enabling them to convey complex information easily across the enterprise.
AR is a productivity tool: For years, AR simulations were more entertaining than useful; for many Pokemon GO was our first exposure to the possibilities of the technology. Today, it simply enables us to get from Point A to mission critical Point B faster, with fewer of the frictions you would encounter in the physical world.
Take aviation – a highly regulated industry. Aviation maintenance, repair, and operations, or MRO, is highly technical, requiring years of training for tech ops professionals to have the required certifications to perform standard operational inspections of airplanes, each of which requires hundreds of documents that must be completed and scanned into a digital database. AR can accelerate not only the inspection training process, but the documentation process.
This video of our customer, West Jet, shows former aircraft maintenance engineer Brandon Gamble, now on West Jet’s elite troubleshooting unit, leveraging AR through our WorkLink platform to automate the inspection process. Anomalies can be spotted and rectified, and documentation digitally filed, in real-time.
In a talk he gave to WestJet employees explaining how his organization was thinking about productivity, and how AR could accelerate it, Gandeephan Ganeshalingam, Vice President Technical Operations at WestJet said it best,
“What if we documented our work, simply by doing our work?”
Gandeephan, we quite agree.
AR is enhanced by AI. You can’t talk about the advancements of AR without acknowledging the impact of AI on, well, everything. As pioneers in Enterprise AR, and knew we needed to address AI in some way, but not superficially, only in a way that would amplify and accelerate the known capabilities of AR.
We had proven that AR could accelerate productivity for our customers by enabling anyone to achieve mastery over complex tasks. From there we asked ourselves: How can AI help us do that faster, better? The answer became obvious to us: by accelerating content creation, or the authoring, process.
Many of the use cases we support are highly complex, highly technical, and require an understanding of both engineering and computer-aided design, or CAD, which helps users create designs in 3D to visualize construction, and enables the development, modification, and optimization of the design process We saw AI as bridging the gap in knowledge between design engineer and end user – from CAD drawings to the shop floor.
With years of experience supporting the development of AR experiences, we’ve virtually seen content creation for complex tasks a million times. And with that experience digitized we have a data library that can automate content creation, we could activate with AI, dynamically bringing insights into the content creation process to customers.
With all of these data and insights an AI customer self-serve chatbot was possible – and also just table stakes. In 2024 we’re incorporating our ingrained knowledge of content creation and best practices into our WorkLink platform, freeing up customers to execute training, remote assistance, work instructions faster. More on that later this year.
Scott Montgomerie is Co-Founder and CEO of Scope AR.
While everyone is looking to Apple’s VisionPro to take Augmented Reality mainstream, Qualcomm has been quietly developing the technology to take over a huge market opportunity for years.
As I explained in this article, building AR glasses is hard, very hard. The AR glasses we all want inherently have many competing demands, often centering around the battery and form factor. You want a larger field of view? It needs a bigger battery. You want better tracking? Bigger battery. Better graphics? Bigger battery. You want to wear it for hours? Bigger battery with longer battery life. Oh wait, it’s too heavy? That means smaller battery, smaller field of view, smaller processor. Balancing this equation has been the bane of many device manufacturers’ existence.
Additionally, very few manufacturers have the vertical integration capabilities required to produce a great user experience – you need tight integration of the cameras, silicon, memory, displays, form factor and UX.
iOS vs Android, the Sequel
Only a few companies have the tight integration mentioned above end-to-end, those being Google and Apple, but there are a few companies in the world that do have the capability to tackle a big segment of the stack, and this is where the opportunity lies.
But first, let me take you all the way back to 2007, when Google acquired Android. Back then, Android was a tiny startup few people had heard about, and the iPhone was only beginning to make waves. Fast forward to today, and Android runs on 71% of the world’s mobile devices. Android can be found on $30 phones found in Africa, all the way up to the Galaxy-class Samsung phones that compete with the highest-end iPhones.
While Apple dominates the high-end smartphone market, and the high-end laptop market for that matter (and earphones, and tablets, and watches), there is a very healthy market for the long-tail. And what powers the majority of the long-tail? Android. Android allowed the hardware OEMs to focus on their unique ability, building phones, while Android took care of everything else – basic apps like email, an app store, security, etc.
And so is the opportunity with AR glasses. While everyone expects Apple to build the AR glasses that will finally break into the mainstream market, there is an opportunity to be the Android of AR glasses.
Qualcomm’s Exciting Market Opportunity
Now, building a vertically integrated hardware platform is substantially more difficult than building an operating system such as Android. And this is where Qualcomm has a unique opportunity.
Qualcomm’s XR2 chip was behind the revolution of consumer VR, powering the Meta Quest lineup. Before the XR2 chip, head-mounted tracking involved a lot of not great solutions, but moving the computations into hardware contributed to making consumer VR viable.
Coming back to the competing demands I mentioned earlier – one solution to the battery problem is to make everything more efficient. To do that, you need better chips, and chips that are purpose-built and close to the hardware. This is where Qualcomm’s AR2 chip comes in.
