The AREA: Thinking Long-Term About Augmented Reality Applications

The Area Logo

Augmented Reality applications will not get introduced and adopted as a workplace solution unless they address a burning business need. While the media hypes Apple’s “secret” AR/VR team and Twitter buzzes with discussions of how Magic Leap raised more money than most ever dreamed possible, the implementation of AR into our daily working lives still faces a few significant barriers to entry.
Enter AREA: The Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance, the only global non-profit organization dedicated to widespread adoption of AR in enterprise. AREA members are working together to reduce the barriers that even money can’t easily address. Incorporated in 2013, the AREA’s mission is to help companies improve operational efficiency with AR.
While most of the public focus on AR is about slick games and pre-orders, members of the AREA have been using AR to increase workplace performance right under our noses by encouraging education and collaboration.

One of the ways AREA works together to educate the public is by publishing use cases, such as this abstract on AR being used to assist flight attendants by giving them real-time information on their passengers’s needs. And the AREA continues to collect dozens of Augmented Reality use cases to publish on their website.
“Without the AREA, everything a customer would find on the Web about AR is provided by a sales person who is talking about their products, some of which don’t exist yet. There’s a lot of hype and this fuels high expectations. Customers wonder how much they should be paying, how and where they should start and what options they need.” says Christine Perey, the Executive Director of AREA.
The AREA recommends that companies think of and use Augmented Reality as a new part of existing workflows which involve real world processes and objects. Getting to that level of integration, however, isn’t a straight path.

Augmented Reality Expectations vs. Reality

“Our vision is that we can help to accelerate AR adoption by providing one place where customers and providers of Enterprise AR can come together. It’s a safe place, a place of shared values.”

Translating Augmented Reality

According to Perey, Augmented Reality needs to build upon and leverage a company’s existing enterprise IT system. With AR integrated into the enterprise data delivery systems, workers can lower task interruption and cognitive load. They can also have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Perey notes that a buyer doesn’t want to spend two years testing a multitude of different products, but there is still a steep learning curve for those who want to deploy the nascent technology.
“It’s about reaching operational efficiency. If you’re selling technology and it takes you weeks months or years to educate your customer, that’s not efficient. What they want to know is: what do I need and where do I get it?” If providers and customers are speaking two different languages, the process is slow and inefficient.

Barriers to Entry in Augmented Reality

Partnering for AR Success

The AREA’s 28 members—from two-person startups to multi billion dollar Fortune 100’s like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson and Bosch—are partnering to develop best practices and guidelines.
“While the AREA website is focused on customer education, we also offer programs that help our members collaborate on research products and train more professionals. We speak at events. We promote high quality, vendor-neutral content, so it’s not all sales materials.”
The AREA itself partners with other industry organizations, including RA’pro in France.
“Research consortia, like EPRI, and leading research institutes such as Georgia Tech and the University of Sheffield in the UK are also important to our ecosystem. They provide things that are not for sale, they are not competing with the providers of products or services.”

Members of the AREA Augmented Reality Alliance for Enterprise

But what about organizations who are highly secretive, or don’t believe in collaboration?
“In all honesty, there are people who only see the world in their way, and I think if people don’t feel driven to working with others to build a better, more productive workplace, they are unlikely to join our organization… The companies who do join are those that think about a much bigger picture. They are thinking about the long term… We all know AR is going to be a big leap, so we need to join hands and pool our resources to get there.”