Product Lead, Sharon Tom, discusses how IoT can be leveraged to drive the widespread adoption of AR beyond entertainment and social media.

In the last few years, AR has gained a great deal of traction. With projections that spending on the technology will hit $60B by 2020, it’s safe to say that companies are putting some serious capital behind it. While trends in the space are most frequently associated with entertainment and social media (as it’s been very commercialized in these areas), an enormous world of untapped possibilities lies beyond these obvious use cases.

To maximize AR’s full potential, we must widen our lens and think about how other technologies, such as IoT, can be leveraged to enhance our ability to absorb information, make decisions and exponentially increase AR’s ability to go mainstream in a much broader context.

A 3D World

Imagine a high school biology classroom equipped with smart whiteboards (IoT). As the teacher explains a complex topic, like metabolism, a 3D (AR-powered) display appears on the smartboard to animate each step as the interdependencies and flows are explained. Later that night, the same 3D display appears as an overlay on the student’s phone or tablet screen as they study at home from the kitchen table.

This interactive scenario is an enormous contrast to today’s model, where students are functionally trapped in the 2D world of the textbook. And it’s no wonder that this model fails many students–especially those that are highly visual learners.

With the application of AR, however, passive observers can now become part of the journey. Creating an immersive, engaging experience that shows the chemical transformation of each molecule (instead of telling us how it happens) can go a long way in capturing the attention of even the most disengaged student.

This could be a huge game changer in education, especially when it comes to more abstract concepts where visualizations reduce cognitive load and provides context in the physical world.

And this application extends far beyond the classroom. We can effectively apply AR and IoT anywhere we rely on 2D mechanisms to illustrate a 3D world.

The Smart Warehouse

One such use case: employee trainings, particularly within the enterprise context. In the logistics industry, for example, the process of picking items to ship makes up about 65% of warehouse costs. As these warehouses depend on many short-term contractors, using AR with a wearable (e.g. smart glasses), could be a powerful tool to onboard new employees and guide them through their day-to-day responsibilities, thus increase workforce productivity and effectiveness. During peak holiday season, when warehouses often need to double their workforce within a matter of days, this would prove especially useful.

Workers need only be given a pair of smart glasses, and they can easily be instructed exactly where to go (directions overlaid on their pick path), what to do (step-by-step directions of machinery operations, procedures to pick) and how to handle the (often highly variable) complexities for each package.

This type of AR/IoT solution would not only remove the need for a (human) trainer. It would also remove any ambiguity that comes from the need to interpret verbal instructions and/or a written manual. Errors will be minimized, efficiency will be increased and training will be significantly more scalable–all by wearing a pair of smart glasses.

Companies are already starting to test AR/IoT in employee training. Since Intel began using AR in its warehouses to guide workers through the pick process, they’ve seen reduced picking time by 29% and error rates fall to nearly 0%. The most interesting part: New Intel workers are immediately able to pick 15% faster than workers who’ve only had traditional training.

Like the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” With AR, we’re getting pictures and videos injected into the physical world that will change how well we can intake and process  information. From healthcare to education and beyond, IoT has the unique ability to elevate the value and use of AR well beyond what is mainstream today. The possibilities are limited only by our ability to imagine them.

Read more thought leadership from Sharon Tom here and here.