Qualcomm’s AR2 chip is a multi-chip platform, capable of optimizing the computations for perception, AI and graphics in a single chip, while offloading other computations to a phone over a high bandwidth, low latency Wifi 7 connection. Essentially, this means that this architecture unifies a significant portion of the stack I mentioned above – a tight integration with the cameras, silicon, memory, displays, and form factor.
And just like Android, Qualcomm is working with OEMs to do what they’re uniquely good at – building hardware. And this is the final piece – Snapdragon Spaces. Just like Android, Snapdragon Spaces allows app developers to write once, run anywhere, on any Android phone.
Qualcomm could build the next Android for AR Glasses
The opportunity ahead for Qualcomm is for Spaces to become the Android for AR Glasses. By leveraging their unique position to optimize everything required for AR Glasses, and working with OEMs, everyone who wants to compete with Apple will look for a platform capable of supporting their vision.
For OEMs, the way to differentiate themselves from competitors will be on form factor. For example, if you’re looking for a field service use case, you’ll want a lighter, cheaper set of glasses, and you’ll likely settle for a less capable device. For heavy manufacturing, you’ll want safety glasses and precise hologram alignment, resulting in a heavier, but more capable device. This would be analogous to ruggedized devices today, but with AR glasses, the opportunity to differentiate for individual use cases will be much more compelling.
For app developers like Scope AR, this is exciting, because building a spatial app that can run WorkLink’s work instructions, with a uniform user interface, means that we can spend less time maintaining individual code bases, and more time innovating and building features customers want. Every customer has unique hardware requirements, and the more variety of AR glasses out there, the more the benefits of AR can reach front line workers.
It’s an exciting time for augmented reality all around, and we can’t wait to see this inflection point take off over the next few years!
Apple’s new headset is a massive step forward for the AR industry. As Apple has done with the iPhone and Apple Watch, the company has revolutionized how we interact with our world digitally.
Why very few companies are positioned to make augmented reality devices ubiquitous
Augmented reality (AR) has been challenging for hardware companies to build well, because the technical challenges of producing a device require sophisticated vertical integration techniques. To build a great experience, you need tight integration of the cameras, silicon, memory, displays, form factor and UX. Alongside Microsoft and Google, Apple is one of the only companies with the degree of vertical integration capable of producing such a complex device as an AR headset.
However, Apple stands apart in one respect — a laser focus on user experience. AR glasses require a plethora of new technologies to work, but technology is useless unless it’s usable by humans. Apple’s complete vertical integration across these many complex (and ground-breaking) technologies, combined with its ability to use these technologies to focus on the user experience, is what will finally bring AR into the mainstream. While Qualcomm is trying to do something similar for the AR ecosystem to what Android did for smartphones, they have vertical integration for most of the stack — but not all of it. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces platform vertically integrates the silicon, memory and displays, but they’re relying on their OEMs for the form factor and fighting with Android’s capabilities on the UX. A similar dynamic played out years ago with Google: At first, Google allowed OEMs to produce their hardware but quickly realized that in order to adequately compete with Apple, they needed to vertically integrate to produce the Pixel, and it wasn’t until many years after Android launched that its user experience finally caught up to the iPhone.
What sets the Vision Pro apart
But let’s get back to the Apple Vision Pro. I’m cautiously optimistic that this is the device we’ve been waiting for. The early reviews indicate that the passthrough AR is almost seamless, and with 23 million pixels and 12 milliseconds latency, that certainly seems plausible. I’m also optimistic they’ve solved the UX with highly fine-tuned gestures. Previous hand gesture implementations resulted in “gorilla arm” or inaccuracy and a frustrating experience, but early reviews of Vision Pro state that it finally nails “lazy” gestures. If the combined eye tracking/hand tracking mechanism works, it will be revelatory.
Adoption depends on enterprises using augmented reality for training
Ultimately, what this platform really needs is a killer app. Is watching movies in 4K ultra HD a killer app? Probably not. Is immersive FaceTime? Probably not. But could I see myself wearing these on a plane to watch a movie or as a second screen? Yes, definitely. And although I’m not a gamer, I could see how one might be able to have an amazing gaming experience wearing the Vision Pro.
Altogether, these consumer use cases make it almost compelling for someone with enough disposable income to buy a Vision Pro. But the true value lies in the enterprise. HoloLens 1 was focused on consumers, and quickly HoloLens 2 pivoted to an enterprise play. Magic Leap, same thing. Qualcomm, same thing. Every one of these companies is attracted to the giant consumer market, and yet penetration for XR will only succeed with enterprise first.
This brings me back to the killer app. Every major newspaper has written something about Apple needing a killer app. But none of the use cases showcased in the keynote is it.
What is? Training — specifically, enterprise training.
Companies continue to struggle with skills gaps. In a survey of more than 39,000 global companies, The Manpower Group found that 77% of employers report difficulty filling roles — which is a 17-year high. And with technology shifting faster than workforces can adapt, as well as workers changing jobs too quickly to become experts, companies are short on the critical knowledge and skills that make up their DNA.
