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BW Businessworld

Why Augmented Reality Is A Strategic Technology

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Real-world environment merged with virtual computer-generated images or data creates Augmented Reality (AR). It enables users to visualise context sensitive information embedded in the real world. Earlier due to limitations in the technology, this niche technology was only available to mission critical applications (AR assisted Defense equipment repair, Complex Surgery assistance, etc.) using specialized and customised equipment. In last decade there is an exponential growth in technologies surrounding the smart phone eco-system (Imaging tools, High resolution cameras, Cloud Computing etc.). This has transformed AR technology, now it is wide spreading through smart phones, tablets and wearable technology like eye-gear etc in near future.

As per the leading market researchers like Gartner, Juniper Research, Market & Markets, AR is identified among top 10 strategic technologies, it is estimated to reach over $5 billion by 2016. In developing countries with mobile telecommunication penetration greater than 75 per cent and enthusiastic young population (urban penetration greater than 97 per cent) there is a good market for AR based solutions. Augmented reality offers good opportunities in areas like service, education, training, infotainment, Healthcare, and so on.

This technology enables DIY (Do it Yourself) concepts and low skilled technicians in service and maintenance operations to provide reliable support. This can be used for workshops and garages in the automotive segment. With the increasing complexity of vehicles, servicing is becoming a challenge; on the spot and on demand context sensitive help for non trivial jobs is the need of hour. AR technology can also help workshop technicians improve their productivity. With the development of technologies like Head Up Displays, Camera technology, Cloud, image processing techniques, augmented reality as an integrated solution can find place in cars in the driver assistance systems to extend dash board information with contextual data example sign boards translation in preferred language, navigation system etc.

Education, in general, can be another dimension of AR usage. Current education system in India is theory intensive. Infrastructure intensive attempts have been made to transform the education system. However due to practical difficulties, its reach has been limited. AR has a potential to transform education to an experiential education using smart devices with no/minimal infrastructure upgrades. This will help to improve the quality of education in developing counties especially in remote locations within the country.

Yet another possibility exists in the FMCG sector. AR will enable e-commerce by providing a nearly real object to provide confidence in consumers "Buy what you See". There are now solutions like Augmented Showrooms, which provide for an integrated platform to engage customer from advertisement, sale and service. This platform is available for diversified products from consumer electronics, real estate to fashion industry. The platform can be a plug-in to the existing solutions or a standalone solution.

Current information technology is a 2D world, with advent of AR and other technologies like 3D printers the gap between real and computing world is reducing. As the technology evolves, seamless integration of AR content with existing data will be the key success factor in acceptance of solutions and improve time to market solutions. Going forward with the wide spread usage and reach the need for standardized interface between various AR sub-systems like computer vision, graphics, content etc will be evolved. This will also push for standardization of AR content tool chain.

Organisations are realising the importance AR as a key agenda for their business without excessive investment in ideation and prototyping. Either as plug-and-play, ready-to-deploy solutions or as customizable solutions, Augmented Reality is available for all business communities.

The author is MD of Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions with technical inputs from Prakash Verma, Deputy General Manager, Automotive Aftermarket, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions.