Augmented Reality – The future of retail industry

Home delivery, telephone order and e-commerce. What do these things have in common? They changed the way we shopped. Introduction of these technology/ideas, enhanced our shopping process. Similarly, Augmented Reality (AR) is set to alter the face of retail industry.

AR is highly scalable and has multiple uses across this industry. A look at some interesting ways in which AR is expected to grow:

Trial/testing of a product:

AR helps to bridge the gap between a customer’s perception of the product and the reality. This is the quintessential need for physical shopping or trial for a product.

Furniture: In 2013, IKEA – the Swedish retailer tested the ropes of AR, by launching an AR-based app. It used AR-overlay of 3D models of IKEA’s products on the real-time feed of the camera. It helps visualise how a product would look at a given space.

Shoes: Sneaker-maker Converse created an AR app in 2010. When one points a camera at their feet, the app overlays a projection of the shoe on their feet.

Clothing: Ever stood in a never-ending queue ahead of the trial room only to find the dress doesn’t fit you? Well, AR is about to change the game in clothing trials using overlay.

Japanese retail store – Uniqlo tried to address this concern by enabling an augmented trial room. This room had a mirror with an LCD screen that let you choose the apparel you wish to try. The app then overlays different colors of the clothing to help you make the best choice possible.

Virtual makeup trial: Sephora, the makeup retailer launched an app – ‘Sephora Virtual Artist’ that enabled overlaying different makeup looks. Once the customer scans the face using a camera, the app detects the different organs like nose, lips, eyebrows, skin etc and allows you to try a shade.

 

Product information:

When shopping at a busy super-market, we are often sceptical of a product’s ingredients. The aisles are long and nearest assistant is pre-occupied. What if one had a personal assistant to share further information on every product? AR does just that, acting as your personal shopping assistant. Several retail big-wigs like Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour have been testing and experimenting with AR in shopping.

Chinese e-commerce retailer – Yihaodian, opened virtual stores across the country. This enabled consumers to shop on the go. The app has virtual shopping aisles; customers can select and arrange for a home delivery.

AR is already booming in several such retail verticals. Add the magic of AR to your business. To know more, drop us a message.

This blog is a re-written excerpt from an article first published in the Augment.com

Image Courtesy (in the order of images used): 1, 2, 3, 4

The possibilities that AR can bring to Field Service

Vivek Aiyer, Founder and CEO of Appearition talks on how AR can impact Field Service:

What sort of structural easing will AR/VR bring to Field Service (FS)?

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are technoloies that can be used to enhance existing processes. I see a few aspects how AR/VR can enhance FS process: Reduce errors in a complex procedure; increase first time fix and in training and knowledge transfer.

At Boeing, AR training has had a dramatic impact on the productivity and quality of complex aircraft manufacturing procedures. The number of trainees with little or no experience who could perform the operation correctly the first time increased by 90%. For training purposes, using AR, an environment can be simulated even before the trainees are sent it.

GE engineers found that AR improved overall average production by 32%; productivity in wiring harness assembly by 25% and 46% faster whilst doing a warehouse picklist. AR/VR is changing the way things work.

Process wise, where can enterprises use AR?

These immersive technologies alone will not replace an existing process. AR allows for a contextual overlay of information that enables better decision making. The actual information can come from various sources and based on the type of process / workflow.  For example, AR lets you visualise data arising from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This, contextually, in a field service environment is amazing.

This is very powerful, it will  enhance the way somethings are done. For instance, in case of non-frequent and complex technical procedures, AR will come in handy as a reference guide. It will reduce the time to complete tasks and prevent errors, where possible.

How can firms combine AR/VR for best-of-breed solutions? (Mixed-solutions)

I’d say, before a firm adopts AR/VR in any of their vertical, they should first analyse where it will fit. More often than not, enterprises try to find a problem for a solution to be adopted. If we consider AR as a technology, that  is a process-enhancer, not a process by itself when adopted correctly within an enterprise right, AR can work wonders with powerful use case and demonstrable ROI for training, monitoring and maintenance for FS.  Currently, Appearition is working towards a technology on liaising Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AR for error reduction.

How agile should businesses be, in terms of adopting a technology?

For a FS enterprise, usually, a task/process should ideally make money, save money or meet a compliance requirement. If a technology can enhance the ability and agility of an enterprise in any one of these three aspects, then I don’t see why an enterprise should wait to adopt it. Any solution that optimises our processes needs to be adopted immediately.