But AR technology allows companies to “create instant experts.” The ability to see something in your native environment, in 3D — to walk around it and experience it and interact with it — that is the killer app because it solves a real business problem, really well. Scope AR’s Worklink customers routinely see 50% better retention, higher job satisfaction, and a plethora of other results using this technology.
Why the cost of the Vision Pro is justified (for now)
So, why would an organization be willing to shell out $3500 for an Apple Vision Pro specifically, rather than $499 for a Meta Quest Pro?
A number of issues have so far hampered the adoption of VR: VR training has limited use cases, and it’s difficult to scale; and the uncanny valley phenomenon means that you need to replicate an environment very well to ensure the user is comfortable. Combine that with the social stigma and isolating experience, and it becomes clear why VR has experienced lackluster adoption.
But the Vision Pro has gone to great lengths to solve these issues with two-way passthrough video. The presence of the eye passthrough feature is evidence enough of this. The cost to the bill of materials for this feature is astounding — two cameras facing the eyes, the equivalent of two iPhone displays externally showing the eyes, not to mention the computing power you’re allocating to render the user’s eyes. That alone must account for $500-1000 of the price. Apple likely believed that the social stigma and isolation problem was worth that cost to address (although I predict that those features will be dropped in future versions). But if doing so overcomes the social stigma and the uncanny valley to finally hit mainstream adoption, it will be well worth the effort and expense.
Our vision: Augmented reality might finally be ready to go mainstream
So, with the combination of tepid consumer use cases and a strong focus on the device as a workforce-scale training utility, is it possible that this is finally the AR device we’ve been waiting for? If organizations can be convinced to purchase them at scale for workforce training purposes, with the benefit being that the headsets can double as a productivity device similar to a laptop, then maybe. Just maybe.
Traditional training strategies are increasingly falling short in effectiveness, usage, and the ability to measure success. According to the 2022 Training Industry Report, the highest priorities for training are increasing program effectiveness (32 percent vs. 31 percent last year); increasing learner usage (21 percent vs. 19 percent last year); and measuring the impact of training programs (21 percent vs. 17 percent last year).
Maybe it’s time for a change. A recent study by Deloitte hits the nail on the head: “Overall, training models for construction and manufacturing are not in sync with the twenty-first century needs of these industries, contributing to growing worker shortages.” One of the solutions Deloitte recommends is delivering “new models of learning…that leverage technology to help workers develop the new mix of skills required in the age of automation.”
A surprising solution: Augmented reality
You might be surprised to learn that augmented reality (AR) — a technology that combines digital and physical worlds, allowing interactions in real time — can address many of these concerns in a highly effective and efficient way. AR lets users overlay digital information onto the real world, creating an immersive experience that can enhance the learning process. Imagine if instead of having a manual, you could see how to fix a piece of equipment by simply pointing an iPad at it and following illustrated on-screen instructions overlayed directly on the image to repair it.
Using a phone, tablet, or headset, workers can manipulate computer-generated objects in a 3D space – whether in the classroom or on the shop floor – seeing everything as if it were in front of them. They can zoom inside objects, work alongside a remote teammate who sees what they see and do, or follow written or video instructions for repairs and other tasks.
Reduced equipment needs. One of the biggest misconceptions around AR is that it requires costly equipment. This is largely due to confusion with virtual reality (VR), in which users wear a headset that leaves them oblivious to and unable to see the real world. By contrast, augmented reality works within the real world – and it can operate on familiar devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as visors that project objects onto a user’s vision. In fact, best-in-class AR platforms are device-agnostic, making them far more flexible and future-ready than proprietary VR equipment.
At the same time, AR’s ability to create digital versions of real-world objects can eliminate the need for even traditional training equipment. This could include machinery, specialized tools or expensive software programs. For example, instead of a company purchasing and maintaining expensive machinery for training purposes, employees can use AR to simulate the experience of using the machinery. This not only saves on equipment costs, but also reduces the risk of accidents during training.
Just-in-time training. The best time to learn new information or a new skill is when you need it most. A just-in-time training approach is one in which you create a library of e-learning courses that learners can complete at a time that best suits them. Often this will be when they have an immediate need for the information. AR is ideally suited for this type of training, and can even be used by seasoned professionals to tackle a new task. Need to repair an unfamiliar piece of equipment? Get written, video, or even remote live help while actually performing the work.
Lower travel costs. Training programs often require employees to travel to classroom settings. This can be a significant expense for companies, especially if the training takes place in a different city or country. Similarly, an experienced professional will often need to go onsite to support technicians. With AR, training can take place remotely, eliminating the need for employees to travel. This not only saves on travel costs, but also saves time as employees can complete the training without having to take time off work to travel.
Faster learning. AR can also make training programs more cost-effective by speeding up the learning process. With AR, employees can learn at their own pace and in their own time. This means that they can complete the training more quickly, reducing the amount of time and resources required to get them up to speed. Additionally, AR can make training more engaging and interactive, which can improve learning outcomes.
Fewer training staff required. Another significant cost associated with training programs is staffing. Companies need to hire and train the trainers to effectively deliver training programs. AR can provide employees with a self-guided training experience, allowing them to learn on their own without the need for a trainer. This not only saves on staffing costs, but frees up trainers to focus on more complex tasks.
