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What is augmented reality or AR?

Integrating state-of-the-art technology can help keep your business competitive. With augmented reality (AR), you’ll bridge the physical and digital worlds to better guide and train employees, solve problems faster, optimise efficiencies, improve productivity and collaboration, and better prepare for the future.

Understanding augmented reality

What is AR? Augmented reality is an enhanced, interactive version of a real-world environment achieved through digital visual elements, sounds, and other sensory stimuli via holographic technology. AR incorporates three features: a combination of digital and physical worlds, interactions made in real time, and accurate 3D identification of virtual and real objects.

Augmented reality offers a better way to design, curate, and deliver consumable instructions by overlaying digital content in real-world work environments. When a business understands what AR is and how to utilise it successfully, everyone can work remotely while collaborating efficiently.

AR vs. virtual reality vs. mixed reality vs. extended reality

In the recent growth of types of virtual realities, it can be challenging to keep up because of their subtle differences. The types of digital realities are:

  • Augmented reality (AR)— designed to add digital elements over real-world views with limited interaction.
  • Virtual reality (VR)— immersive experiences helping to isolate users from the real world, usually via a headset device and headphones designed for such activities.
  • Mixed reality (MR)— combining AR and VR elements so that digital objects can interact with the real world, means businesses can design elements anchored within a real environment.
  • Extended reality (XR)— covering all types of technologies that enhance our senses, including the three types previously mentioned.

As all technologies blur the lines between reality, determining a suitable use case for your business is crucial. For many businesses, AR is usually the easiest to integrate into the company’s processes.

Types of augmented reality

In deciding which type of AR technology you’ll need for your business, you’ll first have to determine what kind of AR to use. There are two types of augmented reality: marker-based and marker-less. Choosing one of these types of AR will determine how you’ll be able to display your images and information.

Marker-based AR is created using image recognition to identify objects already programmed into your AR device or application. When placing objects in view as points of reference, they can help your AR device determine the position and orientation of the camera. This is generally achieved by switching your camera to grayscale and detecting a marker to compare that marker with all the others in its information bank. Once your device finds a match, it uses that data to mathematically determine the pose and place the AR image in the right spot.

Marker-less AR is more complex as there’s no point in which your device will focus on. Because of this, your device must recognise items as they appear in view. Using a recognition algorithm, the device will look for colours, patterns, and similar features to determine what that object is and then, using time, accelerometer, GPS, and compass information, it will orient itself and use a camera to overlay an image of whatever you’d like within your real-world surroundings.

How augmented reality works

Augmented reality creates an immersive experience for all its users. Though the most common AR forms are through glasses or a camera lens, interest in AR is growing, and businesses are showcasing more types of lenses and hardware through the marketplace. There are five significant components of AR:

  1. Artificial intelligence. Most augmented reality solutions need artificial intelligence (AI) to work, allowing users to complete actions using voice prompts. AI can also help process information for your AR application.
  2. AR software. These are the tools and applications used to access AR. Some businesses can create their own form of AR software.
  3. Processing. You’ll need processing power for your AR technology to work, generally by leveraging your device’s internal operating system.
  4. Lenses. You’ll need a lens or image platform to view your content or images. The better quality your screen is, the more realistic your image will appear.
  5. Sensors. AR systems need to digest data about their environment to align the real and digital worlds. When your camera captures information, it sends it through software for processing.

Integrating AR into your employee training and education

In the workplace, adding augmented reality to your processes and procedures can help enhance the learning and comprehension benefits for your employees. AR training is an educational experience presented through the software on AR devices to help employees gain critical professional skills. This type of training experience can be launched at any time, any place with the right software.

AR can also help guide and support employees regardless of their location, leading to better collaboration and safer working conditions in your fields. By enhancing traditional learning methods, this method can offer more information for better comprehension. Some ways your team could use AR would be:

  • Performance support
  • Learning and training modules
  • New hire onboarding
  • On-demand training opportunities
  • Customer service and experience

Many industries and sectors already use AR for business processes, including:

  • Retail. Employees can use AR for onboarding and training sessions. It helps new employees in their future transactions, such as sales training, touring the sales floor, and preparing for a retail environment. AR can also help customers test products before purchasing or learn how to use them within their environments. This can create better engagement or help customers solve problems by providing actionable information in a real-world context.
  • Manufacturing. Technology can offer step-by-step instructions, allowing trainers to provide feedback during practise for better retention. Using mixed reality also enables employees to learn while on the job, keeping their hands free to perform work.
  • Healthcare. Getting hands-on experience in performing procedures without risk is imperative for healthcare professionals. AR provides the guidance to practically, yet safely, learn about anatomy and surgeries.
  • Military. AR is integrated in combat training to stimulate situational and operational environments so soldiers have awareness of their time, space, and forces.
  • Automobile. AR can help train and allow specialists to explore current and future models, along with their internal systems.

Besides industry-specific uses, many industries currently use AR apps to identify, track, and resolve technical issues. It can also help in other non-physical procedure cases like for marketing as a advertising, entertainment, and events tool by allowing users to get information simply through their phones.

Get to work with an AR tool that guides you and your team

As your team moves to integrate technology into your workflow and processes, adding an augmented reality solution can improve your business’s overall productivity while maximising efficiencies using data-driven insights.

Dynamics 365 Guides incorporates AR to help you solve problems in real-time. With the ability to adapt by using training guides for training or day-to-day processes, you’re able to solve problems quickly and optimise your operations with on-the-job guidance.