Business Development iOS

The value of AR for business leaders (and when not to bother)

April 24, 2024
The value of AR for business leaders (and when not to bother)

We’ve recently written about the pressure leaders feel to increase the tempo of their digital transformations. With the many technological advancements we face, it’s natural to become overwhelmed by it all.

Should you jump on every new opportunity? How do you analyze what makes the most sense for your industry and specific place within it?

With the 2024 release of Apple’s Vision Pro headset, we’re seeing these questions even more. Should you build an app for the Vision Pro? How could you leverage AR to improve your operations?

What is augmented reality (AR)?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that blends digital information with the real world around you. The goal isn’t to take you somewhere else (that’s virtual reality), but to enhance your interaction with your surroundings.

You might have seen examples of AR in smartphone apps like Pokémon GO (where virtual creatures appear in the real world through your phone's camera) or in applications that allow you to visualize furniture in your home before purchasing it (Wayfair and Home Depot are just two examples).

As we’ll discuss in this article, AR holds immense potential for business leaders—from training to data visualization to consumer product testing.

But it’s not always necessary to invest in. AR should not be added to your to-do list just for the sake of keeping up with new technology.

To evaluate whether AR can serve a purpose, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will AR significantly improve the user experience of your product, providing unique, immersive, and engaging interactions?

  • Is your target audience open to AR experiences, and do they have access to the necessary hardware (smartphones or headsets)?

  • Do the benefits outweigh the associated costs of the technology and talent needed to integrate AR with your digital product?

  • Will incorporating AR give you a competitive advantage in your industry?

Valuable use cases for AR in your business

When the answer to any of these questions is yes, we enjoy the challenge of creating something entirely new for our clients.

These are some of the most common use cases we see for businesses integrating AR into their digital products:

  • Education and training: Health care organizations can use AR to train medical professionals through simulations and virtual models. For example, surgeons can practice complex procedures in a risk-free environment, improving their skills and reducing errors. Similarly, logistics and factory workers can undergo training on machinery and operations through AR simulations, leading to increased efficiency and safety.

  • Product visualization: AR enables consumers to visualize products in real-world environments before they make a purchase. For consumer goods companies, this means customers can try out furniture, clothing, or cosmetics virtually, increasing their confidence in buying and reducing returns. In healthcare, patients can use AR to visualize medical implants or prosthetics, aiding in decision-making and improving patient satisfaction.

  • Streamlined operations: Companies can optimize their logistics and factory operations by providing real-time data and instructions to workers. For instance, warehouse staff can use AR glasses to receive pick-and-pack instructions, reducing errors and increasing productivity. In manufacturing, technicians can access equipment maintenance instructions overlaid onto machinery, minimizing downtime and improving maintenance efficiency.

  • Data visualization and analytics: AR can visualize complex data sets in a more understandable and interactive manner. In the health care industry, you could overlay patient data onto their physical bodies during medical consultations, allowing doctors to better understand and communicate diagnoses. In logistics and factory operations, AR can support digital twins to help zone leaders make real-time data-driven decisions to optimize processes and workflows.

Challenges with AR as an emerging technology

Since AR is a rather new technology, it comes with its share of challenges.

AR development involves working with complex technologies, such as computer vision and 3D rendering. Developers must implement robust tracking algorithms to handle the challenging environmental conditions AR relies upon.

But perhaps the biggest challenge lies in designing intuitive, user-friendly interfaces for AR apps. Unlike traditional interfaces, AR design must seamlessly blend virtual content with the real world while providing clear instructions and feedback to users. Designing for real-world space is much more unpredictable than designing for a flat screen.

Though previous headsets exist, Apple’s Vision Pro is a first-generation product. We can expect improvement through new updates and product versions, but for now, it has its limitations.

MichiganLabs’ advice for experimenting with AR

On the bright side, MichiganLabs developers are so experienced in Apple’s operating systems that we have a head start when clients choose to build for the Vision Pro. It’s the first headset designed specifically for working professionals (rather than for gamers), so we can use the tools we’re familiar with to make your industry app.

In their professional development time, a few MichiganLabs developers are exploring the possibility of a sign language app for the Vision Pro. One idea is to create a keyboard within visionOS that users can select, where sign language would be their form of data input (rather than pressing keys). Another idea they have is to provide live translation between someone who is deaf and someone who is not fluent in American Sign Language. Our team loves testing our skills in new ways like this outside of our project hours!

If you’ve determined that AR could significantly improve the user experience of your product or believe it can give you a competitive advantage, our advice is three-fold:

  • Identify specific areas where AR can drive value for your organization,

  • Select a reliable AR product partner,

  • And start with small pilot projects, iterating based on user feedback.

Let’s set up a discovery call to learn more about your ideas and think through how AR might fit in.

Nicole Zwiers
Nicole Zwiers
Marketing Lead

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