AR: the interface of the future
When we think of AR, we usually think of its more gimmicky purposes. We think of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, which lets you race Mario and his friends right through your living room (Uh yes, hello. Sign us up, please). We don’t think of its clever solutions that offer us the mental bandwidth we need in a world rife with data and information—or do we? When leveraged correctly, you can use AR to ease friction in your customer journey, speed up learning processes and maintenance, and vastly reduce human errors. Pretty neat, right?
To fully understand the ROI of using AR, we first need to understand what the technology is capable of. At In The Pocket, we believe that augmented reality has three important characteristics that drive its value: AR is contextual, engaging, and human.
AR is contextual
At its core, AR overlays information onto what we see as humans—through the screen of our mobile devices or a pair of special AR glasses (e.g. Hololens). We, as humans, use a number of senses to analyze the information about what is happening around us. We use our senses to smell, hear, touch, taste, and most important of all: see. Our sight accounts for 80 to 85% of our perception, learning, cognition, and information-absorbing abilities.
In today's world, information, distraction, and other triggers are omnipresent. Processing all these stimuli - and making sense of them - triggers a certain cognitive load.
Just like a computer, our brain has a certain amount of working memory, and overextending that memory makes us...a little slow.
To read the newspaper in your native tongue, you need to read the letters, form words, and distill meaning out of them. But then, if you do the same in a foreign language, you also need to translate those words. This causes extra cognitive load.
Another example is assembling IKEA furniture (yep, we’ve all been there). After each step in the manual, you have to find the right pieces and assemble them as shown in the image. This process is often referred to as the cognitive gap. It is the difference between the context where we retrieve information - in this case, the manual - and the context where we need to apply that information, in this case, the furniture we’re assembling.
Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a tool that showed you the right information at the right time in the right context?
Because AR can do just that. It recognizes the different parts of the closet you’re building, shows you what you’ll need next, and how to assemble each part.
Now imagine this in a business context. What if a factory a worker needs to do something complex, like repairing a machine or doing maintenance? With AR overlaying the next steps, the job can be done 90% more efficiently. The cognitive load and gap reduce, and the worker can focus on the task at hand, in turn reducing human errors by about 80%—especially when it comes to cumulative errors as a result of continuing work on top of a previous error.
Porsche North America, for instance, managed to speed up its service delivery with more than 40% using AR. The technology not only impacts the numbers, it also positively impacts workers: it reduces strain as well as errors, which has a positive impact on the workers’ self-esteem and general wellbeing.
AR is engaging
AR also proves its merits outside of industrial contexts. Early research from Houzz shows that users are 11 times more likely to buy something when using an app that offers AR, and are spending 2.7 times more time in that app. Online shops show 30 to 40% fewer returns, resulting in happier customers and higher recurring traffic.
Conversion rates skyrocket when using AR. With numbers this promising, what are you waiting for to start experimenting with AR in your digital strategy?
At In The Pocket, we created an AR product catalog app for domestic appliance manufacturer SMEG. Users can now visualize the appliance of their choice in their home environment, helping them to decide which design works best for their living space. So be bold: go for that cherry-red fridge or that royal purple burner range. Just check it out in the app first et voilà: a new conversation piece is born.
AR is human
The third and last characteristic that drives ROI for AR, is humanity. The combination of the two previous characteristics makes AR inherently human. Instead of thinking about how we need to process certain information, on which device or through which medium, AR will do it for us.
Here’s a real-life example: for engineering firm Ingenium, we created an AR application to support building maintenance. Often, engineers need to browse 2D plans or BIM models to see what the internal structure of a building looks like. It triggers a significant cognitive load to process all of this information, apply it to the current situation, and pinpoint possible problems. Moreover: most systems like air conditioning or heating are obscured by walls or ceilings. Thanks to AR, we can project the BIM models right onto the engineer’s real-life surroundings. Using a mobile device or smart glasses, they can see what is behind the walls.
This way, the engineer can focus on the problem at hand straight away. They are at the center of the experience, and all of their mental bandwidth can be devoted to solving the challenge.
AR has tremendous potential and might just become one of the most relevant technologies of the next decade. It is inherently contextual, engaging, and human, which gives the technology myriad benefits in the field. Now is a great time to beat the curve and invest in AR solutions to simplify training, speed up maintenance processes, maximize online sales, and much more. Our advice is to adopt now and adapt later. How are you going to boost your business in 2021?
Would you prefer to get some cold, hard numbers on your potential AR ROI? Use our AR calculator to see how much you could be saving in your sales process.