Home on the VRange: Immersive Tech in Residential Real Estate

Today, the U.S. housing market is nearing all-time highs following a long recovery from the 2007-08 global financial crash, which was fueled (in part) by the collapse of the housing market itself. Despite this, the traditional Real Estate market is challenged by a number of contemporary trends. Already enduring digital disruption via websites like Zillow and StreetEasy, the residential real estate sector must adapt, adopting emerging technologies to disrupt itself from within.

CURRENT TRENDS & PAIN POINTS IN RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE

Urbanization

In addition to limited space and gentrification – major trends jacking up costs in urban neighborhoods – there is an unprecedented demand for ‘single-dweller’ housing in cities due to more and more young professionals choosing to postpone family life for professional and social pursuits. Startups like WeLive (WeWork) and Dwell offer innovative real estate models that address the anxieties of urban living and new socioeconomic realities. A young professional who would have scrambled to find a roommate on Craigslist (an early real estate disruptor) now seeks affordable, flexible co-living solutions like Ollie’s co-living microsuites and micro-living building in NYC that have a built-in social network and great amenities. The future of cities will be small, smart living spaces.

New Consumer

Whereas baby boomers and Gen Xers desired to settle down, millennials – impacted by high student debt and the high cost of urban living – are largely single dwellers, less inclined to marry and start families. And while older generations saw homeownership as a source of wealth, their younger counterparts are less likely or able to buy housing. Meanwhile in the suburbs outside major cities, there is a glut of McMansions built in the lead up to the 2007 housing bust but a shortage of modest ‘starter homes’ for young families. Millennials currently represent the largest market to buy and rent homes, with Gen Z soon to follow. As real estate customers, these younger generations expect on-demand information, flexibility, market and price transparency, and ease of transactions. They also value green living and perceive properties with high quality visual presentation as higher value. These digital natives are also increasingly willing to make significant purchasing and renting decisions online.

Informational Parity

In the past, high fees for traditional agent/broker services could be justified because consumers depended upon qualified real estate professionals for access to residential listings. Now, the digitally engaged consumer has a wide range of resources for market information, including websites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia and other platforms that have made market analysis available to the public. The average buyer or renter today can perform sophisticated searches and compare listings – a service that was once the exclusive domain of realtors – all for free on his or her own time. Though agents no longer have an informational advantage, their role is not obsolete–their specialized assistance is desirable for negotiating and dealing with inspections, escrow, insurance, co-op boards, etc. With digital competitors firmly entrenched, traditional realtors need to focus on differentiating their services, capitalizing on the fact that although people are digital-first real estate transactions will always be emotionally-driven, human decisions.

CURRENT STATE OF TECHNOLOGY IN REAL ESTATE

Residential real estate has gone through several waves of digital disruption, including the rise of online portals that have come to dominate the real estate search. Online platforms have also helped streamline many purchasing, rental and leasing processes, with some companies now offering fully integrated, end-to-end solutions for buying and selling homes and even generating mortgages. Evidence of the rise of ‘Proptech’ or ‘REtech’ can be seen in newly created CIO positions at real estate firms, while the technological readiness of homes is becoming a key selling point for consumers desiring smart and connected, energy-saving home solutions.

Despite the rise of the Internet and the importance of a home’s digital listing, staging a property – making it attractive to visiting buyers to boost its perceived valuation – remains key to a listing agent’s success in marketing and selling a home. This may include purchasing furniture for an empty space, repainting and refinishing, and/or rearranging items in an existing space, which takes time and money. Though good, old-fashioned yard signs remain a hallmark marketing tool for listing agents, emerging technologies are steadily creeping into residential realty. Common real estate marketing practices like distributing expensive paper brochures, staging properties, and even the construction of model homes will have to be reconsidered as new technologies emerge, offering potentially cheaper and more effective alternatives.

POTENTIAL FOR AR/VR IN RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE

Real estate professionals are finding creative ways to incorporate advancing technologies. The ability to remotely interact with clients, for example, is reducing the need for physical office space and travel, which in turn reduces overhead while permitting wider outreach. Over the last decade, ExP Real Estate has grown into a billion dollar real estate brokerage in North America, all without housing their agents in offices. Instead, they’ve built a sprawling organization that meets for training and strategic planning only in the virtual world. ExP may be an outlier in using tech to eliminate the costs of office space, but it points to the powerful potential for emerging technologies to disrupt the real estate sector.

Robust digital strategies, including the effective application of augmented and virtual reality, will be key to realtors’ success in reaching clients with independent access to market intelligence. A real estate transaction is still a high-stress event; the financial stakes are high for both buyer and seller, but immersive technologies can help facilitate efficient communication among all parties and alleviate what is typically an emotionally-charged process. For smaller real estate organizations and independent brokers, understanding the potential of AR/VR will be just as critical as for larger firms if they are to keep pace with technology and compete.

APPLICATIONS FOR AR/VR IN REAL ESTATE

VR Tours

Today, the Internet is a person’s first stop in the search for housing, but it’s hard to make a listing stand out among hundreds or thousands of similar listings online. Listings with VR tours, however, can effectively showcase a property and help hasten a sale or rental without the need to go to dozens of open houses in the company of a realtor. The immersiveness of VR means users can freely explore a realistic rendering of a property from the comfort of home and make an informed offer. Homeowners anxious to close quickly and fetch the best price can have greater confidence in a listing agent who uses high-quality, interactive VR models to market their property.

Camera companies like Matterport and GeoCV make high-quality virtual mapping fast and accessible, producing virtual scale models of properties that can be toured wearing a VR headset or examined from an overhead ‘dollhouse’ view. Lower-quality VR models you can walk through can even be created from photos taken on a smartphone. Of course, for consumers who don’t own a VR headset, VR tours can be enabled for mobile or desktop and real estate agents are also equipping their offices with VR devices. For out-of-state or just very busy homebuyers unable to visit a property due to time or distance, VR allows them to visit and revisit a home from wherever, providing answers to the questions normally fielded by an agent on site. In this way, VR can accelerate real estate transactions.

Augmented Agent

An agent’s commission is a predetermined percentage that doesn’t account for the time it takes to close a scale, which means technological solutions that reduce routine informational queries and travel are worth exploring. In some cases, the agent hosting a property is there only to unlock the door and entertain browsing visitors who may not be serious buyers. Augmented and virtual reality are excellent technological stand-ins for a human agent seeking to maximize productivity.

Innovative rental companies like Tour24 take advantage of facial recognition technology to grant – via mobile app – prospective renters access to apartments without an agent or tenant present. A beacon-activated informational tour unfolds via smartphone as the potential renter moves through the property. Taken a step further, open houses might come with AR smart glasses used to scan QR codes and view heads-up commentary at various points of interest. In this way, an agent could accommodate a prospective client’s schedule, giving them secure access to the home, and customize the tour without having to personally attend. Even classic marketing practices like planting a realtor’s sign can be taken to the next level with AR: Compass Real Estate, for example, has rolled out beacon-enabled signs that flash at passersby.  Similar AR-enabled signs scanned via smartphone could provide property information and statistics accompanied by a prompt to contact the agent.

Virtual Model Homes and Virtual Staging

It’s challenging to describe and sell a property that hasn’t yet been built. In most cases, a homebuyer or renter is in the market to purchase a vision for a property, so how that vision is presented is key. AR/VR technologies are powerful tools for bringing a future property to life, enabling tours of properties still under construction and making it possible for potential buyers to visualize spaces that do not yet exist. When marketing a home in progress, the immersiveness and detailed accuracy of a virtual reality model can supplement or entirely replace the usual promotional pamphlets and 2D or physical scale models. Brochures might be AR-enabled, while mixed reality could enable effective on-site tours, helping visitors see the potential of an unfinished, undecorated property and come to a decision before seeing the finished product.

