A recent report from market intelligence agency IDC addresses questions about AR technologies in enterprise as we move out of the pandemic. While offices are opening up, many companies have embraced hybrid work models or continue to employ remote workers. Further, training and education remain important use cases for augmented reality.’
The report, shared with ARPost, gives a by-the-numbers look at how hundreds of companies are using AR. It also predicts markets going forward and highlights some specific hardware and software options.
Accelerate Your Organization’s Digital Transformation
“Embracing Augmented Reality Technologies to Accelerate Your Organization’s Digital Transformation” was published by IDC and authored by IDC Group Vice President of Device and Consumer Research Tom Mainelli.
The paper was sponsored by Lenovo which has its own AR technology division, ThinkReality. Working on hardware and software for enterprise and education, this group has been interested in long-term trends and solutions for years.
“We think [XR] is a trend that’s going to stay and Lenovo feels like with the customer base that we already have we need to be a leader in this space, so there’s a lot of commitment in our teams to doing that,” Lenovo AR/VR Lead Nathan Pettyjohn told ARPost back in 2020.
The report talked about Lenovo ThinkReality solutions in particular, but was by no means an advertisement. The report was rich in insights and predictions backed up by data from a 2021 poll of over 400 enterprise companies with over 1,000 employees. All of these companies either have already employed AR technologies, or have at least started that ball rolling.
AR Technologies in a Post-COVID World
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation for companies around the world,” Mainelli wrote in the paper’s introduction. “As the world slowly looks to move beyond lockdowns and quarantines, AR technologies will only become more embedded and important to many companies’ future success.”
The paper goes on to present a sentiment that many were predicting this time a year ago: AR isn’t just a pandemic solution. XR bloomed during the pandemic out of necessity but the genie isn’t going back into the bottle. Work-from-home, distributed workforces, and hybrid meetings are all staying with us as we move into the “new normal”, and so is AR.
“IDC continues to forecast substantial growth in the coming years across all areas of AR, including hardware, software, and services. While many companies may initially balk at the perceived cost of entry, most realize that investments in AR pay for themselves,” wrote Mainelli. “AR is no longer a technology that will manifest in a few years: it’s here today.”
That growth could lead to $45.6 billion in worldwide spending on AR technologies (AR hardware, software, and services) by 2025, according to the report. Further, that doesn’t include spending related to smartphones and tablets – which is still how many people experience AR.
How and Why Enterprises Use AR
That many companies start out using smartphones or mobile devices to get their feet wet in XR was only one of the gems uncovered in the survey. Depending on the AR technologies your company is using, this might sound archaic but even most AR glasses use (or can use) a standard mobile phone or tablet for their computing power.
This approach, used in enterprise as well as entertainment, cuts the cost of the headset for the end-user. It also allows the headsets to focus on display and audio while offloading the computing power to a nearby device. This makes the headsets lighter, comfier, and safer. One Lenovo device, made with Motorola and Verizon, even allows edge computing.
“One of the critical challenges around AR hardware has been the high cost coupled with the fact that most headsets could offer either a comfortable, lightweight form factor or high-end optics, but not both,” wrote Mainelli.
Here, the report started discussing Lenovo and ThinkReality hardware, which can pair with a laptop computer as well as a mobile device. While some enterprise tasks require more mobility than a laptop can easily afford, others don’t. Using XR devices as “virtual screens” is one of the swiftly rising use cases in enterprise (and entertainment).
Half of the survey respondents use AR technologies for employee training. Forty-eight percent use AR for videoconferencing and collaboration. Further, when asked what they saw as the top benefit to AR technologies, the most common answer was improving collaboration. So, it’s no surprise that 80% expressed interest in virtual desktops – including 67% of healthcare respondents.
Some Pretty Big Numbers in the Forecast
For all that we’ve seen for growth in AR technologies for enterprise, the future holds so much more. Not only are more organizations embracing these technologies, they’re doing so in ways that we didn’t necessarily expect. While surveys and forecasts are interesting, the real fun comes from watching and waiting to see if they turn out.