2020 saw a sharp rise in digital collaboration tools following the global shift to remote work. The use of augmented reality (AR) technologies has allowed co-workers to sit at a standard (if virtual) table or work on a design collaboratively from their own home. But the pandemic has also cast a dark cloud over the predicted future of AR, with only mitigating progress towards the goalposts laid out last year. While enterprise audiences welcomed new hardware, software, and wireless technologies, the pandemic has thinned the AR herd, even if the list of players remains similar.
Growing Leadership and Organization-Wide Comfort with AR Concepts
A decade ago, augmented reality was still a technologist’s dream; but that was before Google and Microsoft invested in experimental hardware and convinced enterprises to try early Glass and HoloLens headsets. While it started off as a gamble, AR use cases and returns on investment have now shown that the technology could be highly beneficial for specific purposes. The pandemic has also strengthened the argument for holographic participation, which would allow team members to participate and present in meetings in realistic 3D – which is only the beginning for Microsoft. The concept of virtual replicas of people and objects (“digital twins”) keeps seducing organizations, from creating digital spokespeople to product previews, foreshadowing a transition towards realistic 3D as a selling tool.
Continued Improvements in Enterprise AR Hardware
Covid-19 has certainly slowed the progress planned for 2020 as offices switched to remote work, affecting both the technology’s release and rollout. Only last March did Nreal announce a new “All-in-One” enterprise headset that would match Microsoft’s HoloLens. Still, the insight gained over the past year leaves us hopeful for 2021, with Facebook releasing its first AR headset this year, a pair of Ray-Ban smartglasses co-developed with EssilorLuxottica, while real-world testing of the “Project Aria” platform continues. But whether big steps are taken depends on Apple’s capacity to showcase the AR headsets it has been working on for years — something many are waiting for but which might have to wait until 2022.