When looking for a home, you have to imagine what it would be like to live in an unfamiliar space. While a good agent is able to anticipate what the client is looking for in a property, much of the decision making process comes down to the initial impression of an open house. Realtors often hire staging companies to bring in furniture and decorate homes before going to market. These companies generally stick to neutral decor, aiming to appeal to the greatest number of interested buyers. A couple with four children, however, seeks very different features in a home than a young bachelor or older couple with grown children. But what if you could provide a personally compelling visual narrative of the same space to individuals with varying tastes and requirements? Of course, you cannot physically rearrange a staged home for every potential buyer but with AR/VR you can help onlookers transcend a property’s current physical state, which might push them to make an offer. Staging can become a personal experience offering an array of design configurations depending on the client.

Imaging solutions from virtual staging startups like RoOomy, which counts Sotheby’s among its clients, overlay furnishings and interior designs into virtual models of empty properties captured via Matterport’s technology. An imaginative agent could put in a virtual jungle-gym or swimming pool, a pool table, built-in bar, home office, etc., customizing the virtual presentation down to the most minute details to be most effective. There are multiple benefits to virtual staging, including money, time and resources saved on temporary furnishings and meetings at the property itself, the ability to stage multiple interior design schemes and the opportunity to cross-market the services of partner businesses like interior designers and furniture manufacturers who might share the development costs of the virtual staging.

Conclusion

Digital platforms have produced an expectation of ease and access that has disrupted most corners of the real estate industry. A trend towards vertical integration of these platforms threatens to further encroach on the markets of traditional realtors. Real estate professionals must evaluate how emerging technologies like AR/VR can help them compete and create an irreplaceable role for themselves.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.

In-flight VR, Smart Bands at the Resort, and AR Glasses for Tourists

Today, “every business is a tech business” and in every industry consumers’ digital customer service expectations are growing. A decade after the U.S. travel and hospitality industry emerged from the 2008 recession; industry players, including airlines, airports, cruises, hotels, and other travel brands, are feeling the heat to compete and earn the loyalty of a new customer base via emerging technologies.

Trends and Pain Points in Travel and Hospitality   

Shift in Target Demographics

Though Gen Y overtook Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generation in 2016, the demographic with the most purchasing power around the world today is millennials, and they don’t vacation like their parents. Travel brands need to both court and cater to millennials, who prefer to spend their money on experiences (like immersing themselves in another culture) over material objects and are more spontaneous and comfortable with tech than previous generations.

Competition

First it was online travel agents like Expedia and Priceline; then came Airbnb and VRBO—OTAs and the sharing economy have rocked the travel industry, altering distribution channels, taking business away from traditional industry players, and forcing airlines and hoteliers to compete online to win back customers. According to ADI, approximately 60% of all travel reservations are now made online despite Loyalty Rewards Programs for travelers who book directly through the airline or hotel. Another consequence of OTAs and millennials’ spontaneity is that the window between booking a ticket and boarding a flight is getting smaller, putting strain on travel and hospitality operations.

Heightened Consumer Expectations

We live in an experience economy, where it’s becoming critical for businesses to have customized offerings and personalized services. Millennials want to do something new and memorable on each trip but they also want personalized experiences and don’t mind sharing their data to receive customized travel recommendations. In a time when a single data breach can destroy a brand, travel companies must walk a fine line between capturing enough data to personalize services and respecting guests’ privacy and security. In addition to personalization, today’s consumers consider sustainability and wellness in their travel choices, expecting hotels to “go green” and have state-of-the-art fitness centers, healthy food and beverage options, even yoga classes.

Labor Gap

Within the leisure and hospitality sector, there are an estimated one million job openings in the U.S. alone. As companies struggle to attract and retain the right talent to fill the experience void, reduced immigration is impacting the supply of transient and hourly workers that have come to make up a large portion of the hospitality workforce. Moreover, recruitment for new job roles needed to incorporate the latest tech into the travel experience is proving difficult and high turnover is discouraging investment in skills development for new and existing employees.

A Testing Ground for New Tech

Historically, the travel industry has been quick to adopt new tech: In the late 1940s, before most consumers had a television set at home, hotels began to install TVs in the guest rooms. Travel companies were also among the first to leverage the World Wide Web to increase sales, with the first hotel websites launching in 1994; and one of the very first use cases for Google Glass came from Virgin Airlines in 2014. But the challenges above call for real implementations and dramatic digital transformation.

Applications for Immersive and Wearable Tech in Hospitality

Virtual booking

“Try-before-you-buy” shopping apps have become an early hit for augmented and virtual reality, especially for big-ticket items like furniture and real estate. Travel, too, is expensive and consumers need a lot of information before deciding to book. Virtual reality presents the ideal medium for selling an experience, giving travelers insight that no amount of text on a website or any number of customer reviews can match by allowing them to essentially preview their trip – from their seat on the plane to the view from their hotel and local attractions – before committing.

In 2017, Amadeus unveiled the first VR booking experience in which users shop for travel in a virtual world. Users can search for flights, review cabins, compare hotel prices, and book rooms all through a VR headset. And while you might think that as VR gets more and more immersive it will replace travel altogether, current research has found that visiting a destination in VR actually makes one more inclined to visit the real place. If VR hits critical mass at $199 per headset over the next few years, VR travel planning and booking may very well be one of the killer apps for the technology.

Marketing

Hospitality brands spend a lot on marketing. AR/VR is becoming a major differentiator in this area, as hotels themselves adopt the technology as a selling tool. Hundreds of hotels now offer virtual tours. For instance, Atlantis Dubai offers a virtual tour on its website so guests can explore the hotel’s luxury rooms and on-site experiences like swimming with dolphins from the comfort of home. Once on the website, consumers are more likely to book directly through the hotel, as well. In 2017, Marriot launched a VR tour of its meeting rooms, allowing corporate clients and event planners to virtually walk through its function areas from anywhere. During an on-site tour, one might even digitally augment the space to get a more realistic feel for a venue’s suitability. Palladium also uses VR, not to inform prospective guests but instead to educate travel agents about its properties. Palladium salespeople go around giving agents VR headset-enabled virtual tours so they can better sell the chain’s hotels to customers. Some hotels even offer on-site AR/VR experiences, usually smartphone-enabled, that both entertain guests and enlist them in the brand’s marketing efforts via social media sharing.   

Operations

There are a lot of moving parts in the travel and hospitality industry, requiring staff to be in constant communication in order to provide seamless customer service around the clock. Management and staff have traditionally kept in contact via two-way radios, a method prone to lost connections and poor audio quality. Looking for a better way to communicate, Viceroy Hotels turned to wearables: At the Viceroy L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills, hotel staff piloted Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches to manage guest requests and resolve incidents more efficiently than they could with a walkie-talkie or phone. The pilot showed response times going down from 3-4 minutes to just 60 seconds; the solution was also less intrusive, sending silent vibration alerts to the staff members best placed to serve a guest’s need. Houston’s Hotel Alessandra also uses Samsung smartwatches for fast and discrete communication among employees, improving the experience for both guests and staff.