From an AR perspective, I believe it has the power to enable decision making in processes. Appearition is currently focusing on harnessing this power of decision making through AR.

In terms of wearable technology, I see glasses require more reliability before businesses can start using them. For now (about 1-2 years), a mobile/tablet-based AR is here and ready and usable now.

What are some industry verticals that can use Appearition’s FloAR platform?

It’s highly scalable and extensible, requires absolutely no technical knowledge to use it. It can be very useful for enterprises like – infrastructure, telecommunications, networks etc. With respect to regions, we have customers in Australia, and now we are very excited to be a part of the Indian market. AR is able to apply the multi-lingual overlays (text/video) options – The staff may not be equipped in English/regional language and can benefit from overlay in their language. True potent of AR can be viewed in such markets.

 

Get in touch with us to know about using AR for your business!

 

The Role of Management in the Changing Paradigms in Service

A look at the highlights of 2017 USA Field Service Benchmark Report:

Technology and Digital Transformation continues to shape the service industry. Most of the respondents said, their strategy was ‘mobile first’. Growing emphasis on mobiles and abundance of data is enabling organisations to focus on mobile technology and transformation.

 Key take-aways from the report

  1. Breed-solutions are the fad, as opposed to single platform solutions. The idea is to achieve maximum efficiency to embrace digital transformation.
  2. Most respondents said – they’ve been prioritising a mobile first mindset due to the increasing accessibility and growth of mobiles.
  3. To bridge the gap between knowledge and digital transformation – seems to be the quintessential need of the hour for enterprises.

Technology adoption

Among many booming technologies this year, 72% respondents said they’ve adopted or planning to add the ropes of cloud to their business. 30% of the businesses have added or planning to add the ropes of Augmented Reality (AR).

“I was quite surprised to see that technician adoption of new solutions ranked so highly as a challenge. With today’s technology, equipment comes to consumers, employees, and to businesses more and more without a real need to instruct on its use. The perception of complexity is really what holds technicians back. We invest a lot of time and energy into making technology easier to understand, and we deploy tools in the field that are as easy to operate as common applications you can run on IOS, Android, or a Windows device,” says Martin Knook, CEO Gomocha

 Need to evolve digitally

Surprisingly, 42% of the respondents said they initiated/ adopted digitisation and automation of field service activities to reduce costs. 34% of them wanted to go digital to increase transparency and ensure viability as a business.

Digital transformation trends

Technology is ever evolving. There is constant need to adopt to these innovations. The question here though, is how adoptive are businesses? 35% of the respondents said they’re agile enough to adopt an innovation cycle every three years. While, 28% of the enterprises preferred to work with solutions that were scalable and relevant for at least ten years.

This article is a re-written excerpt from the 2017 USA Field Services Benchmark Report. The graphs were sourced from the same report.

AR and VR the next big thing in the industry

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are often believed to provide digital and off-field technology solutions. Generally, they are perceived as a tool for marketing, digital branding, audience engagement, education, retail promotion etc. AR and VR can be used in several sectors and context from manufacturing to fire and safety operations. Yes, AR and VR can be applied for several such Field Service Management (FSM) based work.

Manufacturing:

AR and VR have a vast use case in this field. AR programs can be designed for product training, controlled simulations, emergency response and evacuation, remote access vision etc. AR/VR supports in cost reduction and saves man-power on these activities by enabling self-instructional images/videos. Apart from creating an immersive experience, it creates a personal walkthrough assistant for people out in the field.

Source: bit.ly/2EwNfsW 

 

Fire & Safety and Emergency Response (ER):

AR/VR can transform the way we respond to an emergency. In some cases, information on people trapped inside building can be checked via sensors and visual over-lays. For Fire & Safety evacuations, AR/VR provides instructional walk-throughs and directs to access points proving information on their current situation.

Ship Building:

Building heavy machinery and ships are very time consuming and requires large volumes of handbooks to train, record procedures for cross-reference. Using AR to prompt tools and display the procedure to assemble them saves several man-hours and creates an almost-error free assembly of the products.

Inspection and Maintenance:

For some business as usual, AR/VR can reduce workflow time on inspection & maintenance and assist in detecting errors. Since 2011, Airbus has been using AR technology to improve efficiency in its quality control. Using its Supply Augmented Reality Tool (SART), Airbus employees can use visual overlay images on real systems to identify the faulty parts for repair. These kind of AR activities save time in creating an incident report and follow ups by enabling on-the spot solution.

