When Google Glass was announced in 2012, it created a stir in the realm of consumer electronics, with technology advocates imagining people donning smart glasses for everything from trips to the store to going to concerts. However, neither the technology nor the market was ready for augmented reality (AR) smart glasses at the time, and Google Glass was effectively a commercial flop.
While Google abandoned the consumer version of Google Glass within a few years, it invested its development capacity into creating an enterprise version that has since gained steady traction in the business world. Dubbed the Enterprise Edition, Google’s retooled smart glasses have found appreciative homes in the factories of well-known companies such as GE, Boeing, DHL, and Volkswagen. In each case, the story is the same: Google Glass Enterprise Edition improved both employee productivity and the overall quality of their work. With that in mind, the recent release of Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 was to be expected.
However, Google isn’t the only player offering enterprise-grade AR smart glasses. Vuzix and Lenovo are also preparing to launch a new range of smart glasses for enterprises by the second half of 2021. Evidently, AR for enterprises is a big business, and it’s growing. According to ARtillery Research, the global market for enterprise-level AR applications will be more than $14.2 billion by 2022.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at AR smart glasses uses for enterprise.
What are AR smart glasses?
In appearance, AR smart glasses look similar to eyeglasses or sunglasses, albeit with slightly larger frames. However, when wearing them, users can see visual data imposed on their environment or receive audio prompts through built-in speakers.
AR smart glasses uses for enterprise
By enabling workers, technicians, and medical professionals to see information — be it tools or directions — directly in front of them, smart glasses free up users’ hands to continue working on any given task, something that, according to Google Glass project lead Jay Kothari, gives workers “superpowers.”
Today, you can see countless AR smart glasses uses in a wide variety of industries, from manufacturing to medical to insurance. For example, doctors can use smart glasses to enter patient data automatically, get a second opinion from medical professionals on standby, or livestream key medical procedures. Similarly, insurance agents in the field can livestream inspections or take voice memos.
Remote workers can also benefit from using AR smart glasses, as the technology can expand existing workspaces by superimposing additional screens or heads-up displays. Alternatively, AR smart glasses users can create virtual offices around themselves to limit distractions and improve productivity.
Below are some specific AR smart glasses uses for professionals in a multitude of settings.
- Team and board meetings
One of the potential uses of smart glasses is virtual meetings. AR smart glasses technology allows users to meet one another in virtual rooms where they can collaborate on projects and share designs and ideas as if they were all in one space. Architects a world apart can design 3D models together without ever leaving their homes.
Apple registered a patent in 2020 for smart glasses designed explicitly for virtual meetings, indicating their widespread usage is on the horizon.
Making even minor improvements to the logistics industry can result in significant savings for all parties involved. Using AR smart glasses, workers can quickly receive communications about when and where products should be picked up, packed, or dropped off while assembling products and managing inventory becomes substantially easier with visual overlays in place.
In Munich, for example, workers at the BMW factory can readily identify the parts they need using smart glasses, improving their inventory identification times by 22% and reducing errors by 33%.
One of the biggest time and productivity sinks that companies contend with is needing to train employees in crucial tasks. AR smart glasses reduce the resources required for training by providing effective visual demonstrations that are overlaid onto the real world. Even more impressive, training can be customized to individual employees, meaning that if an employee struggles in a particular area, AR smart glasses can provide focused, additional training to fill in any gaps.
Even after the formal training period, workers can easily refer to on-screen data for real-time information, have a refresher course to help retain knowledge or use smart glasses as a source of everyday assistance as they learn the ropes.
- Product development
Yet another area poised to benefit from the potential of AR smart glasses is product development. By using smart glasses, employees can design and overlay 3D models over the real world, creating a realistic hologram they can inspect from all sides and at full scale. Doing so can reduce costs by eliminating the need to make multiple physical models and save steps in the prototyping process.
- After-sales service
For after-sales service, there are many AR smart glasses uses. Once a product has been sold, companies can continue to employ AR smart glasses to improve the overall customer experience. Porsche service technicians, for example, use AR smart glasses to remotely connect with Porsche specialists in a different part of the world and ensure they’re using the best processes to fix the high-end vehicles.
At KPN, a European telecommunications service provider, technicians use AR smart glasses to determine a product’s service history while viewing location-based information dashboards and diagnostics data. The company has found that its overall costs have gone down by 11%, and its work-error rates have dropped by 17% since technicians have started using AR smart glasses.
In factories, workers will be able to see the performance parameters of machines and make adjustments accordingly — all without physically touching them. AR smart glasses can also predict when specific parts are about to fail, preventing potentially catastrophic production delays.
Tomorrow’s technology, today
While the dramatic capabilities of AR smart glasses may seem like science fiction, they are already in use by businesses around the world to increase productivity, reduce error rates, and, ultimately, improve bottom lines. As further improvements to the technology are being made, this is only the beginning of what AR smart glasses will be able to do for enterprises in the future.