AR in the enterprise: Tips for a better augmented reality app

Augmented reality apps have a lot to offer businesses, from supporting remote workers to increasing marketing engagement. Here are some tips on how to approach building an effective and successful AR app.

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Augmented reality is the next big thing — or one of the next big things, anyway. The technology, which overlays digital images on the real world, has a host of potential uses in the enterprise, from training tools to customer demos to collaborative design spaces.

Some AR applications rely on specialized hardware devices, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, while others work with everyday smartphones. The inclusion of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore development platforms in iOS and Android, respectively, has put AR-capable mobile devices in almost everybody’s hands.

But does that mean every enterprise should have an AR app? Probably not, says Tyler Wilson, a user experience designer with experience design studio Helios Interactive.

Wilson suggests that you start by asking, “How does your content work better in augmented reality?” If you’re thinking of using an AR app as a marketing tool, for example, he points out that websites, PowerPoint presentations, and other media have been around for a while and still work extremely well. “Is your content going to be easier to ingest or use in AR?” he asks.

In this AR app that Helios Interactive created for Visa London, users can select cities on the globe to visualize data streams reflecting the transaction volume between the cities. The AR presentation lets multiple viewers access and view different streams simultaneously and rotate the globe to see the data from various vantage points.

If your organization does decide an AR app is the right tool for your needs, then, how do you go about making sure it’s a useful and engaging one that people will actually use? The technology is new enough that there aren’t a lot of examples to guide you.

“This is a brand-new medium,” says Erik Murphy-Chutorian, founder and CEO of 8th Wall, which makes AR developer tools. “If you were to build a traditional 2D application on iOS, for example, there’s exhaustive documentation on what all the different views do, what the design components are, and recommendations about the size of buttons and the actions they take. Then you can find examples of applications that do what you want. But you can’t point to lots of good existing examples of high-quality, polished AR applications that have succeeded in the market and say, ‘Okay, let’s go do that.’”

So it’s up to IT and corporate leaders, as well as designers and developers, to find the best approach. A good way to start is to ask some basic questions: who, how, what, why, where, and how (again).

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