Entertainment & Tour Guide

VR headsets are popping up in airport lounges, on flights, and in hotel rooms alongside other amenities. Qantas, for one, has experimented with providing virtual experiences and games on high-quality VR headsets to first-class passengers; and in 2015, Marriott launched its “VRoom Service,” whereby guests can order a Samsung Gear VR headset delivered to their room—a step up from streaming services and on-demand movies. The headsets come preloaded with “virtual postcards” that not only entertain but also sell users on new destinations (where they can stay in a Marriott hotel, of course).

Others are using mobile AR apps and VR headsets for guest engagement. For example, Holiday Inn created an AR app allowing guests to view virtual celebrities in the hotel through their smartphones; while at London hotel One Aldwych, a whiskey cocktail called The Origin comes with a VR headset showing how and where the whiskey was made—a truly unique cultural experience made possible by VR. Hotels and travel brands are also developing custom AR tour guide apps, like a mobile concierge that provides real-time, heads-up navigation and personalized recommendations for loyalty program members, and enhances sightseeing with digital information overlaid on the landmark itself. The Hub Hotel from Premier Inn in the UK does this with special maps on the walls of every room, which, when viewed through a smartphone, display information about local places of interest—an unexpected, value-added feature for the hotels’ guests.

Airlines and hotels can also adopt augmented reality smart glasses to enable flight attendants and hotel staff to personalize customer service, using facial recognition to greet guests by name and tapping into a customer resource management system, social media and other data sources to bring up information relevant to individual passengers.

Convenience

AR certainly provides convenience by supporting guests and passengers in their native language, showing them directions, etc. Below the neck, IoT (Internet of Things) wearables provide convenience, as well. Case in point: Disney’s MagicBand, one of the earliest and most successful (bespoke) wearable devices in the travel sector, widely used today in Disney theme parks as an all-purpose means of payment, admission and keyless entry for resort guests. In 2017, Carnival announced its Ocean Medallion, a small, waterproof device that can be worn or carried, enabling cruisegoers to embark the ship, enter their staterooms, shop, and make reservations. The Medallion works with Carnival’s Ocean Compass app, which displays personalized recommendations for every passenger with the help of 7,000 sensors installed throughout the ship. Likewise, Meliá Hotels has begun offering waterproof, Bluetooth-enabled smart wristbands by Oracle, which, in addition to serving as a payment method on the Spanish resort of Megaluf, also work at nearby participating merchants like Starbucks.

Training 

Compared to traditional teaching methods, immersive simulations have proven more effective for quick learning and retention of knowledge, which is why major corporations around the world are using AR/VR to train new employees and retrain core staff for new roles. In travel and hospitality, immersive tech can help prepare employees for exceptional scenarios that are hard (or undesirable) to train for in real life like diffusing an angry guest. Need to walk a team through new green housekeeping measures or alterations to the menu? Use VR.

In 2016, Best Western partnered with Mursion to develop a series of VR simulations for front-desk staff to practice interpersonal skills. According to the hotelier, the 60-minute virtual guest interaction training sessions contributed to a noticeable boost in guest satisfaction. Recently, luxury cruise line Seabourn worked with Pixvana to create a VR training solution to help wait staff quickly memorize the dining room’s 105 tables and 12 serving stations. Hilton has used VR with its corporate staff to build appreciation and empathy for the chain’s employees, having higher-ups virtually take part in routine operational tasks like cleaning a guest room and arranging a room service tray.

Conclusion

The convenience of wearables is appealing not just to millennials but to most modern consumers, as are enhanced experiences of physical spaces enabled by augmented and virtual reality. VR will surely become a popular way of shopping for hotels and AR a natural addition to sightseeing and other aspects of the travel experience (on-demand, in-context information). Early adopters in the travel industry are poised to define the competition, providing experiences to guests they cannot get at home, attracting new workers with brand new tech for training and carrying out daily tasks, empowering staff to provide superior, personalized customer service, and easily preparing employees for the roll out of new sustainability and wellness features.

*Learn more about emerging tech in the Travel & Hospitality industry at EWTS 2019: Hear from Blaire Bhojwani of Hilton Hotels, Andy Kozak of JetBlue, Jayson Maxwell of Six Flags, and more.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and confirmed speakers, available on the conference website.

VR: Getting People to Take Safety Training Seriously, Retail Merchandising, and More

Virtual reality is making inroads in the retail industry, at the same time as more and more companies are realizing the powerful potential of VR for training. Here are some of the most recent use cases of VR in enterprise, all of which, when it comes down to it, are customer-facing applications of the technology. The following is evidence of digital disruption ramping up beyond work instructions and collaborative design, to directly impact the products and services that consumers experience everyday:


ADT

In a recent mailer campaign to convey the importance of professional alarm monitoring services, ADT sent out Google Cardboard-like VR headsets that put recipients into a simulated life-threatening situation. Noting a lack of awareness among homeowners around what actually happens during a fire, ADT worked with Harte Hanks to create a VR experience accessible on YouTube that would drive home the potential side effects of carbon monoxide, the physical obstacles that can prevent you from escaping, and other elements of a house fire.

Placing a phone in the viewer sent by ADT, you find yourself in a bedroom filled with smoke. You’re immersed in a mother’s fear and disorientation as she’s awoken by a call from ADT and goes to find her daughter, who refuses to leave without her dog. When the two go downstairs, you see an inferno coming from the kitchen, and then the house loses power. The experience is raw and definitely more powerful than a pamphlet, but at the end of the day it is a marketing campaign to not only change the batteries in your smoke detector every year but also buy ADT’s services. 


Walmart

The retailer is expanding its use of VR beyond employee training to the customer experience, making novel use of its 4,000+ physical stores. Walmart subsidiary Spatial& and DreamWorks created a VR experience based on the new “How to Train Your Dragon” movie that is now touring 40 Walmart store parking lots via 50-foot tractor trailers. In this way, Walmart is able to play host to exclusive VR experiences (featuring VR-powered chairs) and give the masses access to VR overnight—a technology that’s still too expensive for most and that Spatial& views as the future of retail marketing.

By working VR into stores, Walmart and other retailers can cut back on large displays and market products in interactive ways. For instance, shoppers might use a VR headset to put a tent together to test out camping gear or try stowing a stroller in an overhead airplane bin before buying. This is essentially “try before you buy” but inside the store itself. VR can even bring products to life, for example by enabling shoppers to virtually visit the vineyard that produces Walmart wine.


Royal Mail

Mailman vs. dog: It’s a classic TV trope that Royal Mail says prevents postal workers from taking anti-dog attack training seriously. In addition to the cartoon vision of the dog chasing the mailman, the group environment in which this training is traditionally held hurts its effectiveness, as trainees don’t want to be seen taking it seriously. Over the years, Royal Mail has tried videos, brochures, slogans and posters to reduce the number of dog attacks on its employees; now it’s turning to VR.

With around 150,000 postal workers delivering to some 30 million addresses, Royal Mail sees around 2,275 dog attacks per year. Injured employees are unable to finish their routes, which severely impacts customer experience. Looking for a way to isolate the training and eliminate the “banter culture” around dog attacks, Royal Mail began using VR: Now, trainees use smartphones inserted into headsets to experience potential dog attack scenarios, select different actions and receive feedback on their choices. The result: Many units haven’t reported a single dog attack since adopting the VR training system in November 2018. The training was also inexpensive for Royal Mail to pilot nationally.


