How Augmented Reality is Saving the Tech Industry

As automation and robotics continue to edge human workers out of jobs, it’s clear that either technology or people (or both) will have to adjust. While it is true that recent technological innovations have replaced humans in certain industries, it’s also worth noting that there are still millions of unfilled jobs in the United States.

Thus, it may not be the case that fewer jobs will be available for workers in the future. Instead, the nature of work itself may simply be shifting. Currently, people lack the necessary skills to fill those millions of jobs mentioned above. While some jobs are probably going away forever, new ones that emerge will require a workforce that’s properly trained for them.

If this is the case, technology will not be the force that prevents workers from finding employment. Instead, it will help them prepare for the jobs of the future.

Augmented reality companies, in particular, are set to play an essential role.

Understanding the Tech

Augmented reality should not be confused with virtual reality. VR inserts users into an entirely new world. AR, meanwhile, inserts new, virtual elements into the real world. It can also remove certain real-world elements, if that’s the goal.

This has clear implications for job training. Potential employees may soon be able to put on an AR headset and superimpose a new tool or piece of technology onto their surrounding environment. They can learn how to perform a task or use a machine without having to travel to a training site.

According to a report from Tractica, a robotics-focused research firm, this application is clearly viable. “AR headsets provide an ideal UI for hands-free operation, with the device at eye level, presenting information when needed. AR headsets can also bring powerful first-person views, which are valuable hands-free resources for field force automation, training, or maintenance jobs,” the report states.

Recognizing the Potential for AR

Most AR programs currently involve the use of smartphones or tablets, as they’re more readily available than AR headsets. However, given the relative success of the Microsoft Hololens, as well as the rise of smaller firms like Osterhout Design Group and Daqri, it’s safe to assume that such tools will soon be put to wider use.

Major tech companies have also indicated their faith in AR. Facebook is developing a tool which will allow users to make their own customized image filters. Apple released an AR content creation platform for developers. Samsung is creating its own MR (mixed reality) products. The augmented reality industry is growing steadily, and that trend isn’t likely to reverse itself anytime soon.

AR for Job Training

Although it’s not possible to determine to what degree robotics and artificial intelligence will displace human workers, few doubt that they will have a clear, measurable effect. For workers to compete, they’ll need the ability to quickly learn valuable skills.

Bryan Ballard, CEO of Upskill, believes AR will be critical in this respect. Ballard’s company aims to develop the go-to AR operating system. He believes that a classroom is the wrong space for job training because it involves removing a potential employee from the actual context of the job. Ballard says, “At a base level people need more skills to do their jobs,” adding, “What we see in real life is that there is a way to get better information right way and it’s always available to see.”

Daqri’s CEO, Brian Mullins, agrees: “Augmented reality is a modern technology that is human focused, and when done right, focused on knowledge transfer. You can show a worker how to do something that they didn’t know, and give them actionable information to make the right decisions.”

Current Uses of Augmented Reality Technology

Some companies are already toying with the idea of using AR as a job training tool. GE is developing a Hololens program that would train people who have no background in the medical field to correctly use an ultrasound machine. Boeing, which has already used AR to train employees in key tasks, has found that workers who learn via this approach are more satisfied and more accurate.

These examples merely represent the experimental stages of using AR to train employees. In the future, companies will have to find ways of scaling the process so that it’s efficient, effective, and available to a wide range of potential workers. Companies hoping to take advantage of this training model will have to work closely with AR firms to develop the best possible tools.

Those that do will likely benefit from a more qualified, productive workforce. Workers who’ve been replaced by machines will also benefit, as they get the opportunity to learn new skills that make them more valuable in the long run.