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AR Technology Is Accelerating - What Is The Reality?

AR allows users to see their products in 3D in a real-life environment and in real-time through tablets or smartphones to improve user engagement and drive sales

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Imagine a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is undergoing a phobia treatment. Augmented Reality Exposure Therapy (ARET) can simulate the phobia stimulus by showing the person a snake nearby to give her the right level of fear exposure.

Imagine the use of automated decision making in a game of cricket to detect no ball, wide ball or leg before wicket (LBW) using predicted trajectories of the ball to prevent controversial umpiring.

The list goes on - but how far off are these experiences?

AR is Evolving and Rising

Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for some time, enabling users to interact with virtual content in the real world. But in recent years it's evolved at a disruptively fast pace. Many tech giants - Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung and others - are betting big on AR. The launch of Apple's new ARkit and Google's ARCore are just recent examples.

Global revenues for the AR market are forecast to reach $12.9 billion by the end of 2020. There is also anticipated adoption of AR smart glasses and head mounted displays as compared to virtual reality headsets.

To implement AR, businesses need an engaging story which can be communicated via smartphone or special glasses. For instance - real estate enterprises offering consumers a 360-degree immersive view of properties making it easier for them to choose or IKEA allowing users to see how a piece of furniture would look in their house setting - are real world applications of AR technology.

The Challenges Associated with AR
But several challenges exist based on technology, social acceptance and usability. Like any new technology it takes time to be fully embraced by end users due to a lack of awareness or familiarity and difficulty in relating it to their daily lives.

For example, users want a fully functioning AR headset at the size of normal eyeglasses, but it's actually much harder to make. AR systems must deal with a vast amount of visual information, so the hardware needs to be fast enough to process and display graphics. The battery life used by these complicated AR devices is another limitation for AR's uses.

To acquire a reference representation of the real world it needs an accurate and reliable tracking system. Often for outdoor AR systems, the hybrid tracker combines gyros and accelerometers with compass sensor and GPS system.

Today, AR has a highly fragmented ecosystem with diverse hardware devices, operating systems and data formats plus a wide-range of tools which all handicap rapid development and wider adoption.

All these issues will take time to resolve.

Unlocking A World of Possibilities for AR in the Enterprise
While businesses still want to leverage the mobile ecosystem to connect to customer, an era of mobile apps has indeed reached a tipping point. We believe the next evolution is an era of digital solutions that focus on the highly immersive experience offered by AR.

Aside from the consumer segment - not just to the success of Pokémon Go - the early adopters will be the retail and manufacturing industries, with others like transportation, healthcare, and education also leveraging the transformative capabilities to deliver hyper-personalized customer experience.

AR holds great potential in the manufacturing industry for improving assembly workflows by making tasks easier and faster to perform. AR makes it possible to identify objects in a complex system via image processing techniques and devices such as glasses can give instructions and project work steps into the field of view or connect directly with an expert for support. A recent study at GE shows an average productivity improvement of 32%.

In retail, AR allows users to see their products in 3D in a real-life environment and in real-time through tablets or smartphones to improve user engagement and drive sales.

The healthcare industry is expected to be one of the top verticals benefiting from AR. Healthcare organizations are looking to AR for educational and telehealth purposes to give users a more interactive experience. AR can provide a hands-free, cost- and time-efficient approach for doctors to treat patients, teach medical students, and react quickly in emergency situations.

In India, a number of startups are working in the AR space.

Gamooz is a Gurgaon-based startup which uses AR to create interactive textbooks. FlippAR uses cameras to let customers visualize how furniture would look in their rooms, in 'real time'. LivAR offers advanced image processing and rendering systems that process CT scans of the liver and generates a translucent 3D model of the liver with opaque tumor bodies.

So, stay tuned as AR continues to gain traction across industries and consumers. What once was a science fiction dream will become a commonplace and quite practical experience.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Purushottam Darshankar

The author looks after Digital Transformation and Innovation at Persistent Systems. Over 20+ years of IT industry experience focused towards technology innovation and implementing digital transformation solutions to fortune 500 clients. His current interest areas are Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Chatbots, AR/VR and Machine learning.

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