Two Ways That Augmented Reality Could Change the Nature of Desk-Less Work

August 25, 2014 | 11:05
Two Ways That Augmented Reality Could Change the Nature of Desk-Less Work
Two Ways That Augmented Reality Could Change the Nature of Desk-Less Work
When most people think about augmented reality (AR), they think about the limited phone screen applications that we have available today. Maybe you point your iPhone camera at a specific page in a magazine and a cartoon pops out, or there might be some kind of direct mail piece that - when looked at through a smartphone lens - can display a three dimensional representation of the advertised item.

Oddly enough, many of the young companies in AR aren’t planning on moving into advertising first, but into revolutionizing desk-less work thanks to head-mounted displays. Recently, I was lucky enough to interview experts from two unique augmented reality companies to see what they were up to.

Bunnies in newspapers
Trak Lord is the former head of U.S. marketing for Metaio (a company headquartered in Germany), one of the only augmented reality companies that’s over 10 years old. He jestingly refers to the magazine AR “pop ups” as “bunnies in newspapers.” In our initial interview, Trak told me at Metaio, they actually feel as though many novel applications of AR that don’t truly add value to the users experience (outside of being, well, “novel”) might actually hurt the industry more than help it.

Factory planning
One of the desk-less jobs that Metaio helps companies with is helping with the sale of large robotic arms. While some companies sell products that can be demonstrated in person, large, industrial robotic arms weigh many tons, and need to be bolted into the ground. Though it’s hypothetically possible to take out a tape measure and determine how much space one of these arms might take up, and how wide it’s base would be - Metaio helps a salesman leverage augmented reality to visualize how such an arm might look in a factory setting, and to see if it was perhaps too close to other robotic arms. “You don’t exactly want these things giving each other a high five” says Trak.

Pete Wassell is founder of Augmate, a wearable platform that aims to aid in the development of cloud based eyewear applications. Recently, Augmate raised capital to expand their business, but they aren’t chasing “bunnies in newspapers” either. Speaking with Pete, it was made very clear that the “blue collar” applications of AR would be a strong emphasis for the company. Pete explains: “We’re really focusing on B2B consumer markets... we aim to make desk-less workers more efficient, such as warehouse pickers, assembly line workers, people on factory floors... there’s upwards of an additional 30% efficiency of time on task when someone has directions in their field of view.”

Work efficiency
Pete refers to the benefits in reduced training time and increased work efficiency if a warehouse picker could automatically know the inventory levels of his most important items, and if he could be prompted in the exact direction of the items he was looking for, as opposed to “searching” with no explicit queues to help him. Augmate’s “InstructAR” was featured recently on TechCrunch.

With AR still in it’s infancy, it’s difficult to predict how it might change the nature of work, and how we interact with data in our working lives. The companies I’ve spoken to thus far (as well as other hot AR companies like DAQRI) believe that it may be “blue collar” work that gives AR it’s initial traction and real added value to the workplace.

Image: Metaio
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