Automation will create problems in the enterprise — AR can solve them
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 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.
Scott Montgomerie is CEO of Scope AR. Since co-founding the company in 2011, Montgomerie was one of the first executives to get augmented reality (AR) tools in use by multi-billion dollar corporations
A version of this article previously appeared in VentureBeat, and has been repurposed here with the author’s permission.
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Enterprise AR is a rich area of opportunity, given continually-proven
bottom line impact. In fact, it’s the largest XR sub-sector in the
outer years of ARtillry Intelligence’s latest revenue forecast. That’s mostly driven by demonstrable ROI in areas like industrial productivity and error reduction.
But despite that ROI story, there’s still lots of enterprise inertia and risk aversion, said Scope AR CEO Scott Montgomerie at AWE Europe (video below). We believe it will
take a while to get over that hump, but then adoption will accelerate as
we saw with enterprise smartphone adoption.
To accelerate that process, it’s all about case studies and proof
points. It’s also about moving enterprises past “pilot purgatory” says
Montgomerie. That happens when innovation centers in a given company
adopt technology but other constituents, like I.T. dept. and employees,
But it still starts with the case studies. And those are slowly building throughout the enterprise AR sector. Scope AR has been an exemplar in pulling together ROI proof points, including increased output, better accuracy rate in diagnosing problems, and reducing time for task completion.
For example, Scope AR’s WorkLink software for pre-authored AR instructions reduced Lockheed Martin’s “orient & decide” portion of a satellite assembly by 99 percent. This type of work is where AR shines, as it reduces the cognitive load that’s inherent in translating 2D manuals to 3D space.
“To put into common terms, think about IKEA furniture,” said
Montgomerie. “You have to look at those paper instructions, read weird
diagrams, and do mental mapping of those diagrams… Multiply the
complexity of that by a thousand and that’s the challenge we’re facing.”
Beyond pre-authored AR instructions, remote AR assistance (a.k.a “see what I see”) is proving valuable. Fast-food equipment supplier Prince Castle used Scope AR’s Remote AR to fix on-site equipment. It achieved 100 percent first time diagnosis rate and a 50 percent labor cost reduction.
“There’s about thirty things that can go wrong with these pieces of
equipment,” said Montgomerie. “Figuring out which one of those things
have gone wrong is really the key, and just with a phone call, their
diagnosis rate was terrible — about 90 percent failure in first-time
As we’ve examined,
Remote AR can also have macro-effects in an organization, such as
reducing impact from subject-matter experts retiring. Shifting them from
field work to remote AR assistance can delay retirement. It can also
optimize diminishing volumes of experts through telepresence.
“In the next five years, they’re going to lose 330 years worth of
experience just by having baby boomers retiring,” said Montgomerie.
“These guys have spent 35 years learning exactly how to maintain, fix
and operate equipment, and that knowledge is literally walking out the
Unilever realized this advantage, as well as the unit economics of lessened downtime. Using Remote AR, it was able to reduce downtime by 50 percent for an ROI of 1,717 percent. The benefit is having things fixed faster when you don’t have to wait for a human to travel to the site.
But again, ROI proof points only get you so far. It’s also about
setting the technology up to succeed by appealing to stakeholders
throughout an organization — business leaders, I.T. depts. and
employees, says Montgomerie. And that’s more about marketing than
Business leaders are the easy part, and are usually sold on the
merits of case studies like the above. Then comes I.T., whose job is to
be risk-averse. Montgomerie’s advice: Get them involved as soon as
possible. That may seem counterintuitive but it pays dividends
“I think it’s a common mistake — one we’ve certainly made — to do an
end run around I.T.,” said Montgomerie. “It’s easy to say ‘yeah, let’s
prove the value first and then we’ll worry about I.T. when we get to
scale. I.T. will screw you at that point, so you need to get them in the
He also recommends deploying AR through smartphones and tablets when
possible. The I.T. and data security pushback is lower with mobile
devices, given their tenure and trustworthiness in the enterprise.
Headsets like the Hololens conversely haven’t gained that level trust
from I.T. yet.
As for employees, it’s likewise hard to win them over. But successful
deployment requires their buy in. Resistance includes fear of new
technology and job security. Montgomerie recommends educating them on
how it benefits them, and enlist change-management pros.
“We’re talking about some pretty impressive ROI numbers here,” he
said. “If I’m a worker I’m thinking, ‘oh well, the company can still do
exactly the same on their bottom line with 50 percent of the workforce…
does that mean I have a 1 in 2 chance of keeping my job next year’.”
In a broader sense, Montgomerie recommends deploying AR where it works
best. It doesn’t work in rote and automated functions, where employees
are already fine-tuned. It shines in low-volume, high complexity
situations (like space shuttles), or high volume, small improvement
Put another way, don’t be a hammer searching for nails.
