Businesses That Have Invested in Augmented Reality Solutions Are More Resilient to COVID-19 Challenges

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2Q 2020 | IN-5776

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has forced numerous businesses to temporarily freeze operation or adopt remote working policies in order to mitigate physical contact, ensure employee safety, and continue operation. Consequently, during this challenging period of uncertainty, in combination with travel restrictions and strict self-isolation measures, the demand for traditional video communication tools and Augmented Reality (AR) remote assistance applications has significantly increased as businesses actively look for solutions to eliminate production downtime and remain as efficient as possible. There is no doubt that businesses that have already invested in digital solutions are better prepared to face this temporary crisis and are more resistant expected risks (such as low productivity, supply chain disruption, machine downtime, etc.).

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AR Leading Players Actively Support Business to Maintain Operational Efficiency

NEWS


The global outbreak of COVID-19 has forced numerous businesses to temporarily freeze operation or adopt remote working policies in order to mitigate physical contact, ensure employee safety, and continue operation. Consequently, during this challenging period of uncertainty, in combination with travel restrictions and strict self-isolation measures, the demand for traditional video communication tools and Augmented Reality (AR) remote assistance applications has significantly increased as businesses actively look for solutions to eliminate production downtime and remain as efficient as possible. There is no doubt that businesses that have already invested in digital solutions are better prepared to face this temporary crisis and are more resistant expected risks (such as low productivity, supply chain disruption, machine downtime, etc.).

AR hardware and software/platform providers are taking initiatives to enrich and adjust their product portfolios to meet the current market needs and help businesses keep their productivity levels as high as possible. For instance, PTC is offering its Vuforia Chalk (an AR remote assistance app) free of charge until June. Magic Leap is offering a 45-day trial package (hardware and software) for US$5,000 to support remote teams. RealWear has integrated Microsoft Teams in the RealWear voice operating platform (and devices) to simplify and accelerate remote assistance use cases. Additionally, Librestream (an enterprise platform provider with AR support) announced a free AR remote assistance package for businesses that are being affected by COVID-19. Also, Librestream, in partnership with Vuzix, will help users monitor body temperatures via from a safe distance, allowing the identification of individuals with high body temperatures. Users will be able to view a real-time thermal video feed to the Heads-Up Display (HUD) (M400 device) and share it with remote medical experts via Onsight AR platform. Moreover, Vuzix announced 110 order of M400 for 1Minuut Innovation, a Dutch medical services company, which will utilize smartglasses for telemedicine and better support COVID-19 healthcare needs. Finally, Vuzix offers discounted packages to support educational institutions and remote learning.

How AR Solutions Help in Dealing with Risks from Travel Ban and Self-Isolation

IMPACT


AR will be one of the key technologies that will assist businesses in maintaining their operation efficiency, especially those that are affected by travel restrictions. For example, by adopting AR remote assistance applications, businesses can empower remote or unexperienced workers to efficiently perform maintenance, repair, and/or installation tasks by receiving real-time guidance from experts. In addition, AR remote assistance applications help businesses continue delivering efficient customer service support in scenarios in which physical support is not feasible. AR can also be a valuable tool for healthcare professionals by assisting them to efficiently and swiftly respond to new urgent medical use case needs. For instance, medical teams around the world can collaborate in real time by leveraging 3D models and holograms or access data hands free during complex tasks. AR can assist in educating and training new hires, too (today around COVID-19 but obviously this is universal). Finally, the existing situation has accelerated e-commerce growth; businesses that have already implemented AR shopping options have an advantage over competitors that have not, allowing customers to virtually try products in real time. Interactive and realistic shopping experiences will prove valuable, generating positive emotions and brand experiences.

At the same time, AR providers that are offering packages that are customized or free of charge to support businesses have the potential to expand their customer base and increase revenues during and after the pandemic. The current situation will provide the opportunity for many businesses to reshape their strategies and experiment with digital tools at a higher scale. More and more businesses will re-evaluate the importance of immediate response and automation, which will eventually accelerate digital transformation. In addition, not only will industrial/manufacturing or retail verticals have the chance to experience the benefits of digital solutions, but verticals such as education and healthcare services will apply and adopt digital tools to be more efficient. Despite the temporary crisis, businesses should leverage the lessons learned and turn them into new opportunities with a focus on innovation and long-term sustainability.

An Opportunity for AR Providers to re-evaluate Their Business Models

RECOMMENDATIONS


During periods of economic uncertainty, businesses look for strategies and solutions that reduce cost while optimizing operational efficiency and employee productivity; consequently, AR, in combination with other digitals tools (such as IoT, data and analytics, or AI), is a compelling solution. However, given the current situation, it is anticipated that new adopters will leverage smartphones or tablets instead of investing in AR HMDs at first, due to high cost, integration difficulties with existing Information Technology (IT) systems, and employee training before actual usage. Consequently, AR hardware providers need to adjust pricing packages (at least temporarily) and collaborate with platform/software providers that offer complimentary services to remain competitive and provide incentives to potential customers.

In the past, ABI Research has highlighted the importance and benefits of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) solutions, which was initially introduced to the AR space by Ubimax. XaaS solutions allow immediate implementation by spreading the cost of investment and shifting a high Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) to a predictable Operational Expenditure (OPEX), which is ideal for this period of uncertainty, limited budgets, and need for immediate solutions.

The main challenge for AR providers after the end of pandemic will be to maintain new customers that utilized special pricing rates or complimentary packages and encourage existing customers to scale their solutions. These AR providers will have the advantage of educating businesses about the benefits of AR solutions and, at the same time, will acquire a better understanding of the particulars of customer/business needs and inefficiencies in order to provide customized solutions and win more deals. It is highly likely that after the outbreak more businesses, regardless of their size and maturity level, will embrace AR and associated digital solutions.

 

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