Augmenting the future of physical and digital reality

Much has been written about the phenomenal worldwide impact of Pokémon Go. Underlying the runaway success of this game is the fact that augmented reality (AR) is beginning to achieve what advanced technologies often have trouble with – the ability to cut across gender, race, and age lines in the digital era.

To say that Pokémon Go has hit the big time is an understatement – and looking ahead, Digi-Capital has forecasted the AR sector to hit US$90 billion by 2020. The resulting significance for businesses lies in a splendid meld of the physical and digital worlds, and the potential to shake up sectors like commerce, education, the public sector, healthcare and enterprise.

It’s transforming more than just entertainment

Online shopping is now a way of life – from clothes, groceries to meals, everything is more available in a matter of hours, without the hassle of a physical transaction of money for goods. Some say that what’s missing is the ability to feel and interact. AR could alleviate this gap and cause a revolution; just like how mobile devices changed e-commerce in the first place.

Very soon, you could be shifting the clutch of a new sedan from the comfort of your couch at home. After that, why not swap that couch for a leather sofa? Simply measure the products in real time. Such a level of enhancement is potentially game changing for the retail sector: businesses that don’t adapt and adopt quickly enough will likely be left behind.

AR opens up new training opportunities for professionals in sectors such as healthcare, engineering and transportation, by providing limitless opportunities to engage with real-world scenarios that simulate the challenges of their respective professions. While not the perfect practical setting, AR slots into the existing gap between a theoretical exercise and actual experience.

If I may share an example from my past experience as a medic in the military, locating the right vein to administer a drug through intravenous therapy is no walk in the park. With AR, a surgeon can project the veins onto the skin, investigate the state of a patient’s organ and even visualise the position of a tumor prior to making their first incision.

Clearly, AR is not just blurring the line – it is redrawing it. The benefits are multi-fold: consumers and enterprises alike can potentially achieve greater safety, productivity and efficiency through the use of advanced technology.

It’s about recognising opportunity

Even though the possibility of mass market appeal is still some way out as organisations warm up to possibilities of AR, the surge of technology across a myriad of sectors is obviously inevitable.

Prepare for this transformation and “be in the know” – it’s important to keep an eye on upcoming disruptive technologies and assess the possible impact for clients. Whether or not the technologies go to market now or later, staying abreast of developments enables our teams to constantly come up with fresh ideas, angles and avenues for outreach.

Another learning point from the rise of AR is the ability to challenge the norm – just because clients are happy with currently-available solutions doesn’t mean they will stay that way. Think and plan ahead. For instance, are there any possible cross-practice collaborations that can be leveraged with timely insights into the growth of the digital landscape?

Finally, the success of Pokémon Go shows us that driving client relationships is not as simple as solving existing problems. In order to help them break frontiers, first we must partner with them and become pioneers in their fields. This can only happen when integrated consultants invest in thinking about the future impact – regardless of whether they specialise in corporate, financial, healthcare or consumer communications. Technology and its impact on the future is already the overarching narrative.

By Gary Ng, account manager of WE Communications

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