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How Augmented Reality achieves 10X leverage

Robert Combier
POSTED May 11th, 2021

“Give me a long enough lever arm, and a place to stand, and I will move the world” 

Archimedes

Leverage 

I find the relationship of humans to leverage to be absolutely fascinating. Watch any great film, especially one with dramatic struggle, and undoubtedly the protagonist and antagonist are ultimately competing with forms of leverage. It is a concept found in some of our most ancient stories — think the timeless duel between David and Goliath.

Goliath exerts his forms of leverage: Size, strength, and social influence. David exerts his: the technology of throwing a stone with a sling, (and perhaps brazen confidence). What makes this story so sticky is that it is a competition between heterogeneous forms. If David also had strength and size — or if Goliath were small and also had a stone sling… would anyone bother to take note?

Why heterogenous leverage in competition is so exciting

I think it is the uncertainty inside of competing heterogeneous leverage that makes it so exciting. It challenges our mental models into extrapolation — into guesswork, and the possibility that the result of the competition leads to a new discovery. Could this new form of leverage be categorically better than everything else we have today? What are its upper limits? Are there even limits?

Naval Ravikant laid out some categories of leverage I think apply here well:

Labor –  The oldest form is simply people working for you. The leverage increases linearly, usually. The Pharoh Khufu used somewhere around 25,000 workers to build his pyramids of Giza, instead of doing it himself. The difficulty comes that it is harder to manage the leverage, the more you have.

Capital – Virtually infinitely scalable, capital leverage is a modern form that is tricky to use, but extremely capable. It generally must be applied in conjunction with other forms of leverage.

Technology – Akin to the sling of David that took down Goliath, this one is the most exciting to me because of two reasons:

  1. It isn’t purely volumetric. Unlike labor and capital, it relies more on execution and intelligence to bring it to effect
  2. It is perfectly limitless in its potential impact

Consider the task of communicating with a person on a remote island in the Pacific. Among leverage options here, the obvious winner would be Technology: a satellite telephone provides near instant communication gobally. Labor leverage would give you thousands of people to row boats to and from the Island. Clearly not great. Capital could work by laying miles of undersea wiring — but even that would require both technology and labor.

This is a perhaps glib example — sure — but all too often businesses rely on labor and capital alone to solve problems, and lag on the technology leverage opportunity. Can you think of a time when 10 of your colleagues embarked on a new project for a month, only to find that “there’s already an app for that” that can accomplish this task in hours or minutes? That’s technology leverage.

In the modern age of information and automation, technologies are constantly providing order-of-magnitude improvements to human problems.

But there’s a caveat, and it due to the ever-present hiccup with technology: complexity.

Why technology favors complex use cases

Technology, like any complex instrument, has its peculiarities around the use case. Some technology-use-case pairings work stupendously well, some just OK, and some totally fail. From a statistical point of view, you could say that the gain in peak performance brought by technology comes at a widening of both positive and negative outcomes. Specificity on the use case, and the conditions in which the technology is applied must be just right to unlock its leverage.

See anything wrong here?

GPS is a fabulous navigation technology; especially over long distances and in a new, foreign city with a myriad of one-way streets.  However, using Google Maps to drive ¼ mile to the familiar post office is ineffective overkill.

The problem has to be complex enough for the technology to effect its peak leverage. 

But…

The problem with complexity is… humans.

With the dawn of the post-pandemic era, we are left in an increasingly complex and strained economy. We hear from our customers and prospects that they feel mounting pressure to: 

  • Shorten time to proficiency
  • Eliminate human unforced errors
  • Increase productivity and efficiency in workforce
  • Reduce incident error rates

It’s easy to see that these challenges are complex. Eliminate unforced errors in people? Increase technician productivity? The good news is that they are likely very sensitive to technology leverage. However, the defining characteristic of these challenges is that they are intensely human. This means that the standard Industry 4.0 technologies like cloud computing, storage, sensor networks, and machine vision can achieve 10X gain in by automation and removal of tasks, but they rarely provide 10X gains on the human themselves. It’s only when those technologies are somehow directly connected to humans can there be those gains.

Augmented reality though, is exactly that: it is the data portal to the human, and it offers the fastest knowledge bandwidth possible into (and out of) the human brain.

Augmented reality favors complex use cases, especially for first timers.

As we’ve continually said, it’s all about the “use case, use case, use case.”

Scope AR has pointed and developed our AR solution to a peculiar set of critical and difficult business problems: showing people how to do something new that’s really complicated. It’s GPS for your first time driving through Boston at rush hour, not to your local neighborhood grocer. 

As it turns out, showing people how to do something that is highly technical for the first time is a difficult “Goliath” of a business problem, and happens to be specifically vulnerable to augmented reality in a big way (pun intended.)  It’s why training is so critical to today’s essential workers, and why it is important to train as many experts as possible. 

And among our customers’ actual use cases, it is those with high criticality and complexity that offers augmented reality the greatest potential for leverage.

First-time-right is a major path to 10X return

Gartner analyzed the 5 major cost drivers across industries, and the first one was cost of rework. Our customers in field service and manufacturing are keen on this, and it is why we often hear from them that they break even on their investment in augmented reality with simply one technician in one day.

Yes. One day. 

How is this possible? By achieving first-time-right in high criticality work environments. This avoids a whole gamut of cancerous cost drivers: return service trips, quality recalls, warranty issues, damaged brand image and reputation, etc.

First-time-right is the end result of several factors beyond the design of the component and the service process itself. It is comprised of high quality manufacturing, high quality technician training, and high quality service, and each of these functions are perfectly suited for augmented reality-driven leverage.

The 10X result with augmented reality is real, have a look at this customer presentation, where Shelley Peterson highlights the breakdown of several 10X improvements in touch labor for Lockheed Martin.

In the past we would have developers who would spend months developing these types of  applications. With Scope Ar’s worklink platform, we’re bringing this down to 28 minutes, and 4 minutes for an additional panel. The ramp up time on the platform has also been reduced significantly. We can bring in a new developer, have them go through a half day training online and they can start creating work instructions.”

– Shelley Peterson, Lockheed Martin Company

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