Improved retention. AR can make training programs more cost-effective by improving retention rates. Traditional training methods can be dry and dull, making it difficult for employees to retain the information they have learned. AR, however, provides a more engaging and interactive and visual experience, which can improve retention rates. When employees retain information more effectively, they’re less likely to require additional training in the future, reducing the overall cost of training programs.
Performance tracking. As a digital delivery system, AR allows employers to monitor employees’ progress and performance during training sessions in real-time. This can identify problem areas and the provision of immediate feedback, leading to better learning outcomes.
Augmented reality has the potential to revolutionize training programs, making them more cost-effective and efficient. With Scope AR, the time to train and certify your staff, customers, and technicians on new technologies can be dramatically reduced – by as much as 90% or more.
ScopeAR’s WorkLink Platform gives workers the information they need to do their best work by providing expert guidance at any moment, and on any device. WorkLink is the first solution to combine AR work instructions and remote AR assistance into one enterprise-ready platform.
Scope AR revolutionized the way enterprises work and collaborate by offering a visual “knowledge base” solution that provides effective and efficient knowledge-sharing to conduct complex remote tasks, employee training, product and equipment assembly, maintenance and repair, field and customer support, and more.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Silicon Valley HQ of a prospective customer, a Fortune 500 enterprise technology conglomerate with a name most people would recognize. They had expressed an interest in adopting the Scope AR platform, and we walked into the meeting assuming that would be the main topic of conversation.
Most of the people at the meeting, however, weren’t the usual folks who make software buying decisions. Instead, I found myself sitting across from a group of the company’s own software engineers. For the next two hours, they asked detailed questions about how Scope AR had solved some of our toughest technical problems.
I knew right away what they were up to: They wanted to build their own AR solution from the ground up. The real purpose of the meeting, it turned out, was to pick my brain for the technical know-how they needed to do the job.
I could have walked out then and there, but I didn’t. I sat through the interrogation, and I actually answered most of their questions.
Build your own: The alluring illusion of AR development
This might seem crazy: CEOs don’t earn their keep wandering the globe, spilling trade secrets to anyone who asks. But I’ve seen this before, and I know how this story ends. Sooner or later, I had a feeling we would reconnect—and this time, they would understand why so many enterprises choose to work with Scope AR rather than trying to build their own AR applications.
I also get why so many companies have to learn this lesson the hard way. Our team at Scope AR started down the same path, for many of the same reasons, a decade ago. We know why a DIY approach looks so alluring at first, and we also know why it’s easy to pour resources into what looks like a winning investment.
We also know why these projects, almost without exception, turn into the software engineering version of quicksand: the harder you work to stay afloat, the deeper you sink.
First, it’s important to understand that AR applications are a very real source of value across a wide range of industries and use cases. Scope AR customers, for example, include industry leaders in aerospace and defense, medical device development, knowledge and learning management, and advanced manufacturing, among others. They work with Scope AR because we give them a scalable, cost-effective AR platform that delivers the potential they already recognized in the technology.
In many cases, that romance with AR technology started with an internal proof of concept (PoC) project. These are intimate affairs by enterprise IT standards: funding for a couple of developers, often by way of a company’s technology innovation or R&D budget, and some enterprise-licensed seats for Unity, a real-time 3D development environment that has emerged as a de facto industry standard for building AR applications. Unity excels at prototyping cross-platform AR/VR applications. It has a solid toolset. It natively supports development in C#, which is a language most enterprise developers can pick up pretty easily. And while Unity isn’t free for enterprise use, it’s not very expensive, either.
Throw all of this into the enterprise IT blender, wait six months, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a proof of concept for an enterprise AR use case that’s popular with users and shows real value potential to the business, and even might interface with a corporation’s internal systems.
Before a successful PoC gets promoted to a production environment, however, it will need to do a number of things nobody asked it to do the first time around.
This is where reality starts intruding on the romance.
The many dimensions of running AR applications at scale
While there’s a lot to love about Unity as an AR prototyping environment, it’s a lot less lovable as a conduit for building scalable, production-ready AR applications. A team’s second time through the AR development process for a second use case will probably cost about as much and take about as long as the first one did. So will its third AR project . . . and its fourth.
What’s worse is that none of these applications are going to scale in any meaningful way.
When we talk about scalability, the conversation can focus on a number of topics. Is your AR application configured and optimized for its intended deployment? Can your provisioning workflow scale to hundreds or even thousands of endpoints for use cases involving front line workers? Has your application been tested and validated across every platform and device type in your company’s inventory, including those being purchased in the future? What about security—especially when your AR application handles data subject to PCI or HIPAA compliance?
Then there’s the development side of the equation. Is your home-grown AR application going to incorporate tools and UI/UX elements that allow non-developers to adapt it for new use cases? Or will it turn into yet another ongoing project, and another source of technical debt, for an overworked IT department?
But for now, let’s focus here on just one facet of scalability: your content.
