Report suggests business use will drive AR and wearable technology

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A report from Beecham Research, entitled ‘Augmented Reality and Wearable Technology – an operational tool for the enterprise’, suggests that business applications will drive growth in augmented reality (AR) and wearable devices over the next five years. This is contrary to much of the hype surrounding the technologies that focuses mainly on the consumer market.

The report points to manufacturing, logistics, healthcare and retail as some of the most dynamic markets, where AR offers a new way for people to interact with information hands-free, to provide a greater depth of control and access to knowledge.

The report also highlights recent acquisitions that reflect a growing level of market activity and consolidation. This includes PTC’s purchase Vuforia at the end of last year for $65million to support its next generation of technology solutions for manufacturers and follows acquisitions of IoT companies ThingWorx and Axeda. Other acquisitions in 2015 included Apple’s purchase of Metaio, borne out of a project at Volkswagen and Facebook’s purchase of AR company Surreal Vision.

“It is clear that the overall status of the enterprise market for AR and wearable technology is at a tipping point, moving from trials and testbed projects to real commercial deployments,” said Matthew Duke-Woolley, market analyst at Beecham Research. “While it is still questionable to provide a firm forecast, if this speed of transition accelerates as companies quickly recognise the benefits and return on investment, we believe the market can reach just under $800m by 2020.”

The report looks at some of the emerging business applications of AR and wearable technology, such as head up displays in manufacturing systems to support complex production processes, collaborative product design and prototyping; remote assistance of specialist distant engineers and technicians; medical systems to enable surgeons to access relevant data in theatre without being distracted; and education and training.

“AR technology and wearable devices blur the lines between computer and human environments and provide a more immersive and interactive experience,” Duke-Woolley added. “While it is still unclear where the consumer ‘killer-apps’ will appear, there is real momentum building around business-use cases that will gain pace over the next two years with more product releases, real-world deployments and market acquisitions.”