Inventory Management:

Often, it takes time to locate the right aisle/stack whilst arranging or onboarding goods. In 2015, Logistics firm DHL tested an AR program to manage stacking at a Netherlands inventory. The pilot proved that AR ‘vision picking’ resulted in 25% increase in efficiency. The staff worked with VuzixM100 that used Ubimax’s xPick software to assist the task. Staffs reported faster and error free task completion using these.

Source: http://bit.ly/1A9Tk5J

Get in touch with us to know about using AR for your business!

AR Digital Transformation and the Indian Market

Ravichandran Lakshminarayanan, Member, Board of Advisors, Appearition India speaks on Augmented Reality, Digital Transformation trends and the Indian market and more:

Your take on the AR/VR market in India.

Though AR/VR arrived, so to speak, maybe about three years back, significant impact or adoption (usage) is yet to be seen, be it in the consumer space (though we have VR centres in some malls or VR headgear sold with smartphones) or in the enterprise space.

AR/VR is certainly going to be a game changer for industries like retail, real estate, entertainment, and tourism in India.

Education is another area where we will see significant AR/VR adoption. (I foresee not only schools & colleges taking advantage of the power of AR/VR, but many other formal and non- formal fora including corporate/industrial training will take advantage of these frontier technologies).

The mobile market in India – Smartphones undergo constant metamorphosis. What features do you think they need to adapt to stay abreast with the AR/VR tech?

India is a price sensitive market. Today there are more than 300 million mobile phone connections, in India. Mobile phone sales literally skyrocketed, only because device prices came down drastically.

Mobile phones are going to drive AR/VR usage and it is very important that the AR/VR capable phones are priced right for the Indian market.

Next is content in local languages like Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada. For AR/VR to drive mass usage/adoption, local language content will be a key.

Last but not least, the devices(phones) will have to be more user-friendly than they are now.

 Your take on digital transformation for businesses these days.

Today there is no business that can shun or stay away from digital transformation. The degree of transformation or rather what percentage of the business is digital versus non-digital may vary from business to business but there’s not a single business that’s 100% non-digital.

In the Indian context, this is so particularly after the introduction of GST.

Though it has taken time, businesses have understood the benefits of digital transformation.

How has the Indian market reacted to digital transformation so far? What are some factors that seem to aid it/ factors that act as a barrier?

The Indian market was quite reluctant to accept/embrace digital transformation, initially.

The reasons were:

  • the market did not understand what digital transformation is.
  • the market could not see value in digital transformation immediately
  • digital transformation was taking firms/players out of their comfort zone
  • firms were unsure of the payback period if they opted for digital transformation.

Slowly but surely as a few early adopters took hesitant steps towards digital transformation and started ‘seeing’ the benefits, more and more firms followed. Today, I dare say, there are very few firms, if any, that have not been touched at all by digital transformation.

Today everybody understands that digital transformation is not only inevitable but benefits all. Firms are still evaluating their ROI and hence the pace of adoption is not ideal yet.

There are obstacles and challenges, the foremost being connectivity not only in terms of speed and price but in terms of reach. There are still many areas in the country where connectivity is very poor or non-existent.

Technologies like 5G and other indigenous technologies and solutions, will hopefully, address this issue.

What are some barriers that companies face while venturing to a new geography?

In my opinion, the most important barrier is the culture. The culture in each geography is unique and the sooner companies understand the local culture the better for them. The next important challenge is to understand the local laws, business environment. There could be challenges in effective communication besides language differences. The pace at which things move, including the pace of business negotiations, can vastly vary. Distance and time could be a challenge, too. Finding and hiring people who are trustworthy and competent can be a challenge. Establishing franchises, signing up agents and other business associates may take longer than what companies ‘back home’ is used to.

What sort of obstacles did you face while setting up your e-commerce venture and how did you overcome them?

The very first challenge was not being able to register a domain name, from India.

(Internic was the only share registry and for registering any domain one had to pay $100; the only way to pay was online; this was not possible from India. I had to take the help of my sister in the US, who paid this $100 and we registered chennaionline.com on Aug 15, 1997.)

One of the foremost challenges for a startup in a sunrise industry, which the online space was, way back in 1997, was getting the right people to come on board. We leaned on friends and other contacts to get the initial few hires.

