What transforms a human into a superhero? Heightened capabilities of vision, hearing and touch, combined with instant transportation to the right place at the right time. In many ways, this is also the achievement of augmented reality (AR). We’ve spent decades on the visualization and data intelligence of machines to seamlessly connect, with powerful business results. Now, the next tech revolution has already started with the supercharging of human cognition and senses via AR experiences.
Our eyes rapidly take in details; up to 80 percent of our information is gathered visually. AR enhances the visual sense with contextually relevant information, giving people the power to see the digital and physical world simultaneously – seeing more than what is naturally visible.
With AR, rather than reading the manual, Mercedes owners can visually learn the dashboard via the AskMercedes app, enhancing the brand experience.
Similarly, wine consumer purchase decisions at retail shelves are informed with ratings, reviews and pricing via image recognition of 9.2 million wine labels by Vivino.
Businesses are delivering visual experiences and data via AR to outpace competitors, and drive measurable ROI for service, training, manufacturing, sales and marketing (IDC 2018).
For example, by delivering step-by-step visual instructions on physical equipment, BAE Systems is training operations employees 30-40% more efficiently, at 1/10th of the cost.
5G is often seen as the tipping point, opening the floodgates of mass AR adoption. Consumer-preferences of AR as the new normal can redraw market share-maps. Is your company ready to create AR content at scale?
AR experiences amplified by audio are on the way to becoming mainstream, most commonly via AR glasses and head-worn devices used to free up a worker’s hands. Authoring tools for AR experiences include speech commands, and AR remote expert guidance empowers us to hear, see and talk with distant peers. We can now go beyond human-to-human voice communications by giving instructions or requesting information from the machines around us. In our own Sigma Tile factory, the operator talks to the cobot, and it executes the tasks.
Another superhuman strength afforded by technology is blocking out extraneous background noise to more clearly hear or recognize speech, for example on a busy manufacturing shop floor.
Haptic feedback sensors to “feel” vibrations and resistance are well known, as are virtual presences of running cranes, mining drills or transporters. However, the recent readiness and industrialization of both, for example, the tactile 5G glove research with Ericsson and King´s College, opens a new field of AR opportunities. The power of haptic feedback gets even stronger in combination with visual and audio. Let us discuss the applicability in healthcare today and tomorrow.
Proximie uses augmented reality technology within healthcare to enable remote surgery, consultations and teaching.
It offers powerful solutions to many healthcare challenges, breaking down barriers of time and distance to improve access and efficiency and train doctors in greater numbers through expert real-time collaboration to equip them with the very best, and most cutting-edge skills.
“We are operating in a rapidly evolving technological market,” explains Proximie co-founder and CEO Talal Ali Ahmad. “As AR technology develops, I expect to see that it will link to the results of x-rays, CT or MRI scans to provide ‘live’ internal images of a patient as the surgical team works. This is really exciting, as is the emergence of AI and haptic technology, which have great potential for healthcare solutions in the future.”
Taste and smell
Augmenting taste and smell are technically possible and may serve in future workplaces as sensory indicators for danger or reward cues. Consumer market and AR game utilization for the pleasures of these senses will likely prove the value before businesses can deliver strong ROI on the implementation complexities.
The sixth sense and ability to displace time and space
AR amplifies the experiences of our senses. Even more impressive is the ability in a digital-physical world to achieve essentially a sixth sense and almost unlock telepathic powers.
Concept art by Jack Kaiser, Medical illustrator
A surgeon or doctor can have near-superhuman abilities from real-time monitoring of vital signs, like the heartbeat, ECG chart, blood pressure, perhaps even biomarkers or MRI. We will likely see more demand for AR design skills to avoid cognitive overload, maybe even to an extent allowing individual display preferences.
Artificial intelligence will be complementary to sensor readings since it can look for patterns and be a sixth sense highlighting relevant data and situational recommendations based on global medical knowledge.
Historical data allows us to move back in time to analyze for understanding, and modern mathematics to travel to the future via simulations and predictive models. We could envision “what-if” scenarios, that is, virtually test a procedure in AR and experience the anticipated effects from those actions. Providing the choice to practice; in a virtual future; may help decision making and even avoid fatal mistakes.
When multiple people collaborate in AR by sharing sight, hearing, sense, and information not normally available IRL (in real life), a much higher interpersonal connection is achieved. This interconnection taps into the experience and creativity of others. This is not full telepathy. Yet, in the working environment, AR remote participation already delivers dramatic increases both in assisting to get the work done and jointly solve problems.
Empowering people to reach the full capabilities of human cognition requires heightened access to all the senses in the present moment, in real environments. The ability to extraordinarily engage sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, why AR and its related technologies is the next tech revolution, bringing the full power of the creative and adaptive human mind to the digital-physical world.
As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and the super human senses powered by AR definitely fit this notion. AR is already driving real-world use cases with impactful results, but just scratching the surface of how truly magical it will become with more powerful devices and faster connectivity.
Ericsson and PTC have announced an IoT partnership to speed up app and service development for cellular IoT. PTC’s ThingWorx Foundation is a modeling environment for development of IoT applications. Vuforia Studio is a powerful, easy-to-use tool that enables industrial enterprises to rapidly create scalable AR experiences. These two tools are now integrated into the Ericsson IoT Accelerator Platform.