Act in a needs-driven way to deploy AR in targeted and optimized ways.
Scope AR took this path with aerospace, engineering and heavy equipment,
but Montgomerie believes there are many other verticals primed for AR.
“I think there’s an impression out there that AR is great for everything. I can tell you it’s not,” he said. “We’ve chosen key industries to go after… there are other industries where this is a greenfield — things like medical, construction, and logistics. There are some great use cases there.”
Almost everyone’s heard something about the promise of augmented
reality (AR). Next-generation video game action. The future of
interactive movies. Or blockbuster AR investments from heavy-hitters
like Facebook, promising a new way that we’ll connect and interact.
Is this exciting? Absolutely. But there’s more to AR than
hype or novelty. Smart companies are already using AR to redefine how
they get work done and train employees. Aerospace leader Lockheed-Martin is using AR to improve manufacturing efficiency and accuracy of complex spacecraft. Prince Castle uses an AR-based remote assistance tool so
on-site workers at fast food chains can connect with an expert service
technician in real-time to troubleshoot and repair kitchen equipment
more quickly and accurately.
Enterprise AR is not the future. It’s here. A recent Harvard Business Review study found 68 percent of enterprise executives they surveyed believe that AR
is “important to achieving their companies’ strategic goals in the next
But here’s the catch: The same survey showed that just 32
percent of these executives believe that their senior management
understand the technology and understand the potential benefits it can
bring to their company. It’s time to change some minds.
Are you interested in test-driving AR applications in your
company, but concerned your leadership might not be convinced they’re
ready to adopt — or have the budget for it? Here are three ways to make
the case for enterprise AR at your company.
1. Dream big with AR — but start small Build a practical AR project that shows real results. For
example, you can’t get started by promising to overhaul your company’s
end-to-end manufacturing process. Find one piece of your process where
AR can make a clear difference in terms of efficiency, build quality,
error reduction, and/or build time.
Is there a complex, costly step in your assembly or
manufacturing process that demands precision? Test-drive AR to show how
virtual instructions or 3D content overlaid onto the real-world could
help your technicians get it done faster, with a lower margin of error.
Measure and share the results among key stakeholders. Then, brainstorm
with your leadership on how you might bring the same results to other
sophisticated procedures or parts of the process.
One clear benefit from starting with an AR pilot, not an
overhaul: you can build an AR project in a week or two. You can
demonstrate viability and ROI quickly, and turn your skeptical CIO into
your partner on the next AR project.
2. Partner with IT as early as possible on your AR deployment A lot of people looking at AR don’t just face skepticism
from the C-level executives. A major roadblock can be the IT leaders
who have to implement and integrate AR within their already-complex IT
landscape. IT decision-makers might see AR as another system to
integrate — and another purchase order that needs approval. And worse,
some of the proprietary AR equipment and software can be expensive.
The good news on cost: An AR investment is lower than you
might think. Many businesses can benefit from AR using the handheld
devices already in their employees’ pockets, minimizing the need for an
additional hardware investment. For example, field technicians or
on-site workers can access intuitive AR instructions and diagrams for
how to conduct maintenance or repair complicated machines, all on their
smartphones or tablets.
As you collaborate with IT on your AR deployment, do not
lose sight of security considerations. Your IT team might not admit this
to you, but security concerns rob them of sleep. Consider security
issues from the start to mark certain that confidential content and data
are protected and that only the required users and devices get access
to AR applications.
For example, some enterprise AR trailblazers leverage their
company’s CAD libraries and use them to create digitized AR
instructions. CAD files are often some of the most critical and guarded
pieces of an enterprise’s intellectual property. (Just think of a
military contractor.) As you plan your AR project, work with IT partners
to ensure you can build within the firewall and follow all IT-governed
3. Don’t build your AR deployment from scratch We recently met with a large enterprise company with operations around the globe. The company’s leaders had seen the value AR could bring to their operations and had been approached by a service provider to custom-build a bespoke AR solution and were ready to pull the trigger on development, with a multi-million dollar price tag. They had no idea there were mature toolsets on the market that could dramatically decrease the time-to-market and cost of such a solution.
As it happened, they learned these type of scalable solutions existed — ones that were pre-built and could enable them to grow at scale and quickly create new AR content as needed. The lesson to learn: don’t invent your own AR solution. You can prove ROI in collaboration with vendors who have built out successful AR use cases.
AR isn’t a promise, it’s ready to solve enterprise-level
problems. Get creative, but start small. Partner with IT on deployment,
particularly to ensure security needs are met. And leverage proven AR
success so you scale out to other processes and use cases.