The next challenge was funding –VC/Angel funding culture, back then, was literally nonexistent. Raising capital as equity was very difficult if not impossible. Debt funding or in Indian parlance, a bank loan was the only option.

Banks lend against tangible assets – land, building, plant & machinery – and also insist on security for the loan. Here was a business that had no tangible assets (except some PCs and servers and switches and modems – assets that depreciated faster than the mercury rising in Chennai summer) and a business model that was at best vague (actually from the bank perspective, it was all Latin and Greek).

The Bank Manager professed he understood nothing but said he was impressed with my sincerity of purpose and sanctioned the loan. (“As a breed, we are risk averse, but if we do not take some risk to support highly qualified technocrats, when we get an opportunity, then we do not deserve to be sitting here”, he said!)

Though the potential of the web/online was fairly well established globally, India was slow to adopt or embrace this ‘new economy’ and hence every ‘pitch’ had to be from ‘ground zero’. One of our (founding team) important roles was to evangelise Internet & e-commerce; evangelise we did with passion and enthusiasm. This not only got us noticed but became a competitive advantage, too.

There were many more challenges including getting the right office space, etc.

There were so many Foreign Exchange rules & regulations that receiving or sending money out of India was a huge task. We did $ transactions wrestling with a plethora of forms and multiple agencies.

Do you see similar obstacles for firms these days, despite a bridge that filled the knowledge gap?

Certainly not. Thanks to information/knowledge available in one click, for anyone, and the more business-friendly environment, many of the earlier day business challenges do not exist. However, each new firm (or old firm) has a unique challenge. It is much like a baby’s growth – from conception to infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood – at every stage in the life of a firm, there are unique challenges. A successful firm is one which understands this and also understands every challenge is a possible opportunity.

AR AND DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Mark Sage, Director of Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), spoke to us about the Enterprise Augmented Reality market, Digital Transformation trends and more:

With a focus on creating value and ROI for AREA members, Mark Sage’s goal is to develop a robust and active ecosystem for AR. His background includes a strong interest in mobile, AR, VR, and IoT and he is excited to work with enterprises, providers and research organizations to the benefit and growth of the AR within the enterprise.

What does the AREA do?
The AREA – Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance – is the only global, membership-funded non-profit alliance dedicated to help accelerate the adoption of Enterprise Augmented Reality (AR) by supporting the growth of a comprehensive ecosystem. The AREA focuses on four strategic objectives, namely:

1. Thought leadership: They create, collect and curate up-to-date AR technology content, created by neutral thought leaders and experts.
2. Networking: They facilitate an environment for the AR community to connect and share experiences, partnerships and insights related to AR technology.
3. Education: They are looking to close the AR skill(s) gap by supporting education courses and jobs promotion.
4. Reducing barriers to adoption:  They organize committees to focus on adoption issues. including Research, Security, Functional Requirements and Safety.

What’s the AREA focusing on now and where’s it headed to?
The AREA works on creating thought leadership content to help business decision makers understand the benefits of AR. As the ecosystem grows, the AREA is also focusing on breaking down the barriers to adoption in implementing AR enterprise solution.

What’s your take on the AR market from now until 2020?
The Enterprise AR market is in its infancy; more deployment was seen last year. It’ll be interesting to see how many enterprises adopt AR this year. Like I said earlier, I see the AR market heading towards to actual solutions beyond trial and testing.

What are some of the key industries where you think AR will change the game?
Aerospace, Manufacturing, Automotive, maintenance across many verticals, Shipbuilding (design and task walk-throughs), and more. In all these industries, AR will have to first move on from trials to fully commercialised solutions. Once this is achieved, it will change the way we digitise and function. AR will enhance efficiency.

What are some of the factors that’ll aid smooth digital transformation and some that’ll be a barrier?
In a few words, how can organisations work towards it?There are organisations that are still print-heavy and traditional. Others have established a digital stronghold. Enterprises in both the extremes seem to face barriers with digital transformation. The key is to implement these changes step-by-step. Be clear on the problem (use case) you are trying to solve and focus on it. Trying to solve too many problems at once can create confusion.

What are some developments you are expecting in the AR market? (Software and wearable technology) 
I look forward to more clarity on the best use cases. The AREA is playing a huge part in it, helping enterprises decide what’s best for them through its members thought leadership content. Improvement in wearable technology and increased battery life and other key factors that the AREA has outlined in its AR hardware and software requirements will help.