Augmented Reality is transforming work, businesses and daily life

August 4, 2017

Augmented Reality (AR) is the overlapping of a digital image on the concrete reality that surrounds us and grants the opportunity to experience the environment with increased depth, thanks to the overlay of information. It allows displaying a fictitious reality, as if it were true, and acting instantaneously.

A ThyssenKrupp elevator has suddenly stopped working? The maintenance people can be instructed by the experts, comfortably seated in their offices, who thanks to a simulated image of the machines are able to point at where to intervene; a hospital is in need of a new operating theater? Using AR we can display the space available in preview and figure out what is necessary inside and how to organize the layout of the equipment in the most functional way. Using these real cases it’s possible to see the quantifiable advantage in terms of time saved and optimization of efficiency: indeed augmented reality allows displaying beforehand, and without necessarily having to be physically present, a space or situation in order to decide how to intervene at best.

Among the largest companies that in the last few years have been working at the development of this technology there’s Microsoft, with its HoloLens, goggles that project three-dimensional images that are superimposed onto the surrounding environment. Google, Apple, Epson and other high tech giants too are developing devices and applications to contribute to the development of the research on Augmented Reality.

The use of this innovation in the world of work is already bearing its fruits, in particular in the field of architecture and design: “it’s possible to bridge the gap between two-dimensional reality, 3D reality and the physical space, the basic objective of architecture firms”, the architect Greg Lynn observed. Gensler, for example, used a digital projection to preview the building of their new Los Angeles premises: its architects walked through a life-size, 3D model of what would then become their offices, checking “live” the feasibility of a series of interventions. Lowe’s uses Augmented Reality to help its customers figure out the way in which the furniture they’re about to buy will fit in their homes. Other examples are to be found in the industrial world: GE is developing digital replicas of its equipment, thus allowing its engineers to observe their functioning from remote and reducing the time needed for the intervention once they’ll physically be at the location.

The mixture of real and digital environment simplifies the way to convey complex ideas that require a leap of imagination to be understood, and this effort is alleviated by the visual fiction, and not just that: the development of Augmented Reality tends to set us free from a series of devices that may seem fundamental today, but they might become superfluous tomorrow: “It’s incredible if you think about the quantity of physical objects we surround ourselves with (smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, etc) while in reality we don’t need them ‘physically’” states Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook. This company too, the leader in the world of social media, is structuring its business development plans adjusting to the innovations in AR. Zuckerberg has actually launched a new platform, Camera Effect, that enhances Facebook’s camera with filters to superimpose drawings and words on the captured images. The basic idea is to add new functions to tools already in use (like the camera for smartphones or tablets), developing AR-based technologies. The following step will be to apply those technologies to screen-less tools – like glasses for instance.

Despite the progress achieved by the HoloLens and the popping up of several similar devices developed by other brands, there’s still great room for improvement. The first limit to be dealt with is the width of the field of vision: for the moment, with HoloLens the digital images can be projected only on very small spaces, while the target is to enlarge the view as much as possible.

Even though advancements progress rapidly, it’s still essential to consider that education plays a fundamental role in innovation: “the real enabling factor as for the adoption of new technologies lies in human capital” explains Max Bergami, Dean of Bologna Business School. The School organizes Master’s courses specifically on these topics, for newly graduated or professionals, so to provide the labor market with experts that have been trained in the different fields of the digital world. Among the programs for managers and consultants: the Executive Master in Digital Business lasting 33 days, that provides an overview on the different aspects of digital transformation, and the Executive Master in Business Innovation Design to train innovation specialists, able to create synergies among all the digital revolution protagonists.

The full time program that develops both technical and managerial skills is the Digital Technology Management Master’s, with its three different tracks: Artificial Intelligence, Digital Technology Management & Cyber Security, Digital Technology Management & Digital Project Management; while the Master in Marketing, Communication and New Media proposes an in-depth study of the field of communication and social media.

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