Kellogg

Accenture Extended Reality, Qualcomm and Kellogg recently teamed up to pilot an eye-tracking VR headset for retail merchandising. The idea is to enable companies to do market research faster, cheaper and on a larger scale. Accenture developed the solution based on a Qualcomm VR reference design headset powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, using eye-tracking tech from Tobii, eye-tracking data analytics from Cognitive3D, and mixed reality software from InContext Solutions. By tracking where a user looks while moving through a full-scale virtual store, walking down virtual aisles, picking up products and placing items into his cart, retailers can determine the best way to stock shelves.

Brands spend a lot of time, money and effort figuring out optimal product placement but are usually limited in the data they’re able to collect (online surveys and in-home user tests can only go so far). Eye-tracking in VR provides richer and more accurate behavioral data than traditional testing. You can observe what users are looking at, for how long, in a realistic shopping scenario; and expand testing to more geographically dispersed participants (mobile VR). In fact, the VR eye-tracking solution has led to insights that directly contradicted some of Kellogg’s prior assumptions, resulting in an 18% increase in the brand’s sales during testing.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.

Excited about HoloLens 2? Looking back at groundbreaking use cases of HoloLens

The big news this week has been the unveiling of the much-anticipated, $3,500 HoloLens 2. The new HoloLens boasts a larger field of view (twice that of the original), higher resolution, faster and more natural interaction, and is reportedly more comfortable to wear than its predecessor. HoloLens 2 has eye-tracking and retina-scanning features, doesn’t require any fitting (making for a more streamlined experience) and even takes hygiene into account in its design. Thus far, reviewers have largely praised the device, with most writers deeming it a great leap forward for Mixed Reality.

Behind the scenes at Microsoft is a team of designers and engineers who clearly listened to feedback from early enterprise users, including major companies like Boeing and Ford that have been using HoloLens for a few years now. Other big names like Chevron, Kiewit, Bridgestone, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Merck, and BT have likewise been testing and using HoloLens. Besides the use of HoloLens, what do all of these companies have in common? They speak at EWTS every year. Indeed, over the last five Enterprise Wearable Technology Summits, we’ve followed Boeing’s and the rest’s stories from proof of concept through rollout. Read on for three use cases of HoloLens that undoubtedly helped Microsoft to improve its Mixed Reality headset.


Assembly at Boeing

Boeing is the first company that comes to mind when I hear HoloLens for business. The company has been exploring AR for years – well before Google Glass – for improving training, reducing design errors, and speeding up maintenance in multiple business units (commercial, space, defense, etc.) In assembly, Boeing workers wear HoloLens to perform the complex task of wiring an airplane, one of the most difficult jobs in airplane production. The wiring of an airplane is several miles long and there is absolutely no room for error. One mistake can lead to a testing failure, costly delay, or worse. In the past, technicians referred to 2D drawings that were multiple feet long and difficult to interpret and apply in the 3D world. Any modifications to the base model would make the job even more difficult.

HoloLens reduces workers’ cognitive load by putting an interactive, 3D digital wiring diagram right in front of the user’s eyes, overlaid on the interior of the plane wherever an electrician is installing wiring. With both hands free to do the actual wiring, Boeing’s technicians complete the task faster. In those areas of the business where Boeing has adopted HoloLens, the company has seen overall process improvements of around 40%. In another division, HoloLens is used to evaluate spacecraft designs, helping to catch issues early on in the design phase as opposed to after production has begun.

(Watch Brian Laughlin and Paul Davies of Boeing go through the multiple ways in which Boeing is applying AR in this joint presentation from EWTS 2017. 

And hear Brian Laughlin, Technical Fellow, IT Architect, Mobile Solution, and Connie Miller, Web Application and HoloLens Developer, from Boeing speak at EWTS 2019 this September in Dallas.)


Remote Support at Chevron

The oil giant has been using and testing HoloLens in various areas of its business around the world. The technology is perhaps most appealing to Chevron for enabling “teleportation,” whereby subject matter experts can be virtually anywhere field personnel need them. HoloLens allows Chevron to address issues quickly on the front lines without paying for travel and makes for safer operations at potentially hazardous sites. A worker in the field wearing HoloLens attached to a hardhat and connected to the Chevron network can share her view through the headset with a remote expert. The expert sees exactly what she is seeing in real time on a computer screen and can augment her field of view with relevant data and media (ex. piping diagrams) while talking her through the troubleshooting process step-by-step. In this way, Chevron inspectors are also able to conduct remote inspections, identifying problems and approving changes through a first-line worker’s HoloLens.

Elsewhere at Chevron, HoloLens is the star of a proof of concept in which HoloLens-wearing design engineers project 3D models or holograms at full scale in order to see exactly what a design would look like in real life. In this case, HoloLens is a verification tool, helping engineers test models for clearance, safety and other issues before fabricating a single part, during construction, and in brownfield environments. Will a piece of equipment be operable and maintainable offshore on a floating production unit? This is the kind of question HoloLens can answer at significantly less cost, risk and effort than previously possible.

(Hear about the latest efforts at Chevron from Ed Moore, Senior Technology Strategist – IIoT Technology Area Manager, this September at EWTS 2019.) 


Design at Ford

Ford has completely overhauled its design process with Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, and the auto giant isn’t done innovating with the technology. In September 2017, following an initial pilot phase, Ford expanded use and testing of HoloLens globally, allowing Ford designers around the world to collaborate more effectively on new vehicles. Rather than completely do away with the expensive and time-consuming 3D clay model approach to refining designs, Ford has added mixed reality to enhance the design process, unleash more creativity on behalf of designers, and dramatically reduce time to market. So, instead of creating a new clay model every time a change is made to a design, Ford’s designers are able to project progressive digital designs onto a base (physical) clay model, viewing these through a HoloLens headset in order to iterate more quickly.

Thousands of decisions go into designing a vehicle. In the past, evaluating a single design change (building a new clay model) could take weeks; HoloLens cuts this down to hours or even minutes. HoloLens also makes it easier for Ford’s designers to collaborate with colleagues on the engineering and management side of the business. In addition, Ford believes HoloLens has the potential to improve other areas of vehicle development, including early product conception and engineering studies, as well as training, sales and work on the factory floor.

(Learn more about how HoloLens and other wearables are employed at Ford when Randy Nunez and Marty Smets take the EWTS 2019 stage.)

Be the first to hear about Boeing’s, ExxonMobil’s, and others’ experiences with the new HoloLens at EWTS 2019 this September in Dallas.

Read about other companies using HoloLens for Design and Asset Visualization here. Also read: 3 Cool Use Cases of HoloLens in Enterprise

Ready for some nostalgia? Remember HoloLens “Share Your Idea” campaign? Read our Top 5 Submissions

 

Image source: techradar

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.

Using AR/VR for Assurance in Insurance

I recently watched a Netflix documentary about the Fyre Festival. Two things from the story really stuck with me: 1) Festival owner Billy McFarland failed to get festival insurance; and 2) He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) listen to reason, as multiple people told him it would be impossible to pull off such an ambitious festival in under six months. At one point, someone tried to show Billy – using a map spread out on a table – that the island venue could not accommodate the number of festivalgoers and luxury villas that had already sold. While watching, I thought about Virtual Reality, not because it’s my job but because immersive technologies might have prevented the disaster that Fyre Festival turned out to be. What if those around Billy had used VR to snap him out of his delusions? Or what if Billy had tried to get festival insurance? Might an insurance agent have used VR to “preview” the festival and ultimately denied coverage? Perhaps that would have convinced Billy to cancel the event.

The insurance industry is, in fact, exploring virtual as well as augmented reality for a number of applications, including risk assessment, accident recreation, remote claims handling, and customer education. AR/VR may also be a solution to the insurance sector’s labor concerns and the answer to rising customer experience expectations.

