There is growing concern that like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR) could cause an avalanche of job losses across industries and replace the worker completely - but is this entirely accurate? Let's have a look at it together in a bit more detail.
Technologies change the way we live and work
Certain is that this is a common phenomenon. We have seen new technologies change how we live and work many times in the past. In the early 1980s the Personal Computer was introduced by IBM. The initial wave of enthusiasm and revelation of new opportunities was followed by a flood of dramatic headlines. Those predicted that the PC would eventually take over to the extent that most people would lose their job to this invention.
Looking at it from a research perspective, McKinsey Global Institute estimates that between 1980 and 2015, the introduction of the PC has displaced 3.5 million jobs in the U.S. while creating 19.2 million new ones at the same time. In addition to clearly offsetting the balance between jobs lost vs. created by the PC, the ones created have increased labor productivity under the influence of the new technology. I think the conclusion is obvious, change is scary but it drives progress and helps create The Workplace of the Future.
Artificial Intelligence drives task automation
AI is a key driver across the industries today and has helped organizations automate tasks to ensure efficient completion and deliver accurate results. In this development, ML plays a crucial part. Computer systems have the potential to learn from a large amount of data and make predictions through algorithms and statistical models.
As a consequence, a range of jobs has already been lost to automation and many remaining ones are at risk. Today’s smart factories are ruled by robots that can assemble cars, cook ready-meals, sew garments or make our medication. Self-service machines replace the cashier in the local supermarket. Apps and services such as booking.com, Airbnb, Skyscanner, and Google Flights make the travel agent redundant. Even at the stock market dehumanization is in full progress. The World Economic Forum estimates that around 10% of trades on today’s stock markets are made by humans.
Looking ahead, I see no sign of this trend slowing down. McKinsey Global Institute states that 50% of current work activities could technically be automated by adapting already existing technologies.
Augmented Reality drives task shift and enhancement
Unlike Machine Learning, Augmented Reality does not aim for full automation. The main purpose of AR solutions is not to replace workers but to empower them to perform their tasks quicker and with fewer errors than before. For example, animated 3D step-by-step instructions displayed on smartphones, tablets, and smart glasses provide an accurate guide for service technicians conducting repair and maintenance procedures in the field. In this case, AR increases first-time fix rates while minimizing resources such as time and cost.
In automotive manufacturing robots increasingly take over to do highly repetitive and monotonous tasks in assembly lines. This is where AR helps shift the function of the worker to the operator and maintainer of complex machinery.
Workforce for remote locations such as oil rigs is hard to find as workers are required to be highly skilled and willing to work off-shore for longer times periods. AR counteracts this challenge, especially in the area of predictive maintenance and ‘pre-made scenarios’ as we can see with many RE'FLEKT customers using our AR Ecosystem. Standard procedures are transformed into simple step-by-step guides, making enterprises more flexible and less dependent on a highly skilled workforce. Jobs become accessible for new target groups and companies can also reskill and upskill existing employees.
AR shines where human skills are the driver
While automation is the future for existing tasks that occur frequently in an identical manner, it’s not possible to automate tasks that are less frequent, might differ with every occurrence, or require human judgment. This is where I see the human worker and Augmented Reality take over. AR elevates the potential of the human worker by providing the required toolset while leaving room for human judgment. It enhances the human skillset and helps create the future worker.
This new type of worker brings short-term benefits such as accomplishing tasks more efficiently while delivering results faster and performing fewer errors. Long-term AR facilitates a knowledge transfer of experts dying out, enables a single worker to manage a higher workload, and overcomes hiring problems for skilled workers as AR empowers any employee to become an expert.
Take advantage today to benefit tomorrow
Leading back to the initial question, it’s clear that Augmented Reality has the potential to create new jobs, however, this won’t happen naturally. AR is already changing the way enterprises work, it’s time we adjust the jobs related to that.
Research from McKinsey Global Institute confirms that 14% of the global workforce, that’s 375 million people across the world, will need to learn new skills and transition to new occupational categories due to increasingly capable machinery. The future worker will spend more time on activities such as applying expertise, managing people, and communicating with others, tasks that machines are less capable of. Skills that will be required most are emotional competencies, reasoning, and creativity, again particularly human skills.
This is your opportunity to take advantage of today and make AR a success for tomorrow. Here are four key points I recommend you consider:
- ACTION - As in the past, taking action is required to drive progress
- PREPARATION - Check out the 7 most important steps before getting started with AR
- INTEGRATION - Link your AR solution to existing infrastructures, it's most likely easier than you think
- ORGANIZATIONAL FIT - Not one size fits all, make sure you choose the AR solution that fits your needs
Interested to find out more about how AR creates job opportunities?
Watch the full video recording of my talk"Augmented Reality: Job Source or Job Substitute?" at AWE USA in Santa Clara.