It was a tantalizing vision in 2015: the augmented reality (AR) industry expected to reach a staggering $162 billion in annual revenue by 2020. It was a hype-driven, high-stakes prophecy that had analysts, investors, and industry insiders all brimming with anticipation. But when the dust settled, the reality was a far cry from these optimistic projections. The AR industry reported a comparatively paltry $4.16 billion in revenue, throwing the sector into an existential crisis. So, what went wrong?
The AR landscape is littered with the remnants of grand ambitions, projects stalled in the pilot phase, and companies who dared to dream but ultimately fell short. Notably, AR hardware companies like ODG and DAQRI collapsed under the weight of their ambitions, while tech giants like Google and Microsoft scaled back their AR ventures significantly.
The key challenges hampering AR’s adoption in the manufacturing industry can be traced back to two principal issues. First, there is the constant struggle to find specialized knowledge on equipment to use in AR content. Secondly, the creation of AR work instructions presents a logistical nightmare of transforming intricate operational procedures into AR-friendly formats.
The gravity of these roadblocks is evident from the sheer number of AR initiatives that remain trapped in the pilot phase. In our experience and speaking with other AR industry leaders, many AR projects, despite promising beginnings, never make it to full-scale deployment, hampered by the formidable barriers of expertise procurement and AR content creation.
As we’ve seen, throwing more technology at a problem doesn’t make it go away.
One of the biggest hurdles we hear from manufacturing personnel is the availability of time and skilled people to manage and scale technology projects.
On one hand, manufacturers possess huge repositories of procedures, work instructions, and standard operating procedures (SOPs). On the other, reworking these existing resources into AR-compatible formats, despite potential ROI, can seem like an insurmountable task when there’s no personnel with the ability or time to do so.
Despite these challenges, there’s a beacon of hope: the marriage of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and crowd-sourced expertise. Platforms such as NewForge Knowledge Place utilize generative AI to draw upon existing documents and user prompts, creating dynamic work instructions. The painstaking process of manual recreation is eliminated, bringing new life to existing SOPs.
These AI-generated instructions can then be sent to smart glasses or AR devices, providing real-time, hands-free guidance. To ensure accuracy and practicality, human experts then review and curate these instructions. This harmony of AI and human expertise paves the way for high-quality, reliable work instructions.
Further, crowd-sourcing is employed to amass a wealth of specialized knowledge on various types of equipment. This information can be accessed exactly when and where it’s needed, effectively addressing the challenge of delivering specialized knowledge when personnel cannot find the resources they need to resolve a costly problem.
Platforms like NewForge Knowledge Place could be the lifeline the AR industry desperately needs. If the blend of generative AI and crowd-sourced knowledge can be scaled and adopted widely, it could be the catalyst that finally propels AR out of the pilot phase and into mainstream usage.
The AR industry’s journey has been fraught with challenges and setbacks, yet it stands on the brink of a transformative era. By melding AI, AR, and crowd-sourced knowledge, we’re venturing into uncharted territory, ripe with potential. This could be the breakthrough that finally enables AR to reach its true potential, propelling it to the lofty heights initially predicted. In the face of these emerging trends, one can’t help but watch in anticipation, wondering if this will finally be AR’s moment in the sun.