State of the Insurance Industry

Insurance companies are not exempt from digital disruption or the need to create a more flexible and even virtual workforce for the digital age. As some manual and traditional industry tasks become automated, insurers will need to both recruit and upgrade their talent at a time when the labor market is incredibly tight. This is especially true for the tech, data science and actuarial labor pool (Deloitte). Furthermore, employees impacted by automation as well as Baby Boomers with irreplaceable institutional knowledge will need to be repurposed, which means retraining and leveraging cutting-edge technology to facilitate remote expert mentoring of new workers.

The traditional insurer-insured relationship can be boiled down to a monthly bill or claims submission when something goes wrong; but today’s insurance customers – many of whom are millennials – want more: More convenience and more personalization in the insurance buying and claims processes. Consumers want more control over their coverage through digital channels; they want insurers to leverage advanced sensors and analytics for tracking trends and results that will lower their payments (as in auto and homeowner’s insurance), and they want more innovative and hybrid types of coverage. These and other new expectations are clashing with the long-established culture of the insurance industry, pressuring companies to look for technology that appeals to a new generation of adults seeking insurance.

Applications for AR/VR in Insurance with Real-life Use Cases

Though the insurance sector is usually slow to adopt new technology, augmented and virtual reality are beginning to show up in the ways insurers market and provide their services. Insurance companies are exploring AR/VR as part of marketing strategies, for educating clients, to estimate damage, for employee training, and more:


Customer-facing Applications:

Insurance is a large and valuable market; and with new players offering fast, efficient, digital services, it’s also a fiercely competitive one. Traditional insurers are turning to technology – both the enabler and accelerator of digital transformation – to stay relevant to a changing customer base:

Explaining Insurance Plans

AR/VR can make the complex process of buying insurance easier by simulating real-life situations to showcase the value of various life, health and other coverage plans. Far more powerful than a brochure, website or salesperson, immersive simulations can drive home the need to save for retirement, simplify pension planning, etc.

Consumer Education / Risk Mitigation

In a similar vein, AR/VR can be used to warn clients about dangers and help them prevent the need to file a claim. By allowing insurers to demonstrate both common and exceptional risks in a virtual, risk-free environment, immersive simulations can improve the safety practices of different types of policyholders. For instance, doctors could use VR to practice on a new machine before using it with real patients, employees could learn to identify workplace risks, and homeowners could learn to prevent floods and fires.

Insurers are also toying with VR incident management and training programs that would give customers a fairer rate (ex. virtual driving tests for auto insurance). After successfully completing such a program, the customer would send her results to her insurance agent, verifying her enrollment and qualifying her for discounts (reduced premiums).

Marketing and Customer Engagement

With the ubiquity of AR-capable smartphones, companies today are increasingly incorporating AR into their brand apps and other marketing strategies. Insurers are no exception: AR experiences and VR simulations that create awareness about the importance of buying different types of insurance are part of new marketing and customer engagement plans. In general, insurers are looking to attract and retain new and existing customers by providing informational and entertaining content. This represents a significant move away from the usually distant or aloof position of an insurance company vis-à-vis its clients.

Customer Service

One way to improve the customer experience is to increase an organization’s operational efficiency; for instance, faster order picking in a warehouse leads to faster delivery and higher customer satisfaction. Another way is to focus on those times the customer directly interacts with the business. In insurance, these times are when a customer purchases a coverage plan, files a claim, or contacts support.

In addition to helping consumers understand insurance plans, AR/VR can provide real-time guidance to policyholders on how to fill out claim forms, resolve billing issues, and more. Some insurers are experimenting with virtual customer service (like a virtual support center) and enabling policyholders to interact with adjusters and begin documenting damage in real time through AR. Whether it’s through an individual’s mobile camera or, one day, smart glasses, adjusters can be “on the scene” with the policyholder, reviewing the damages, even taking exact measurements; allowing for faster and more accurate documentation of loss and faster case resolution.


Employee-facing or Operational Applications:

The game of insurance is about risk avoidance, the goal being to convert consumers and businesses into policyholders while driving down claims. AR/VR can be an effective tool for reaching these goals, not just through customer education but also by improving employee performance, making insurance workers shrewder and more efficient:

(Ongoing) Risk Assessment

AR/VR open a number of new capabilities for risk assessors to reduce cost and loss ratios. As mentioned above, auto insurers are considering administering virtual driving tests to determine whether someone is a safe driver before insuring them. VR is also being used to model risk: Assessors can navigate a building before it’s built, thereby improving insurance estimates, and better judge the safety of, say, a warehouse by simulating potential accidents within and evaluating the locations of exit doors and stairs. During risk inspections, assessors could use smart glasses to instantly document and record notes hands-free, and to connect with remote experts who might point out weak spots by augmenting the user’s field of view.

The Internet of Things (ex. smart automobiles, smart homes, etc.) is huge for insurance, enabling predictive analysis and preemptive actions that should reduce the number of high-frequency, low-impact claims. This paves the way for innovative insurance models, like plans that trigger based upon forecasts of loss as opposed to an actual event. Insurers might also use the wealth of data from IoT technologies along with statisticians to visualize and analyze complex data sets in a virtual setting.

Damage Estimation

Most early use cases of immersive tech in insurance come from the property and casualty side of the industry. This is because AR/VR present the ideal tool for safely recreating real-life disasters and estimating repair costs. Through the use of digital building plans and real-time sensor information overlaid on top of a damaged building, AR glasses-wearing agents can carefully review the damage on-site, doing things like seeing behind walls to determine the location of gas lines and other critical or hazardous objects.

Claims adjusters can overlay images of a building’s pre-loss condition for comparison, document damaged areas hands-free (useful for later VR accident simulations) and confer with remote experts. This makes it possible to more precisely estimate damage and process claims quicker, which, of course, pleases customers. AR glasses also allow for remote damage assessments, where an adjuster shares the view of a colleague at the incident site (wearing smart glasses) or looks through the customer’s mobile device to assess the damage without physically being there.

Remote Guidance and Employee Training

Accenture has found that 85% of insurance executives are interested in leveraging AR/VR solutions to bridge the physical and informational distance between newer and experienced employees and between agents and customers. This is especially key in the training of claims processors, who have one of the most important jobs in the industry (investigating claims). As studies show that people learn and retain information better when it’s presented in context over their real-world view, insurance employees should be able to train faster and more effectively “by doing” whether in a virtual environment or via AR-powered remote guidance on the job.

Indeed, leading insurers are finding AR/VR great for training agents at a lower cost, giving them virtual experience that raises their confidence and the accuracy of their work. Immersive training programs can also help insurance agencies prepare employees to work in specific sectors (ex. auto insurance reps learning about engine repair; home insurance reps learning about maintenance lifecycles), so they can make more informed decisions and offer policy-specific recommendations to clients. Remote technical experts might also provide a second pair of eyes, training agents in real time using AR.

Visual Claims and the Claims Process

Alluded to above is the potential for AR/VR to enhance and speed up claims processing by unlocking new methods for evaluating claims and detecting fraud in the field. With AR, multiple agents are no longer required to visit the claim site; just one employee equipped with smart glasses can go, while experts look on, inspecting damages and calculating losses remotely from the office. The time and money saved leads to greater employee efficiency and higher customer satisfaction. Customers themselves can serve in this role using an AR-enabled mobile device or perhaps smart glasses received upon purchasing a policy.

