As with most exciting new technologies, augmented reality (AR) is shrouded in a certain sense of mystery. Some people believe the best AR software to be a revolutionary, game-changing innovation that’s set to take over the world. Others see it as an evolution of existing technological capabilities—for instance, an innovation that will transform traditional technical documentation as we know it.
Unfortunately, this confusion about what exactly AR is—and how it can benefit organizations—spills out into the implementation process:
- Businesses are often hesitant to implement AR solutions as they believe it will take up too much time, energy, and money against its perceived value.
- To counter this, many AR organizations boldly claim that the implementation process is actually a walk in the park.
- Such statements create false expectations. AR implementation can be a lengthy and tedious process if it’s not done right. However, this can be easily avoided by working with the right partner.
Throughout this article, we’ll examine how public perceptions lead to skewed expectations when it comes to the implementation process. We’ll then explore how to avoid this by finding the right vendor: the questions you need to ask and the answers that you should be looking for.
So if you’ve gone beyond “What is AR used for?” and you’re now looking to implement it within your own organization, you’ve come to the right place.
Will the real AR please stand up?
Mainstream media generally oscillates between portraying AR as “the next big thing”, lamenting that its awkward adolescence—when the technology is honed and improved until it’s ready for mass use—will be “long and painful”, or reveling in stories of promising AR startups going under.
Pop culture has also had a field day with this exciting new technology. Take Kingsman: The Golden Circle, for instance, a 2017 movie where a group of top-secret spies uses AR-based glasses to virtually communicate with one another. In fact, these refined, comfortable glasses are a good glimpse into what the future of AR might well look like once the technology matures enough to become mainstream.
A snippet from Kingsman: The Golden Circle demonstrating AR glasses in action.
From the examples mentioned above, consumers might think that AR startups are trying (and failing) to deliver the type of technology only seen in big-budget spy movies. But that’s not true. Sure, not all AR projects have been a success, but it’s worth noting that the most “futuristic” aspect of the above image is the size of the glasses—not the actual concept the AR visuals themselves suggest. For example, AR-powered glasses are already playing a pivotal role in providing remote support to hard-to-reach manufacturing sites.
How these perceptions skew the AR implementation narrative
It’s perhaps understandable that organizations are hesitant to implement AR. They don’t want to fall for the “hype” and end up throwing time, money, and effort down the drain trying to derive value from a pie-in-the-sky project.
AR manufacturers have therefore been prone to gloss over the realities of AR implementation. Unfortunately, this often paints a false narrative. Implementing an AR-based solution can be a long, drawn-out, complex process if handled poorly. If organizations rush ahead with the first vendor they find, they may well find themselves embroiled in an ongoing project that will seemingly never provide any sort of value.
So how can companies avoid this? What questions can they ask AR vendors to ascertain their expertise—and what answers should they expect to receive in return?
Assessing a vendor’s AR implementation process
As well as completing these 7 key steps, here’s a non-exhaustive shortlist of 3 questions that you should ask potential AR vendors before doing business with them. If the answers you receive are well-thought-out, clear, and comprehensive, then this is a sign that the vendor isn’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Most importantly, it’s a sign that they know what they’re doing.
1. What customization options are available?
There is a myriad of ways in which you could customize your AR tool. Perhaps you want to white-label it so that you can present the technology as your own, provided the vendor gives you permission to do so. Or maybe you’d like to make sure that it can integrate with your existing PLM system—this is where you keep all your technical documentation and 3D data.
You can also customize areas relating to compliance, regulations, security, privacy, compatibility, and more. But beyond simply asking if your AR provider can customize your tool as desired, the most important thing is to understand how this will affect your implementation process. If vendors provide little detail and simply dismiss the question, saying it’ll be no problem and will take no time at all, then be wary.
However, if your provider seeks to understand your customizations in detail and explains how this will impact the tool’s implementation time, then you’ll know that they have a firm grasp over the project in store.
2. What effort is needed from our organization to realize the solution’s value?
‘Plug-and-play’ promises might sound nice, but any enterprise AR vendor worth their salt knows that proper implementation requires careful planning. Leverage the vendor’s expertise. Arrange a series of scoping workshops where you outline the entire project from start to finish and delegate key responsibilities to the appropriate personnel. Ask what internal leadership—and which particular skill sets—are needed to get the project over the finish line.
Your AR vendor should also highlight the IT and operational resources required to make the project a success. They should be able to offer up examples from other organizations that they’ve worked with: pointing out what worked, what didn’t, and how you can avoid their costly mistakes.
Imagine you’re implementing RE’FLEKT ONE, for instance. We usually see organizations run into lengthy delays simply because they haven’t decided ahead of time who will be responsible for creating the AR workflows and content. Before you begin, make sure you know the authoring requirements—and double-check that your internal technical documentation experts actually have enough time to work on this project. If not, then it might need to be part of the contracted work done by your software supplier.
Your vendor should clearly outline all responsibilities and potential hurdles before the implementation process begins. They should state upfront the resources that will be required rather than shirking away from the question of dismissing any potential hurdles.
3. How long will the project take?
This is the key question. Many enterprise software implementations take longer than expected—meaning organizations have to pour more resources into the project while also waiting longer until they see the results.
Make sure to ask prospective vendors how long the project will take based on your use case. Look out for marketing speak or timelines that sound too good to be true (if this is the case, they probably are.) Opt for vendors that are candid and honest—even if the answer they provide wasn’t necessarily what you wanted to hear.
Implement your AR projects the right way
Here at RE’FLEKT, we enable companies to take control over their AR implementation projects. We strive for transparency and tell it as it is, giving you honest, comprehensive, and helpful answers to any questions that you might have along the way.
If you're ready to see the value Enterprise AR can bring in further detail, book a demo of ONE today. Find out not only how the technology can benefit your business, but also how we’ll help you implement it as seamlessly as possible.