The content conundrum for do-it-yourself AR: one company’s story
Most enterprises that adopt AR applications already manage a significant amount of content. And in one way or another, content will play a decisive role in the success or failure of an AR project.
One of the most vivid examples I can think of involves a global aerospace firm whose name you might recognize. This firm happens to be a prospective Scope AR client; our conversations over the past several months included a fascinating deep dive into the company’s technical documentation library. This content serves a mission-critical purpose: documenting every aspect of the company’s aircraft assembly, testing, maintenance, and repair processes, right down to the smallest individual components.
This company also happens to maintain a custom-built AR platform designed to help employees learn and perform a wide range of product assembly and repair tasks. Importing and integrating the company’s technical content will be a critical step towards making the system useful to its assembly-line and service teams—and to getting value from its AR development investments.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the company is running into one of its biggest AR development challenges: most of its technical documentation currently resides in a legacy product lifecycle management (PLM) system. The vendor of that system had already confirmed that it could facilitate the process of accessing, converting, and integrating that content with the company’s custom-built AR application—but only at a cost that even one of the world’s biggest aerospace companies found prohibitively expensive.
This story will have a happy ending: Scope AR has already created a tool that can perform exactly the same task: moving relevant content out of a legacy PLM system and into the Scope AR platform, where it will be far more useful and accessible to front-line workers. It’s just one of many similar ways that we leverage some very hard-earned lessons about building and scaling AR solutions—allowing customers to enjoy the benefits minus the cost, complexity, and pain that comes with any do-it-yourself AR effort.
Here’s the thing. There are countless ways for content to add cost, complexity, and risk to an in-house AR project. Most organizations don’t have just one content repository: they maintain multiple data warehouses, database systems, content management systems, and repositories for audiovisual, geospatial, and other specialized data types. Each will require a separate integration workflow and bring its own concerns over versioning, data security, compliance, and so on.
And then we still have to talk about the complexities of converting dozens of data formats into something that your AR application can ingest, manipulate, and display to end users. It’s an exacting process that will require endless experiments, false starts, and expensive mistakes—along with the ever-present risk that you might simply run out of time, money, or developer bandwidth before you see one dollar of ROI.
The best mistakes are the ones you never have to make
I mentioned earlier that I have watched, over and over, as companies try to scale AR projects that won rave reviews in their PoC stage. And nearly 100 percent of the time, I watch as those projects implode under the weight of technical debt, or stumble on issues integrating content and other enterprise applications, or attempt to scale by soaking up IT resources like a gigantic sponge.
And of course, our team at Scope AR, myself included, got the best seats in the house for one of these contests—because we were the ones making the mistakes. We learned hard lessons about scaling and succeeding with enterprise AR application development, and we slowly built the tools and methodologies required to deal with them, and built the most scalable platform for the many many use cases we’ve encountered over the years.
It was a slow, painful, often expensive process. And the only reason it made sense for us to solve these problems is because it’s how Scope AR creates value for our customers.
Like I said, I get it: Some companies only learn from the mistakes they make themselves. But when you’re talking about AR applications, trying to stay with a go-it-alone approach can be especially painful and costly. And with Scope AR, we’re doing everything we can to give enterprises a better way to work with AR applications.
The State of Augmented Reality Software and What’s to Come
A new wave is coming in terms of how enterprises create products as well as fix complicated machines, train their employees, and so much more. In this far-reaching article, Scott Montgomerie discusses the very latest developments in augmented reality software.
One of the key changes in the AR industry is the HoloLens2, manufactured by Microsoft. This device represents massive enhancements in terms of ease of use and visual impact. But perhaps the most important difference is that it’s designed for the enterprise. Whereas the video and entertainment industry has been the primary customers for AR and VR to date, the HoloLens 2 is targeted at software engineers and other use cases that uplevel the potential install base for this kind of technology. In addition, it will usher in a tremendous amount of new tools from big name companies (just check out the recent news from CES 2020 for proof of that).
As for the smaller players — the startups looking to create augmented reality software and other AR solutions — it’s pretty likely that history will repeat itself and we’ll see acquisitions and M&As as the playing field consolidates over time. The smaller fish will simply have to make the case that their technology can stand alongside the big players and Fortune 500 enterprises. It could happen, but it won’t be easy: the market is a multi-billion dollar one and only the best technology stands any chance of surviving.
One of the key ways to stand out is to create a hands-free augmented reality software device. When you have employees who work in manufacturing and have to fix complicated machines, hands-free may be the only way for workers to leverage AR efficiently. A lot of this has to do with the kind of augmented reality software device, how it’s powered, the details of its battery, its ability to ward off breaches, how it works on mobile, and many other factors. Hardware is less important in these instances than the actual content, and it’s important that big players find the right content partner who can ensure that software is updated frequently and ensure that enterprises can achieve ROI from their augmented reality software strategies.
Montgomerie goes on to touch upon a few more key areas in regards to AR considerations: non-immersive devices have their uses, and can generally last longer in terms of power, but have limited use cases. The HoloLens 2, in contrast, has a wider range of potential applications due to its ability to fully immerse the user in its environment, and therefore can help with tasks such as training, collaboration, manufacturing, and many other areas. He also addresses concerns about security.