Policyholders are becoming fans of visual insurance claims, which promise more efficient claims processing and quicker payment. AR-powered video solutions can expedite claim settlements by enabling remote inspections at the First Notice of Loss and reducing adjustors’ time in the field (thereby lowering overhead). Customers can show a contact center agent the cause and extent of, say, a car crash, through a live video connection; giving the agent immediate, real-time access to information, including valuable pieces of temporary information like road conditions, vehicle position, skid marks, etc. This significantly shortens the claims process, eliminating not only the usual site visit but also any lengthy back-and-forth communication between agent and customer. The result: More accurate appraisals and faster resolution time.


Conclusion:

The transition from old industry methods to new ways of working with augmented reality will produce a more efficient and cost-effective insurance marketplace, transforming the ways agents interact with customers, enforce policies, and assess claims. Moreover, business and personal use of AR/VR technologies will open new categories of risk exposure leading to entirely new types of insurance.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.

Insider Secrets to Adopting Wearables

Watch this throwback 2016 expert panel led by Upskill’s Brian Ballard, in which enterprise end users from Jacobs Engineering, Powerstream Inc., the AES Corporation, and Intel share their secrets to adopting wearables. Some key insights include referring to the people closest to the problem (i.e. the workers), getting them involved early in the process and allowing them to opt in; creating a partnership between the business and IT sides of your organization; and talking to the standards bodies for your industry from the get-go. In addition, don’t underestimate the impact on your company’s infrastructure, as content and information management are key challenges in this space, especially when it comes to AR.

When is the time to talk about consumer-facing AR apps in enterprise?

The release of Magic Leap One was supposed to be the “magic moment” for consumer AR, the development that finally got consumers excited about augmented reality glasses. Needless to say, it wasn’t. Despite the billions in funding, awesome concept videos and mainstream media attention, Magic Leap did not suddenly big-bang the consumer AR market into existence with the launch of its much-hyped headset.  

Though Magic Leap the product may be “just another HoloLens” aimed at consumers; Magic Leap the company did a lot in 2018 – through strategic partnerships with AT&T, Sennheiser, and Wayfair – to impress upon consumers the potential for augmented reality beyond Google Glass and Snap filters. In addition, 2018 saw a number of relatively normal-looking smart glasses hit the market, including Focals by North and Vuzix Blade, which make a far stronger case than Google Glass did in 2013 for putting our smartphones (and AI assistants) on our faces. And just this week at CES 2019, nreal debuted colorful, 3-ounce AR glasses that look like everyday sunglasses and ThirdEye unveiled its X2 Smart Glasses, “the smallest standalone 6oz mixed reality smart glasses with built-in SLAM.”

Why should any of this matter to enterprises? Is it still too early to talk about consumer-facing AR applications in enterprise that aren’t branded mobile apps? I don’t think so. It’s possible to serve the existing enterprise market and simultaneously prepare for one that doesn’t yet exist. Today’s companies know they must prepare for a future in which augmented reality glasses are a standard tool in the workplace, even if they’re not yet deploying AR solutions; why should companies not prepare for a future in which consumers own smart glasses (or, if not own, are at least accustomed to AR in a heads-up form factor)?

Though AR Insider estimates there are only around 129 million active mobile AR users; there are nearly one billion AR-enabled smartphones around the world capable of exposing their owners to the benefits of AR. This represents a huge potential market with opportunities for new revenue streams and services in retail, travel, hospitality, airports, even field services. There are untapped applications for AR glasses in the consumer-facing aspects of business in industrial sectors, as well: Manufacturer AGCO, for instance, uses smart glasses on the plant floor and for public tours of its factories. With the number of consumer-friendly devices now (or soon-to-be) available, the time is now for organizations to begin innovating around these products in order to engage with customers in new ways, including providing pairs of smart glasses for temporary use by customers during interactions with the business.


Current Consumer AR Market:

Furniture retailers like Ikea and beauty brands like MAC are already capitalizing on AR via new try-before-you-buy features in their mobile apps. Although companies aren’t sharing the data, AR shopping experiences built with ARKit and ARCore presumably help to increase conversion rates and average order values while reducing returns. But are consumers aware that this is augmented reality? Are Snapchat users aware that AR tech powers the app’s face and world lenses? In a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, 70-75% of respondents aged 16-44 said they were aware of AR. Awareness, however, is not the same as experience: In the same survey, only 35% of 16-34s said they had experienced AR in the past month. The best way to sell immersive technology is through experience, the level of which is currently low among consumers. There have been no killer AR apps and I suspect that many smartphone users do not register that they are experiencing AR when they do. I expect this to change as AR is integrated with other everyday form factors, including car windshields and kitchen ovens.

One day, according to analysts and futurists, smart glasses are going to replace smartphones altogether, but the transition to head-worn mobile computing is proving less predictable and slower than imagined. The reality is there are a number of significant barriers to consumer smart glasses adoption as well as a number of positive signs for the future of the consumer AR market. What’s throwing us off, as Charlie Fink points out, is the comparison to smartphones, which took only two years to reach mass adoption. Charlie argues that while the iPhone was innovative it was still a mobile phone, whereas smart glasses are an entirely new product, a new purchase much like the personal computer was in its day and the Apple Watch was in 2015. The adoption factors are similar, too: Design (form), user interface (function), utility (content), enjoyment, cost, and social acceptance.

Both personal computers and smart glasses require(d) big changes in consumer behavior. Mass adoption of PCs took 15 years. I was one of the first kids in my class to have a computer at home. My father, a lawyer, had his own computer at work, so he purchased a laptop for his home office. My brothers and I played games on it (floppy disks!), leading to the purchase of a second “family” computer. Might the new wave of consumer-friendly smart glasses follow this pattern, with businessmen, designers and technologists first to adopt and convert the rest of us?


Positive signs for consumer smart glasses in 2019

Apple is very serious about augmented reality; Tim Cook calls it a “profound platform” and market researchers are predicting a release date for the company’s rumored AR glasses as early as 2020 (2022 or 2023 is more likely). Given Apple’s design cred and clout with consumers, it’s not hard to imagine Apple being the first to come out with sleek smart glasses that look no different from regular glasses and offer enough style and functionality to make hands-free AR apps a part of everyday life. After all, the Apple Watch has made watch-wearers out of people who never used to wear a watch.

In addition to Apple’s belief in AR and the latest iPhones, which seem to be built for running AR apps, there are other positive signs for consumer augmented reality: Magic Leap is offering $500,000 grants and support to developers who build design, engineering, architecture and other creative software for its headset; and it was just announced that the company’s partnership with AT&T is expanding to include enterprise AR. AT&T has also promised nationwide 5G by 2020, which is necessary for higher quality AR experiences. I can see Magic Leap finding a niche in B2C use cases, which would increase consumer exposure to wearable AR beyond in-store retail apps and social media.

Source: Vuzix

Vuzix Blade and Focals by North are promising, as well, not only because they’re more stylish and lightweight than anything that came before but also because of popular apps like Alexa integrated with the technology. Vuzix and North have taken bold steps into the consumer market: Vuzix, for instance, was marketing Blade on Instagram and at New York Fashion Week. While the company hasn’t even cracked 1,000 followers on Instagram, it is smart to experiment on the social platform that gave rise to influencer culture and has become mandatory for brands today. Vuzix also recently partnered with AccuWeather to provide local weather information to Blade users, who can tap on the glasses or ask Alexa to bring up forecasts right in their field of view. Blade went on sale to the public earlier this month for $999, a price point that’s still too high for consumers but just right for what Vuzix calls “light enterprise” use cases.