Since co-founding Scope AR in
2011, CEO Scott Montgomerie was one of the first executives to get
augmented reality (AR) tools in use by multi-billion dollar
Scope AR, the pioneer of enterprise-class augmented reality (AR) solutions, today at Augmented World Expo 2018 (AWE) announced the industry’s first AR platform that offers both real-time remote assistance and access to AR guided smart instructions simultaneously in one application. By combining the functionality of the company’s AR-based live support video calling application, Remote AR, with the company’s AR content creation platform, WorkLink, into one product, organizations can now experience an unprecedented level of support and collaboration.
“The ability for workers to connect in real-time with an expert to get the remote assistance they might need while also having access to rich, animated step-by-step AR instructions in one, unified interface truly has the potential to transform the way people work, while also saving companies valuable time, resources and significant costs,” said Scott Montgomerie, CEO and co-founder of Scope AR. “We are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in AR with products already in use by Fortune 500 companies. With our newly integrated platform, we are thrilled to address a common request we receive and offer our customers an even better AR experience.”
Users will now have immediate access to the best practices and expert knowledge they need to complete complex tasks in the field, shop floor or office. A demo video showcasing the power of the unified solution is available here.
executive hires and added support for RealWear’s AR wearable device
point toward continued innovation and success in the year ahead
San Francisco, CA – May 10, 2018 – Scope AR, the pioneer of enterprise-class augmented reality (AR) solutions, today announced a record-breaking year with revenues that nearly tripled and an employee headcount that nearly doubled in 2017. In a year that also saw the addition of several executive hires, industry-first product milestones and the formation of strategic partnerships, the company has set the pace for continued expansion and success in 2018.
enterprise AR space is evolving quickly as businesses across all
industries are beginning to realize the tremendous potential AR has to
positively impact their bottom line,” said Scott Montgomerie, CEO and
co-founder of Scope AR. “Our recent company and product growth are a
reflection of the increasing priority AR is becoming within the
enterprise, and we look forward to continuing our delivery of solutions
that can not only be put to use immediately, but will evolve to support
the preferred hardware and platforms of the future.”
Demand for Enterprise AR Drives Company New Hires
In response to its significant company growth, Scope AR recently named Francisco Narganes as Vice President of Global Sales, Neil Lamoureux as Vice President of Engineering and Jason Prosnitz as Vice President of Product. Mr. Narganes is a seasoned technology sales executive with over 18 years of experience in go-to-market development, product and services. He has been tasked with leading the global sales team and growing the company’s worldwide revenue and customer base. Mr. Lamoureux brings several decades of management and engineering experience to his role, in which he will be responsible for overall product development and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the enterprise AR space. Mr. Prosnitz has a proven history of motivating teams and implementing effective product marketing strategies and will be responsible for ensuring the company’s entire product suite meets the evolving needs of global organizations.
recent company milestones include the development of industry-first
product functionality and collaboration with other leaders in the space,
including Microsoft, Google, Wikitude, and most recently, RealWear, to
give enterprise companies the AR tools they need to more effectively
conduct complex remote tasks, employee training, product and equipment
assembly, maintenance and repair, field and customer support, and more.
Recent key product innovations and developments include:
Newly added support for RealWear’s HMT-1. With support for the AR wearable device, Remote AR users now have another hands-free option to choose from when needing to connect with an expert to walk through a repair procedure or troubleshoot a problem.
Support for ARCore, which brings real-time remote assistance to more than 100 million Android devices through use of the company’s Remote AR app.
Support for Apple’s ARKit, which enables any enterprise to implement the most advanced AR functionality within their workforce today using devices without AR-specific hardware.
The launch of WorkLink, Scope AR’s augmented reality content creation platform, on Microsoft’s HoloLens, giving users the ability to quickly and easily produce highly interactive mixed reality instruction and training content for deployment on HoloLens.
About Scope AR
Scope AR is the pioneer of enterprise-class augmented reality solutions, delivering AR tools for getting workers the knowledge they need, when they need it. The company is revolutionizing the way enterprises work and collaborate by offering AR tools that provide more 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. The company’s device agnostic technology supports smartphones, tablets and wearables, making it easy for leading organizations such as Boeing, Toyota, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, Assa Abloy, GE and others to quickly scale their use of AR to any remote worker. The company was founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco with offices in Edmonton, Canada.
Scope AR announced the launch of Remote AR for Microsoft
HoloLens today, marking the first cross-platform live support video
calling solution available for HoloLens. Designed specifically with
enterprise customers in mind, Remote AR is the company’s remote
assistance augmented reality (AR) application and is revolutionizing
real-time, remote collaboration at leading enterprises such as Lockheed
Martin, Siemens and Eaton.
With today’s launch, Remote AR now supports the most effective
hands-free AR device on the market, bringing live remote support with 3D
annotation to the Microsoft HoloLens. With the most sophisticated
spatial tracking available, field technicians can use the Microsoft
HoloLens to connect to a remote expert with an unprecedented clarity of
communication, as well as receive assistance and perform tasks with
unmatched speed and accuracy, since they no longer need to hold a mobile