Augmented Reality Software Poised to Make Significant Strides in 2020
The bottom line is that augmented reality software continues to gain traction in the enterprise, and employees from all kinds of industries will be able to take advantage of its unique benefits. As the user experience improves in terms of speed, power, and the ability to render images, a whole new generation of workers will have a powerful new way to perform their tasks.
As the calendar year comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on some of the major milestones in the augmented reality space.
Industry growth…and buckle up
2019 continually felt like a time where we’re past the tipping point for enterprise AR: businesses across a broad range of industries are using AR to improve their bottom lines. Companies are using AR to make company IP more accessible; to connect experts to the service technicians, through digital overlays, and real-time video-sharing; and to eliminate down time in manufacturing equipment service scenarios.
In 2019, industry analysts demonstrated that AR adoption continues to build momentum — and quickly. Gartner moved AR out of the trough of disillusionment on its hype cycle, now deeming it a mature technology. ARtillery predicted that global AR investments and sales will grow tenfold, from just under $2 billion in 2018 to more than $27 billion in 2023 — an intense growth curve that will see enterprise AR grow by a 81 percent compound annual growth rate. And IDC issued a reportthat similarly predicts $18.8 billion in AR by 2020, driven largely by use in manufacturing and retail sectors.
Major moves at Scope AR
At Scope AR, 2019 saw platform improvements and business advances that help us bring AR solutions to a broader range of businesses and industries. In March, we closed a round of Series A fundingthat press noted was among the largest investments in the AR space for the year. We’re continuing to accelerate our growth and development.
In late May, we launched the newest and best version of WorkLink, our AR knowledge platform. SiliconAngle noted that “The upgrades to WorkLink add the ability to capture and retain knowledge through recorded sessions that can be played back in the future. This can be useful for types of work that are rote and repetitive, thus meaning the recorded experience of one worker can be useful to another in the same situation and perhaps with the same equipment.”
Earlier this month, we announced we were acquiring WakingApp, the Tel Aviv-based AR studio. Together, our expanded team will continue to advance WorkLink, delivering new features and experiences. Press coverage took note that with the acquisition, we also announced that Scope AR’s revenue doubled in 2019. To me, some of the best Scope-related stories this year weren’t about us — they were about our customers. We love to see how enterprises are using Scope AR’s platform in innovative ways that deliver ROI. Check out stories about Lockheed Martin, Unilever, and Prince Castle.
Augmented reality is reshaping how enterprises manufacture, repair, upskill a workforce, and much more. In my conversations with execs at businesses around the globe, and at the flagship global AR event, Augmented World Expo 2019 (AWE), Scope AR is seeing greater momentum than ever before. Gartner recently dropped AR from its hype cycle, meaning the analyst firm considers augmented reality a mature technology, not an emerging one.
As the end of the calendar year approaches, it’s a good time to strap on some prediction goggles and see what the future might hold for AR in 2020.
HoloLens 2 validates and expands AR for business
The arrival of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 signals a tipping point for AR and wearables. This is a second-generation headset that introduces massive improvements in gesture recognition, larger field-of-view, and overall ergonomics. But what’s most significant is who it’s not for, primarily: gamers or consumers.
AR and VR hardware development — and what sometimes seems like an insane amount of venture capital — has followed videogame and immersive entertainment concepts.
Microsoft flips that with the HoloLens 2. Redmond is squarely taking aim at the enterprise market, betting big that developers will create applications and find use cases that will put AR in a broad range of workflows. The company obviously knows how to create entire business ecosystems at enterprise scale. Expect a bevy of Fortune 100 businesses and even the U.S. military to make waves with HoloLens 2 AR use cases in the year ahead.
Who will throw their hat into the ring in 2020?
The arrival of HoloLens 2 will also open the floodgates in the wearables market. You’ll see new AR/VR devices from more blue-chip device manufacturers. While we may have to wait a bit longer for the long-rumored Apple glasses, there’s no way that other electronics powerhouses will stand still. Expect competitive, next-gen AR/VR iterations from Samsung, Google, Toshiba and more as they’re pushed to copy, innovate, or get left behind. Along with the HoloLens 2, competition and ubiquity will further expand AR potential in enterprise business and beyond.
Niche AR players: Time to take the leap
With 2020 poised to be the year Big Tech gets heavy into AR, what’s going to happen to the smaller players? In tech, we’ve seen this movie before: industry consolidation and intellectual property acquisition. For start-ups, niche firms, or dreamers in AR and wearables, 2020 is the year to prove their technology is viable and compelling. Launch a compelling offering, get your devices on the heads of business users, and get ready to innovate faster than the giants to prove real ROI. There’s a $80+ billion market out there for AR/VR maturing in the next few years.
Your next training? Cancel the flight, it’s in the headset
In 2020, the enterprise space will see substantial adoption of AR technology to train highly-specialized members of the workforce with on-demand knowledge. Training cost U.S. businesses $87 billion in 2018 alone — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. After all the travel expenses, convention center rentals and those huge urns of burnt coffee–well, there’s got to be some efficiencies to realize, right?