I have to say that Focals are better looking than Blade. The cost is the same but the mainstream appeal of North’s branding, social presence, and Warby Parker-esque sales model make Focals (in my opinion) the best effort yet in consumer AR. Focals can replace one’s prescription glasses, sync with Android and iOS devices, and offer a degree of customization: Shoppers can choose between classic and round frames in black, tortoise or gray, and you have to get fitted at either North’s Brooklyn or Toronto showrooms. The integration of Uber and exclusive in-store availability are genius, yet even Focals won’t make smart glasses mainstream.


Investing in consumer-oriented devices outside the workforce

In 2017, DigitalBridge found that 56% of 18-24-year-olds would be more likely to use AR if it were offered to them via a wearable device, and 69% would be more loyal to the brand that offered this. Retailers are arguably having the most success getting smartphone owners to use AR by solving a real consumer pain point. (IKEA Place was actually the second-most downloaded ARKit app in a 2018 survey.) It seems inevitable that AR will reinvent the shopping experience, but why not also the personal banking experience or the dentist’s office, hotel, post office, etc.?

I don’t know which device will win over consumers or what the breakthrough app will be, though it will definitely be practical as opposed to a game. Nevertheless, with AR invading our cars and homes and startups introducing new consumer-friendly smart glasses, consumers should have more opportunities to experience the technology in 2019. Businesses that regularly interact with consumers don’t have to wait for smart glasses to completely usurp smartphones to begin benefiting from consumer-facing applications of devices like Blade. My prediction is that 2019 will be the year of light enterprise use cases, with companies purchasing early consumer smart glasses for employees to interact face-to-face with end customers and for consumers to use in places of business.

It’s telling that one of the very first use cases of Google Glass involved Virgin Airlines staff processing first-class passengers for their flights and that every automotive manufacturer seems to be experimenting with “loaning” AR headsets to shoppers in dealerships. There is ROI in businesses investing in consumer smart glasses if it solves a customer problem or improves customers’ interactions with the business. The other side to this is that consumers do want to try immersive technologies but they don’t want to pay for the devices right now. Here are three applications I imagine business-wide:

  • Product testing: Enabling consumers to clearly envision a product or service. Right now, mobile AR apps offer this but there hasn’t been much innovation around incorporating smart glasses into the in-person shopping experience, improving the in-store experience, and drawing customers back into stores. (Imagine entering a grocery store and grabbing both a cart and a pair of smart glasses to help you make informed decisions or being able to preview how to use a KitchenAid blender while at Bed, Bath & Beyond.)
  • Guidance and context: Showing directional information via a digital overlay in airports, malls, banks, and other large places of business. No physical signs, reduced frustration, and less pressure on employees to direct customers. Additionally, providing contextual information via digital overlay to help customers make decisions (nutrition information, product reviews, etc.) and get more out of their experience of the business.
  • Engagement: Beyond marketing gimmicks, engaging consumers to interact in new ways with products, buy more and stay longer at the business, increase brand loyalty, etc. (Imagine wearing smart glasses around a wine store to learn about where each bottle came from, hear stories about famous wine-producing regions, read reviews, etc.)

Conclusion

Personally, I’m excited about all the new consumer-friendly AR products, and not because I think they will be a hit or want to buy one myself. The arrival of products like Blade and nreal light marks an intermediate stage in consumer smart glasses adoption in which businesses provide consumers with the opportunity to use these devices risk-free in the (non-industrial) office, at stores, in office reception areas, etc. 2019 should see an expansion in enterprise use cases beyond industry into more mundane areas of business and commerce, in turn providing a much-needed push to consumer AR.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

 

Image source: nreal

Challenges of Enterprise Wearables, AR and VR: A Changing Landscape, Budget, Battery, and More

In this largely Q&A-driven panel discussion from last month’s EWTS 2018, Tacit’s Todd Boyd and members of the audience question IT leaders from Worthington Industries, HB Fuller, Ford, JetBlue and The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) on the cultural and technical challenges of adopting wearable technologies. Some of the challenges addressed include keeping people engaged, dealing with opponents and a constantly changing hardware landscape, budget and financing, battery life and back-end system integration. Watch now:

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

All the News Out of EWTS 2018

The 2018 Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit took place October 9-10 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. A number of announcements were made at the event—all great news for the future of enterprise wearable technologies. From new partnerships to global deployments, here are the developments announced at the event:

RealWear Announces That Colgate-Palmolive to Roll Out HMT-1 Hands-Free Wearable Computers to 20 Manufacturing Sites in 11 Countries

Colgate-Palmolive is rolling out RealWear’s voice-operated HMT-1 among hundreds of its mechanics and engineers across 20 of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Colgate-Palmolive employees will use the technology to receive support from remote SMEs, equipment suppliers and manufacturing teams, as well as to retrieve and capture documents and video.


Vuzix Receives M300 Follow-On Orders from SATS to Outfit Ramp Handling Operations with Smart Glasses at Changi Airport

SATS, the chief ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport, began piloting the Vuzix M300 to increase accuracy and efficiency in its ramp handling operations in mid-2017. The company is now expanding its use of the technology, deploying smart glasses to over 500 employees at Changi Airport. Wearing Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses, workers will be able to receive real-time loading instructions and scan barcodes on luggage and cargo containers, hopefully reducing loading times by up to 15 minutes/flight.


Toshiba Adds Voice Commands and Enhanced Camera Capabilities to Create Vision DE Suite 2.0

Toshiba has upgraded its software engine to include voice commands, enhanced camera capabilities, and other new features. Vision DE Suite 2.0 delivers live video collaboration, photo/video capture and viewing (plus image resolution control), real-time file synchronization and alerts, a remote management console, and flexible controls to dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses users. The upgraded software is now available for purchase, while existing customers will receive a free upgrade.


RealWear Rolls Out Zero-Touch Deployment Solution with RealWear Foresight Cloud Platform

In other RealWear news, the company announced the RealWear Foresight cloud platform with zero-touch deployment, now a built-in feature of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1. The solution accelerates early enterprise deployments, allowing RealWear to ship devices directly from its fulfillment centers and organizations to immediately and securely deploy the technology by adding any app from the RealWear app catalog. Companies who’ve optimized their apps for the HMT-1/HMT-1Z1 include HPE, Librestream, PTC, Ubimax, and Upskill.


AMA Partners with Proceedix to provide advanced remote assistance solutions

The integration of XpertEye and Proceedix delivers the most comprehensive solution for remote assistance and work flow support on mobile and wearable devices, maximizing usage and benefits for end users. The alliance of the two solutions is designed for industrial sites with multiple use cases for smart glasses, so that a worker can use the same pair of smart glasses to view heads-up, hands-free work instructions and receive real-time support when needed. See what the CEOs of AMA and Proceedix had to say at EWTS here.


Atheer Announces the World’s First Augmented Reality Management Platform, Creating New Enterprise Software Category

Atheer revealed the “world’s first Augmented Reality Management Platform for industrial enterprises,” a new category of enterprise software aimed at helping companies tackle challenges relating to change, connectivity, talent, and operational complexities. The device-agnostic platform supports natural controls, see-what-I-see video collaboration, digital asset management, contextual awareness, predictive and performance analytics, and more. Aragon Research calls it “an important milestone” for enterprise AR. Check out the White Paper that accompanied the announcement.


