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Augmented reality: personal technology that’s in (and on) your face is ready for business


When Google Glass was launched to a chorus of raspberries it gave other erstwhile vendors of smart face and body furniture pause for thought. Wearables are clearly tricky. For one thing they’re signage in that they will always says things about the wearer’s style (or lack of) and - if it’s a camera - about his/her intent.

“Why is that person wearing a camera? Are they filming me? What are they going to do with the result?” As Google already had a reputation as a privacy invader it’s little wonder that Google Glass hit the buffers.

Fast forward. Wearables are clearly now a hit in the consumer market but if you look closely, the examples that are succeeding are discrete (they can usually hide under a sleeve) (see Infographic, courtesy, Beecham Research).

The big one, you remember, was ‘augmented reality’ where the user’s normal reality/vision is supplemented by a highly visible heads up display enabled by wearable technology such as Google Glass. That option, which would be designed to replace or supplement the ubiquitous mobile touch screen, has yet to take off in the consumer market, although Google is now threatening to unleash Glass 2.

Now many observers expect (and hope) that it will be mobile business applications, not the long-lost consumers, that will come to the fore and drive some proper growth into the ‘Augmented Reality’ category.

According to Beecham Research, which has just released a report, ‘Augmented Reality and Wearable Technology – an operational tool for the enterprise’, things are stirring. It expects to see AR growth   in the “manufacturing, logistics, healthcare and retail as some of the most dynamic markets, where AR offers a new way for people to interact with information hands-free, to provide a greater depth of control and access to knowledge.”

There are a whole range of activities involving field service personnel, (just a for instance), where this technology could be a boon.

“It is clear that the overall status of the enterprise market for AR and wearable technology is at a tipping point, moving from trials and testbed projects to real commercial deployments,” says report author, Matthew Duke-Woolley, Market Analyst at Beecham Research. “While it is still questionable to provide a firm forecast, if this speed of transition accelerates as companies quickly recognise the benefits and return on investment, we believe the market can reach just under $800 million by 2020.”

Duke-Woolley highlights recent acquisitions that reflect a growing level of market activity and consolidation.

“They include PTC’s purchase Vuforia at the end of last year for $65 million to support its next generation of technology solutions for manufacturers and before that acquisitions of IoT companies ThingWorx and Axeda,” maintains Beecham. “Other acquisitions in 2015 included Apple’s purchase of Metaio, borne out of a project at Volkswagen and Facebook’s purchase of AR company Surreal Vision.”

“We expect to see rapid evolution of smart glasses with more miniaturisation, better field of view and battery life, says Saverio Romeo, Principal Analyst at Beecham. “There will also be increasing attention on the convergence with virtual reality (VR) technology and the Internet of Things to deliver competitive advantage. Collaboration with AR/VR and IoT players will be crucial.”


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