Obviously not every type of training makes sense for AR. But according to research from Todd Maddox with Amalgam Insights, the brain is naturally hardwired to forget. As a result, organizations should look for high-quality learning and development solutions that help employees retain essential knowledge, or ones that provide access to that knowledge in the moment it’s needed. Augmented reality is proving to be an effective medium for delivering intuitive, real-time information so workers can complete sophisticated tasks with little to no prior training.
At Scope AR, we’re already working with global category leaders to ensure your company’s expertise is sharable and that workers get the knowledge they need, when they need it – whether that’s through pre-built AR instructions or real-time remote assistance from someone else within the company. Some of the most important IP companies have is held by subject matter experts, like master technicians and career engineers. AR provides a way to build a knowledge repository, where you can capture and share expertise that helps everyone from assemblers to repair specialists learn the tricks specific to your business. Does it work? Lockheed Martin saw a 42 percent increase in productivity following an AR implementation with the WorkLink platform.
2019 has been an incredible year across the AR category. 2020 will see major transformation and innovation. I can’t wait!
If you follow this blog, you’ve no doubt heard me say this time and again. AR for enterprise business is here. It’s no longer an emerging technology, or a novelty: businesses are using AR to overhaul processes, drive efficiencies, reduce manufacturing errors, and improve their bottom line. But, is AR mature enough for adoption in companies that are launching satellites and building new spacecraft? Absolutely. The technology is uniquely positioned to meet the highly specialized needs of the aerospace industry.
Accuracy is mission-critical
In an industry like aerospace and defense, the acceptable failure rate number needs to be zero — or as close to zero as realistically possible. Augmented reality is the ultimate “measure twice, cut once” reference check. When done right, AR helps accelerate time-to-information when accuracy is essential. Technicians can access critical reference material that helps them make the right decisions — exactly when they need it. Without AR, technicians will spend a considerable amount of time examining diagrams, consulting manuals, or reviewing static guides and then doing mental mapping of these paper instructions onto the real world components of whatever they are building – which leaves a lot of room for error or misinterpretation.
An example of a company doing this well is Lockheed Martin. Since they began using AR in their Space Systems division to help manufacture spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion Spacecraft, they have realized significant ROI including a 95% reduction in the time it takes technicians to interpret drawings and text instructions.
Create experts, share expertise
In aerospace and defense, your workforce consists of highly-specialized SMEs that live and breathe your intellectual property: designs, processes, equipment — all of which is highly proprietary. Augmented reality is an ideal way to build and share expertise with the people who use — and add to — a company’s unique intellectual property. The technology brings an inherent ability to more easily and quickly share expert knowledge, meaning you can use AR to maximize your investment in creating your company’s SMEs.
As mentioned above, Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems division is using AR to to ensure spacecraft are built with the highest precision and accuracy. Beyond the reduction in time-to-information, the team has also experienced an 85 percent reduction in overall training required through the use of AR. In fact, Lockheed Martin has seen a 42% improvement in overall productivity as a result of their use of AR instructions created with the use of our WorkLink platform.
But AR platforms go beyond contextual overlays to deliver work instructions to technicians in-the-moment. Integrated platforms, like ours, can also connect technicians with an SME to communicate real-time instructions or help troubleshoot an equipment error. If you can record AR-supported remote assistance, training and troubleshooting sessions, they become valuable, reusable assets to help others gain expertise in a scalable way.
Security is everything
For any company working in the aerospace and defense sector, security needs to be unassailable. If you’re evaluating a new technology, it first needs to conform to your organization’s specific, stringent security protocols. Partner with IT early to ensure the AR technology you’re evaluating can integrate into your organization’s existing infrastructure. It’s also important to find an AR solution that works with the hardware devices that are already governed or approved for use within your closed systems – whether that’s wearables, smartphones or tablets. Despite some misconceptions, augmented reality is enterprise-ready and has reached a maturity stage to meet even the most rigorous security protocols and keep your data and proprietary content that AR often leverages – such as 3D or CAD models, as well as detailed manufacturing instructions – safe.
What augmented reality does best: solving real-world business problems
Due to the success of their Space Systems team’s initial deployment, Lockheed Martin is now expanding their use of AR into all four business units of their organization across a variety of use cases. If you’re looking to get started with an AR project at your company, partner with leadership early and ensure your AR project fits within all existing information security protocols. Find a use case where AR can help your specialized workforce do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Focus on a single process where you can use AR to speed up critical time-to-information or reduce downtime. Measure the value and evaluate ROI. Once you see value, expand and repeat across other manufacturing applications or even extend to new business units that could benefit from the technology.
There’s no question that automation and artificial intelligence will profoundly reshape how work will get done. They could be as transformational as the IT era was to enterprise business just a generation ago. But how many jobs will be erased in the process? When a company unleashes AI, does it help or hurt its workforce?