Upskill launches support for Microsoft HoloLens

Upskill announced the early release of its AR/MR platform Skylight for Microsoft HoloLens. The move opens up more real estate to display information and extends Skylight into the spatial computing environment, offering a new experience for Skylight customers. Users can use hand gestures and simple gazes to navigate in virtual space and view multiple windows at the same time. Building on HoloLens’ Windows 10 capabilities, the solution securely connects to back-end systems to pull information into the mixed reality environment. Watch the video.


Three trends to watch in enterprise wearables

The Glass team shared their experiences at EWTS 2018 in a blog post, recapping the trends they’ve observed working with their partners and customers. Read it here. Jay Kothari and his team at X, the moonshot factory, say they are continuing to improve Glass based on user feedback.

Making Your Next Flight Safer and Smoother with Wearable AR+VR

From building the actual plane to the in-flight experience, wearable XR (AR, VR, MR) devices have a role to play in multiple professions within the commercial aviation industry. Employees whose jobs affect every aspect of one’s trip, including aircraft maintenance workers and flight crew can make use of wearable XR technologies to ensure the end goal: A safe and satisfied traveler. Find out how XR might be used on the ground and in the air when you go on your next business trip or vacation:


On the Ground: AR for Assembly

Both Airbus and Boeing employ augmented reality (AR) glasses in the aircraft assembly process. Airbus workers follow plans directly in their field of view, superimposed on the plane’s interior during cabin installation. They use the same solution to check the accuracy and quality of their work (image recognition technology and artificial intelligence at work); while Boeing employees use smart glasses to view a heads-up, hands-free roadmap for wire harness assembly over their real-world view. In each case, AR functions to form a stronger connection for the user between textual or diagrammatic instructions and the real working environment.

Using AR glasses with software by Upskill helped Boeing save tens of millions of dollars, but it’s not all about money: By helping employees work faster without error, aircraft manufacturers can deliver defect-free planes to customers quicker. Airlines and other buyers thus receive faster-built, higher quality aircraft and parts that breakdown less often. Aircraft and parts engineers can also use AR and VR devices to collaborate on new designs from anywhere in the world, sharing and testing ideas and even simulating the assembly or installation process to foresee issues. New XR platforms are only making this collaboration easier.


VR for Training

After assembly comes maintenance: It can take up to eight years to train and license an aviation maintenance professional. This includes aircraft OEM mechanics and airline technicians who perform safety checks, prepare aircraft components for flight, make repairs, and more. While accessing real aviation equipment for hands-on training is costly and difficult, in VR trainees can practice skills in a realistic, accident-proof immersive environment with virtual parts and tools. For instance, a mechanic wearing a VR headset could walk inside an engine and examine its parts as well as simulate different repair scenarios. With advanced audio and haptics (like a haptic suit), the trainee could even hear the noise and feel the motion of the engine, better preparing him for the real thing.

A recent study at the University of Maryland found that people actually learn and retain information better through immersive experiences compared to using a computer or tablet. Enterprises are also finding VR to be superior to reading a manual, watching videos, or taking a lecture-style class. While not an example of full immersion, Japan Airlines used Microsoft’s HoloLens to improve training for its engine mechanics—in place of physical hangouts, trainees learned all the engine components by working on a virtual engine in mixed reality.

Learning by doing with AR is effective and cost-saving for training, as well. Aviation maintenance workers can learn on the job without risk of error by using heads-up, hands-free smart glasses to view fool-proof text and visual aids over their work. The technology can even validate each step of an inspection or repair to prevent errors. Static instructions can become interactive, with virtual arrows and labels appearing on top of real-life aircraft equipment, showing the user where parts and tools should go. The result: Faster training without sacrificing accuracy or quality = quicker maintenance, fewer flight delays, and happier travelers.

Once the engine has been overhauled, the plane is ready for service. Expensive and logistically challenging, pilot training is another opportunity for VR. In recent years, the burden of paying for flight school has fallen onto pilots themselves. The $60,000-$80,000 price tag explains why flight school enrollment has fallen in the U.S., leading to a growing shortage of trained pilots not all that unlike the troubling shortage of skilled workers in other industries. CAE forecasts that over 255,000 pilots will be needed in the global commercial aviation industry by 2027, yet less than half that number has even begun training. Some carriers and manufacturers are making efforts by sponsoring aspiring aviators or expanding their flight training services, but the cost and time is still too great.

For industries with large, complex and expensive equipment like aviation, VR offers the closest thing to hands-on training. Virtual reality, capable of simulating almost every aspect of flying, feels more real than many current flight simulators (essentially stripped airplane cockpits with screens for windows) and is adaptable to all kinds of scenarios. Rookie pilots can walk around the cockpit, interact with the plane’s controls, and even practice an emergency landing, with tactile feedback to increase the sense of realness and help build muscle memory. VR is already finding its way into flight training programs: Airbus, for one, has been able to reduce training time and train more people in limited space using VR to supplement training in real aircraft; while Future Visual created a simulation for Oculus which takes pilot students through the entire pre-flight process. And VR isn’t just for ground crew and pilots; cabin crew and even airport staff training could incorporate immersive tech, as well.


In the Air: AR for Guidance

The length of runway required for a standard aircraft to get off the ground can be calculated, but what if there are unexpected failures? What if the engines aren’t working to full capacity or the takeoff field is wet? Will the aircraft still reach the required speed for takeoff? According to Boeing, 13% of fatal aircraft accidents occur during takeoff. In fact, pilot errors, not maintenance failures, are responsible for the vast majority of all aviation accidents. This isn’t surprising considering it’s largely left to the pilot’s subjective opinion to determine a response when something goes wrong.

The problem lies in how information is presented to the pilot inside the cockpit. It’s hard to focus on flying when you have to read and quickly analyze the text on a bunch of small instruments and screens all around you. AR technology can display this information in a more intuitive format. For instance, with smart glasses, information like pre-flight checklists, step-by-step instructions, current weather and air traffic information, even a 3D graphic of the takeoff path can appear overlaid in a pilot’s vision before takeoff. Aero Glass actually has a solution that displays flight path and instrument data to small airline pilots wearing smart glasses. The same cockpit information a pilot might get using physical controls and touch screens can be retrieved instead by voice command; and when a snap decision needs to be made during a flight, AI technology can pick out the most relevant information to display to the pilot.


XR in Flight Service?

The benefits of integrating AR glasses and VR headsets into aircraft assembly and technician training are tangible today, but at this point airlines have merely proposed ideas for using XR in the air without seriously investing. This is probably due to the consumer-facing nature of the in-flight experience. Providing flight attendants with smart glasses to interact with passengers or offering VR headsets as in-flight entertainment are not critical use cases like the need to quickly train thousands of new pilots. Moreover, the timeline for mainstream consumer use of AR and VR is still unclear.

XR hasn’t yet transformed the experience of flying, but some airlines are considering it. Air New Zealand, for example, had its crew members try out HoloLens to expedite and provide more tailored customer service during the flight. To cater to individual passengers, flight attendants might access their flight details (to help make connections), food allergies (to personalize meals), even their emotional state (facial recognition tech). Air France trialed VR headsets for in-flight, immersive entertainment; and though not in the air Lufthansa has used VR to sell upgrades to premium class right at the gate. Who knows? Maybe one day those safety instructions in your seat pocket will be replaced by a virtual reality video. In the meantime, rest assured that XR technologies are improving aviation operations behind the scenes, from the hangar to the cockpit.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Apply to exhibit, submit a talk proposal and buy Super Early Bird tickets now at www.aweeu.com.