The focus of this blog is to help educate, excite, and motivate all those involved in the deployment of enterprise Augmented Reality (AR). This is a place for everyone with a vested interest in real-world deployment and productive use of AR, whether you are the Operations Manager at a small cap company trying to solve a boots on the ground operations problem, or an Innovation Manager for an F-500, or the CTO of an AR software company, or the Director of Sales for an AR hardware company, or a VC, or Media Analyst, or anyone else for that matter.
All you really need is to share my frustration with the seemingly slow uptake of AR in the workplace.
If so, then you have found your home.
You won’t get deep technical breakthroughs here, but you will get cutting-edge market strategy and actionable business solutions. We are collaborating here to deploy AR solutions that save time, improve accuracy, make things safer, deliver actionable data, create competitive advantage, and make money… TODAY!
So why should you care what I have to say?
After 20+ years in engineering, logistics, complex enterprise system design and sales, and most recently 3+ years leading Sales and Marketing for Vuzix, I started LanceAR Consulting for the very same reasons outlined above; to provide agnostic advice and market strategy, to eliminate the ambiguity of risk/reward in this space, and to eliminate the ‘Fear’ to deploy AR. I am not a Silicon Valley optimist, rather I’m born of true business practicality, which makes my opinions refreshingly honest and grounded. If your goal is to explore for the sake of exploring, I’m not the right person for you.
I believe if AR does not solve a specific problem or deliver a significant life improvement for the user that no other current technology can, then natural selection will never allow for your AR idea to succeed.
I liken user adoption, be it in the enterprise or consumer space, to the flow of water – which relentlessly follows the laws gravity, to the path of least resistance. Ignoring this business foundation when deciding to deploy, sell, or invest in AR technology is foolish and unnecessary. E.G. effective and profitable AR solutions do not need to be complex!
Focusing on applications that are simple to deploy, run on AR hardware available today, and that solve real problems will yield the greatest results, and set your enterprise up now to embrace the more complex AR solutions inevitably in our future.
Think about it, TV was better than radio because a picture delivers profoundly more information than the spoken word. The smartphone was better than the PC because of its mobility and immediacy and Augmented Reality, specifically via head-mounted displays (HMD’s) or ‘Smart Glasses’, is better than screen-based data because of the elimination of cognitive distractions and the time loss, data loss, and dangers associated with context switching. Texting and driving – enough said. That’s more than adequate ‘disruption,’ as my Silicon Valley friends like to say, to confirm the inevitability of AR as a ubiquitous tool in our future work and personal lives.
So, what’s the difference between ar & VR?
I think its important at this early stage to baseline our collective understanding of what Augmented Reality is, as there is so much noise out there about AR, Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR).
(Note I left out ‘XR’ – that’s because in my opinion it is a made-up marketing term and only serves to confuse potential users of this technology and damage the positive momentum in the AR/VR industry… but that is a blog/rant for another day).
When I try to boil it down for my enterprise clients, I generally start with defining VR, AR, and MR in terms of the user’s visual experience. Virtual Reality (VR) visually places the user 100% into another visual space – they are physically disconnected from this world and 100% visually dependent on that virtual world. Think flight simulation, situational training, practicing alternative outcomes that could never be replicated at such scale or speed. It’s not just for gaming and other ‘recreational’ uses. We might touch on VR for enterprise in future posts, but the core of this blog is AR.
Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand keeps the user’s feet and cognitive awareness grounded in the real world.
AR visuals are then overlaid ‘on’ or ‘in front’ of the user’s natural vision of the world. This AR overlay may or may not be spatially anchored, which is an area of great debate for the AR hardware manufacturers and AR Software platform providers, based, to be frank, on what horse they have in the race. But in the definition that is of value to us folks trying to deploy and realize results today, spatial accuracy is not the barometer of success – rather the intuitive and timely delivery of visual information to the user is our desired outcome. Context-based instructions, seeing through walls, visual-based decision trees, etc. is where the money is today. As a simple example of AR, think about the First Down line you see on TV in American Football, or the offsides line in the rest of the world’s definition of Football. It’s not real, it’s not 100% accurate, but it provides us with real-time information to enhance our experience and increase our understanding of our visual reality.
Lastly, there is Mixed Reality (MR) which does depend on highly accurate spatial location services, focal point relative AR rendering, and 3-d depth positioning of the AR rendered objects. This allows the user to enhance their visual experience with a mix of real world and virtual objects, in which all of this interacts together.
Think of use cases that require extreme precision such as AR based surgical procedures, or construction or maintenance within a complex existing physical environment.
REMOVING THE FEAR OF AR
In future posts, we will refer to the above definitions as a baseline when we discuss subjects such as the requirements for successfully deploying specific use cases, for user interface requirements, device ergonomics, user acclimation, etc. But to finish out this inaugural enterprise blog, I want to discuss the ‘fear’ I referenced earlier.
In my 20+ years, I have never experienced a higher level of fear to launch than we are experiencing right now with AR.
The hardware is ready.
The software is ready.
The ROI has been proven and in many cases is ridiculously high.
There are books, and case studies, and user conferences, etc. that serve to educate. The business problems have been defined and successful pilot outcomes have been achieved. Then why the fear in the enterprise space to deploy AR solutions?
I believe it stems from ‘technology searching for a problem’ syndrome. And we are not yet seeing the entry of enterprise-focused hardware manufacturers. Most of the investment, communications, and marketing of AR hardware and AR platform software today is coming from the biggest “Technology” companies, most of which do not define their successful outcomes as hardware or software license sales.
Their play is unabashedly consumer-centric and often monetized by the collection of situationally aware visual data at unprecedented levels. Not that I am pontificating that this is a bad thing – it’s not.
But it is not what drives near-term business investment in the core technologies and ancillary services required to deploy innovative enterprise solutions.
What is a bad thing are all the mixed-message futuristic CGI marketing videos which serve to confuse and set false expectations for enterprise AR solutions? I intend to call as many as possible of those out in this blog… that IS part of MY success barometer.
In summary, I’d reiterate that Augmented Reality is not just computer generated, spatially accurate visual images overlaid on the user’s actual visual field. It’s what I coined ‘The Billion Dollar Red Dot’ – a simple AR dot in the users vision, in the right place at the right time, that can get a manufacturing line back running, a TV broadcast back on the air, eliminate an ambulance ride, or get an airplane back in service faster – all of which can save billions of dollars… today.
It’s the combination of that vision with contextually relevant data (in the form of images and sounds) and a fluid and natural user interface experience – one that does not lead to cognitive distraction and anticipates the user’s environment and need (or lack of need) to provide input back to the computer. Add in some applied Artificial Intelligence, and the result is a slew of disruptive business opportunities and life-changing consumer experiences.
If you never had a chance to see my presentation on The Billion Dollar Red Dot back when I was working for Vuzix, click on the link here, I think you will enjoy.
And if this inaugural LanceAR blog post piques your interest, please click the button below to follow us and we’ll email you subsequent posts.
And please don’t hesitate to join the conversation by adding your comments, questions, and ideas for future discussion.