Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence: Next-gen Workforce’s Best Friends

Written BY

Emily Friedman

July 7, 2021

On June 23, industry experts Anand Rao, Global Artificial Intelligence Lead at PwC, and Jereme Pitts, COO of Librestream, were joined by end users Erik Schmidtberg and John Cogliandro from Raytheon in a webinar about the powerful combination of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in enterprise. Jereme set the scene by describing the modern workforce, which is overwhelmingly deskless, and issues like the skills gap driving adoption of emerging technologies like AR in industry. He was followed by Anand, who managed to explain AI in layman’s terms, its relationship to AR, and impact on the human worker now and in the future. In the second half of the webinar, Jereme and Anand moderated a panel with real enterprise end users – Raytheon’s Erik and John – to ground everything discussed up to that point in reality. Here are my 3 takeaways from the session:

1. AR+AI: Why now?

A number of live polls throughout the webinar drove home the relevance of the day’s topic, including “Are you satisfied with the method you’re using to capture knowledge.” Just 15% of respondents said they were satisfied with how they currently capture knowledge. Another poll revealed that 61% of attendees still used ‘Spreadsheets, documents and paper-based processes’ to capture knowledge, with another 10% revealing that they don’t currently capture knowledge at all, instead relying heavily on the right personnel.

That doesn’t answer the question of ‘why now,’ however. So, why now? Jereme’s frank assessment: There is a lot of money on the table—$2.5 trillion GDP at risk in U.S. manufacturing alone! And that’s not the only relevant number:

  • 80: Percent of the global workforce that is deskless or mobile and increasingly reliant on technology for access to the knowledge and guidance they need to perform. (PDFs don’t cut it for these employees)
  • 85.2 million: Estimated worker shortage by 2030. Those leaving the workforce with 35 years of information in their heads are not so easily or quickly replaced. Companies need to figure out how to preserve and pass on all that tribal knowledge to new workers. This also means that the 10% of attendees who currently rely on the right personnel will soon lose that personnel.  
  • 340 million: Number of work-related accidents around the world each year. Imparting the right knowledge to workers is arguably one half of keeping them safe.

All this to say that trends are converging today to force companies’ hands in the direction of digital transformation.

2. Creating a continuous learning culture with AR & AI

The retiring workforce essentially amounts to a brain drain, which is creating a personnel shortage that companies are struggling to address from both a recruiting and training standpoint. On top of this is rising complexity: Increasingly complex machines and expanding product lines, increasingly distributed operations, and disruptive new business models. And one more factor: Younger workers are less loyal, spending maybe 2.5 years with a company compared to a Boomer’s 20-30, which makes faster and cheaper training all the more desirable. Technology – specifically the combo of AR+AI – has to fill the gap by making specialized information available to workers when and where they need it, helping to ensure consistent job performance by “creating a continuous learning culture in a constantly changing world.”

As PwC’s Anand Rao explained, it’s about augmenting workers both physically through Augmented Reality and cognitively through Artificial Intelligence to overcome the above challenges, from virtual simulations for procedural practice to AR job aids and remote guidance during a task. AR brings additional layers of information into the worker’s physical reality either for training or during a task, while AI senses and thinks for us, deciding what supplemental information is necessary.

3. The advantages of AR over Zoom

This last takeaway comes from an audience question posed to Raytheon’s Erik and John. An attendee asked, ‘What makes AR+AI different than Zoom or Teams?’ Erik and John agreed that mobility, relevance and interactivity (the ability to put a 3D model on top of a piece of hardware) make augmented reality superior to traditional telepresence. Some of the benefits Raytheon has experienced using Librestream’s Onsight platform for AR-enabled remote support and training:

  • • Cost savings (including fewer plane tickets and simulating rather than reserving a $100B radar for training)
  • • Reduced stress for the SMEs who used to have to fly around the world addressing issues
  • • Faster machine turnaround/less downtime and increased customer satisfaction
  • • Increased expert availability, even the ability to get more than 2 experts to weigh in on an issue at once
  • • Ability to train multiple classes at the same time

For more insight, watch the full webinar on-demand here.

Image source: Librestream

Further Reading