Augmented reality: How your business card will soon become a presentation in your pocket

Caspar Thykier
AR has been around for 60 years, but smart devices have made it possible to use it in our personal and professional lives (Source: Getty)

It's not difficult to imagine how Snapchat’s newly-unveiled video-recording glasses – Spectacles – could lead to models featuring full-blown augmented reality (AR) lenses.

Indeed, in his book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape our Future, Wired founder Kevin Kelly paints a picture of the world in 30 years’ time: we’ll be spending the majority of our day suspended between a real, augmented and virtual world view performing what he describes as “screening”. And we won’t be doing it through our phones but through glasses, and perhaps even projections on our eyes.

AR has been around for a long time – for over 60 years in fact. But over the last five – as smartphones have become smarter, processors faster, cameras better and connectivity more robust – AR’s potential for changing the way we view the world has increased.

AR’s ability to act as a digital discovery channel to overlay relevant information (and entertainment if you’re into Pokemon Go) on the world around us is now a reality. The future commercial opportunity for unlocking this new lens is why the AR sector is given such lofty forward projections by the likes of Goldman Sachs.

So where can AR already be used in the workplace? Clearly, this depends a lot on where you work, and some of these may not be as crowd-pleasing as catching a Jigglypuff, but here are five examples.

1. Interactive business cards

Business cards seem like an outdated way of communicating in today’s digital age. Yet they remain an important, tangible, in some cases culturally important ritual in business. With AR, business cards transform from a point of introduction to an invitation to discover and learn more about the person, unlocking relevant additional multimedia content. It becomes a presentation in your pocket.

2. AR-world training

There’s a heap of data and research within the enterprise sector to show that training and learning through “doing” using AR helps make complex problems and instructions easy to understand. Applied learning can increase confidence, it decreases time to competence (thereby saving time) and improves levels of recall. And from flying a plane to making sure that everyone in the office knows how to change the toner in the printer, we’re only beginning to see the range of applications.

3. Richer, faster prototyping

Online tools like ZapWorks allow for rapid prototyping, previewing and publishing of designs that can be viewed in 3D in an AR or VR view. This allows designers and developers to establish a better idea of what objects and plans will look like. It’s also far more efficient and cost-effective than commissioning a physical model.

4. Effective sales tool

Reading City A.M. this morning on the tube or bus? Look up. Is anyone around you peering over your shoulder to see what you’re looking at? Thought so, and the same goes with smartphones and tablets. Point them at something in the real world, then stand and wait to see how many people gravitate towards you. Using an AR overlay on a device can be a powerful selling tool, and we’re already seeing AR used by sales departments to introduce new concepts.

5. Creating new jobs

Businesses already know that AR, VR and mixed reality are an important part of their digital toolkit. To that end, they need to recruit the next generation of digital creatives and designers who understand how to create and tell stories using these technologies. This opens up a massive opportunity for coders and designers to deliver a new wave of mobile experience.

We’ve already seen lots of companies – from corporates to startups – beginning to work out how to capture the value of AR and build lasting business solutions to increase efficiency, learning and engagement. The coming years will only see continued acceleration of applications and broadening of the range of industries using AR.

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