Augmented Reality Tech Finds a Home in the Enterprise: Gartner

The technology has the potential to improve productivity, provide hands-on experience, simplify current processes and increase available information.

While the adoption of augmented reality (AR) technology, exemplified by gadgets such as Google Glass, is still in its infancy at the enterprise level, AR technology has matured to a point where organizations can use it as an internal tool to complement and enhance business processes, workflows and employee training, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

Current implementations generally fall into one of two categories—location-based or computer vision. Location-based offerings use a device's motion sensors to provide information based on a user's location, while computer-vision-based services use facial, object and motion tracking algorithms to identify images and objects.

"Augmented reality is the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects," Tuong Huy Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "AR leverages and optimizes the use of other technologies such as mobility, location, 3D content management and imaging and recognition. It is especially useful in the mobile environment because it enhances the user's senses via digital instruments to allow faster responses or decision-making."

Nguyen said AR technologies have the greatest potential to improve productivity, provide hands-on experience, simplify current processes, increase available information, provide real-time access to data, offer new ways to visualize problems and solutions, and enhance collaboration.

However, prior to deploying an AR solution as an internal tool, enterprises should identify a clear goal or benefit for the deployment, such as improved access to information, or to provide training and assess how the organization can use AR to reach this goal.

"AR is most useful as a tool in industries where workers are either in the field, do not have immediate access to information, or jobs that require one or both hands and the operator's attention," Nguyen continued. "As such, the impact on weightless industries is lower because these employees often have constant and direct access to the information they need, such as knowledge workers."

Gartner said it expects to see moderate adoption of AR for internal purposes over the next five years as the availability of powerful handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and more portable, convenient and affordable head-mounted displays is making internal AR applications more widely available.

The technology is also well suited for presenting real-world objects of potential special interest, such as detecting and highlighting objects generating higher than normal levels of radiation, or showing a user where to go or what to do--for example, helping a worker make a repair in a hazardous environment where visibility is low.

While the report cautions AR adoption risks do apply to the current environment, as with other technologies that are new and unproven, these risks are expected to decrease over time as implementations and use cases mature.