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The Increasing Significance of Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality in a Post-COVID Era

By CIOReview | Friday, October 30, 2020

The technology has been widely adopted across industries over the years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to accelerate AR and mixed reality growth, wherein the virtual overlay uses a head-mounted device, holographic objects, anchor points, and six degrees of physical freedom for movement.

FREMONT, CA: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease has transformed business as we know it. It has put forth the needs of frontline workers as the top priority. Traveling within the country has become increasingly challenging while traveling over international borders has become nearly impossible. As a result, frontline workers like field service technicians have been forced away from their natural work of going out in the field and fixing complex systems. Even in cases where third party field service techs can travel, their customers' corporate policies have often barred them from entering the site. In the case of may scenarios, collaborations have been challenging.

This is where augmented reality (AR) comes into play. AR virtually overplays digital contextual information into a physical world object, combining an employee's understanding and capabilities in real-time. The technology has been widely adopted across industries over the years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to accelerate AR and mixed reality growth, wherein the virtual overlay uses a head-mounted device, holographic objects, anchor points, and six degrees of physical freedom for movement. According to Forrester, both AR and MR have overcome the market inertia plaguing the market, and experts anticipate even faster growth.

Tools like PTC's Vuforia Chalk, an AR application that can be downloaded for free on any mobile phone or tablet, have become a go-to innovation for frontline workers this year. By April 2020, over 5000 companies had downloaded Chalk, and by August, the numbers went up to 10,000. Remote assistance has been immensely helpful in solving the problems by combining the input through see what I see camera views, and writing on reality. However, the inertia that kept these organizations from experimenting with these technologies was quickly overcome by the need to connect under emergency conditions and maintain critical infrastructure running. This direct experience is set to drive the expansion in these firms for years ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created problems that need to be solved quickly. Sheba Medical Center used Microsoft's HoloLens 2 mixed-reality interface to train 60 physicians and other clinical personnel on operating ventilators for COVID-19 patients. A group of companies, including Ford, GKN Aerospace, McLaren, Airbus, and Siemens, has leveraged AR and MR tools to enable knowledge transfer on manufacturing ventilators in the U.K. Maker of ruggedized head-mounted displays, RealWear, highlighted instances of field service organizations shipping the company's wearable devices to customers so that expert engineers could circumvent lockdown restrictions and walk their customers through servicing and repair tasks from afar.

Credits: Forrester