Why the future is “now”: How AR is shifting user experiences

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Fuzzy Math thrives at the intersection of people, data, and technology. We can’t see a more exciting mix of these three than in Augmented Reality (AR). In this newsletter we’re tackling why the time is “now” for augmented reality and how to ensure the best possible AR user experience.

Increases in the amount of and access to data, incredibly powerful but shrinking technology, and the internet of things have made AR real. These forces will shape the future of people’s lives. We see UX Design’s role as ensuring that AR is solving the right problems using the right technology to provide the best possible experiences.

Mark Baldino on WGN Radio

Don’t like to read? Watch Ben and Mark discuss the AR on WGN Radio’s Technori Podcast:
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The right time: Data and technology increase

We’ve all been swimming in the world of “big data” for a while now. Companies either have reams of historical data they wish to leverage or they are capturing huge volumes of new data with the hopes of applying it. AR isn’t just screen overlays on lenses or helmets, but also capturing of information in the real world, many times in real time, and pushing that information back to displays of all kind.

Part of the data capturing world is the ubiquity of connected devices, the internet of things. No longer is it novel to have a device such as an outlet be internet controlled and capturing data. Computing size, power, and speed have increased while the size has decreased. Meanwhile, camera, imaging, and lens technology has steadily improved to the point that simple overlays of visual information are possible at reduced prices.

The right place: Field services industries and manufacturing

It’s the right time given data and technology, and there are specific industries where AR is taking off. There are already a number of immediate, realistic use cases in the following industries:

Manufacturing
From factory floor workers through quality assurance into fulfillment, AR devices can keep production lines moving faster and with fewer errors. Production equipment data, parts information, or safety problem data can be shared between team members and management in real time.

Construction and engineering
While generally less digitized, according to McKinsey, than other industries, construction and engineering this are already conceptualizing how AR can impact their workforce. From overlapping known data from built environment to a multitude of sensors attached to machinery or equipment, the possibilities are many but direct.

Field services
While field services appear in many industries, in general it employs a highly mobile and geographically dispersed workforce. AR can provide seamless capabilities including up-to-date data for technicians and collaboration capabilities between team members without disrupting existing workflows.

Need AR UX research & design? Fuzzy Math can help

Fuzzy Math offers AR UX strategy, concepting, and visioning services for businesses. We help leading companies better understand their workforce and how to apply augmented reality to increase efficiency and productivity while promoting user safety and satisfaction. Reach out to hello@fuzzymath.com.

How it impacts people: Working smarter, faster, and safer

All of the above does not mean AR magically appears in our daily lives. The most import component is a set of realistic use cases helping people work better.

Smarter

Pros

Computer aided decision making isn’t new. But there are specific AR scenarios that involve collaboration where one person is guided by another with more expertise. This spreads expertise out in real time to a larger group of people.

Cons

The more humans rely on AR and the guided experience, the more likely that a hardware or software failure will leave someone in a vulnerable situation. In these situation there isn’t a solution for lack-of-knowledge.

Faster

Pros

Increasing job speed, performance, and decision making are areas where AR can greatly benefit users and business. In particular AR is already showing severe decreases in the the time required to train people with GE and Boeing are showing roughly 30% decrease in training times for certain jobs.

Cons

We firmly believe that in most cases decreasing training time is a great benefit to the workforce. But in some industries or applications, faster training can hinder long term retention of material.

Safer

Pros

So how can you increase efficiency and not sacrifice safety? By reducing cognitive load. This is a general UX best practice where we advocate for displaying the minimal amount of information to aid decision making. AR operates in a context-aware environment, meaning you know where the user is and what they are doing and can therefore ensure they are provided the proper amount of information at the exact right time.

Cons

When applied correctly AR can reduce cognitive load, but in certain environments it’s actually increasing it by providing too many options or asking a user to focus on too many things at once. Recent research shows that heads up displays in cars can decrease safety when you require drivers to focus on too many items at once.

In conclusion

We feel this is an exciting time for user experience as a combination of a technological advances and an influx of data can dramatically alter the workforce. Despite some known issues, AR can help people learn faster, make better decisions, and operate in a safer manner. And we’re only at the inception of a new industry set to dramatically impact the business world.

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Filed under: AR/VR, Newsletter