I predict that enterprise companies will always need humans. They’ll always need to optimize productivity, improve job satisfaction, close skills gaps and shrink downtime. And today — not years from now — augmented reality platforms can uniquely solve problems where automation and the workforce intersect. Augmented reality help can help retain, and even create jobs, that automation can never fill. By providing contextually aware information in a convenient and consumable format, workers now have the ability to pair innately human characteristics, such as critical thinking skills, with knowledge-on-demand to train and gain skill sets on the fly, with little to no previous experience.
Fact or fiction: the robots are coming for your job
By now, the fearful reports are familiar: AI will swallow entire categories of careers, from factory jobs to truck driving to customer service and middle-manager roles. So will AI really kill 20 million manufacturing jobs in the next decade, as Oxford Economics predicts?
I see widespread workforce augmentation as a far more likely outcome than wholesale workforce automation. It’s highly possible that AI can create more jobs than some people worry that it might eliminate. And there’s evidence: according to a report commissioned by ZipRecruiter, in 2018 alone, AI created three times more jobs than it destroyed.
Amazon — no stranger to automation and robot-assisted warehouse facilities — recently made global headlines when they announced a $700 million investment to re-train a third of its workforce with technical skills like coding. It’s a massive initiative that underscores how deeply committed they are to automation technologies, they’re also recognizing they’ll need a highly-skilled workforce to run them. Yes, there will be more robots at Amazon, not fewer. But the company is aiming to address skills gaps that will only widen in coming years. And it’s doing so by investing in 100,000 people, not just automation technologies.
This approach to automation is smart, for two reasons. For many employers, there are two key challenges to managing workforce costs: 1) training, ensuring your people have access to critical knowledge that is easy to find and consume in real-time and 2) retention of the workers you’ve already invested in. Replacing a highly-skilled worker can cost 400 percent of their annual salary, according to one estimate.
Your workforce is already changing
Transformational technologies like AI are advancing quickly, and more companies are finding ways to deploy them as they evolve. As businesses look to AI to reshape their workforce, it’s important to remember that the workforce is already changing, in very human ways.
At many U.S. companies, older employees are aging out of the workforce. According to the Wall Street Journal, the labor force is growing far more slowly than it did in decades prior. Overall productivity has also declined. And, older workers are staying in their jobs for years longer. Massive workforce re-skilling is an option, but it has a very real cost. (Just ask Amazon.)
However, losing a highly-skilled subject matter expert (SME) also carries a critical cost. Unilever, an enterprise customer of ours, told us that in the next five years, they’ll lose 330 years of experience to retirement — in a single facility alone. When an SME retires, your business shouldn’t lose a career’s worth of institutional knowledge. Augmented reality offers businesses an easy way to transfer this knowledge that new-hires need to be successful and retain it long-term to help build the next-generation of a skilled workforce.
Augmentation vs. automation: Why AR is the answer?
In industries like manufacturing, uptime is everything. When something goes wrong, it can adversely impact processes down the line. Faults and failures need to be monitored and corrected as quickly as possible. Human error is the source of nearly a quarter of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing, which cost trillions in losses to businesses each year. How can human error be minimized? AI is a long way off from identifying equipment failures and then automatically fixing them.
Augmented reality, at its core, is a new user interface — a way for humans to visualize and interact with data in more intuitive ways than before. Humans evolved to interact with the world with their hands and their eyes — interacting with 2D data like words and spreadsheets is merely an inaccurate abstraction, and underutilizes one of the most powerful parts of the brain – the visual cortex. The visual cortex enables a person to consume, filter and process vast amounts of information about the real-world, and utilizing this power to interface with the power of computers is an amazing opportunity. In this way, we can augment humanity by merging the best of both worlds; we can leverage the near-infinite and perfect memory capacity of networked computing power, along with the vast processing power of those computer systems, with the intelligent reasoning and extreme adaptability of the human mind and body.
Using this mix, we can leverage the strengths of both while overcoming the weaknesses of both. AI is far from generalized intelligence (although OpenAI is trying), and robots are far from perfect in actuating and interacting with the world. Augmenting humans with contextually relevant data and insights (potentially from IoT and AI systems) can be an extremely beneficial pairing.
In an enterprise context, AR can help workers alleviate downtime and more accurately assemble, repair or conduct maintenance on complex machinery. AR-assisted workers in manufacturing or field service can access contextual digital overlays and step-by-step instructions. They can access previously recorded support sessions, complete with AR annotations, to see how others solved a problem or completed a task on the exact same piece of equipment on which they’re working. And workers can even initiate a live, AR-enabled video session with a remote expert who can see what they see, and talk them through a task, dropping in pre-built AR instructions or drawing on the worker’s real world view to help along the way. It’s expert knowledge, on-demand, shareable across the enterprise and accessible exactly when it’s needed.
While some worry about the impending automation apocalypse as the ultimate job eliminator, AR can create opportunities to build a smarter workforce that will exist alongside automation tools like robots and AI. It’s an ideal platform for transferring and retaining expertise from experts to those learning new skills, regardless of physical location. It can also be used to bridge your company’s data and your employees in the real world, boosting productivity and minimizing costly downtime. And, when workers are more productive and better at their jobs, overall job satisfaction improves, and that’s a win for everyone involved.