We kicked off the ‘Interconnection x Hot Tech’ blog series by discussing four key drivers of 5G development. In this blog post, we will examine a technology that is bringing the digital world to life – Augmented Reality (AR).
A couple of years ago, people went crazy over Pokémon Go, an AR mobile game which sent gamers from all walks of life and of different ages, on to the streets with their smart phones in hand to capture Pokémon as they appeared. Using the phone’s camera with mobile location services, a Pokémon overlay video would appear on the phone display as if seen in a real-world environment. This proved to be a winning mix for gamers in search of a truly interactive experience.
The game introduced AR to consumers and mainstream businesses alike. It took a technology that had been deemed ‘difficult’ and ‘expensive’ and showed the revolutionary impact it could have on consumer experiences.
According to IDC, spending in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) on augmented reality and virtual reality will reach US$7.1 billion in 2019, representing an increase of 75.2% on the previous year. On top of this, consumer and enterprise/commercial spend on AR/VR products and services is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 70.7% between 2017 and 2022.
This rapid growth is hardly surprising. AR gives a user an interactive and immersive experience in a real-world environment, by adding layers of data and virtual objects onto a live view. Today, it’s not only gaming that is embracing AR. Different sectors are also applying it to enrich customer experience and interactivity with apps as they seek to gain competitive advantage. Let’s look at some recent AR use cases in Asia-Pacific.
AR in action across Asia-Pacific
According to Worldpay, eCommerce across Asia-Pacific is forecasted to continue to grow significantly in 2019 and beyond. Many retailers innovate and some are turning to AR to help customers “see” products through an AR-enabled catalogue or virtual showroom and “try on” products at home before ordering their selection online or in store.
For example, online retailer JD.com in Beijing launched an AR beauty mirror for customers to try out different shades of make-up and how they would look without actually applying them, adding the convenience of interacting with products before purchasing them. Bricks and mortar stores are also deploying AR offline, offering mirrors to enhance customer shopping experiences and enabling them to try out virtual products without queuing for fitting rooms.
AR can help travellers get a real feel of a destination so that they can better plan and prepare for trips. Airlines and hotels provide AR apps offering virtual tours to explore different rooms and other facilities before making a booking. For example, Airbus iflyA380 is an iOS app with AR incorporated to let passengers take a virtual tour of the jetliner, including a peak into the cockpit.
Tourist hotspots such as museums, theme parks and historical sites are adopting AR to create interactive maps and direct visitors to interesting locations. For example, Augtraveller is an AR app that enhances visitor experiences with detailed information on the history and culture of specific UNESCO world heritage sites in India.
Education and Workforce Training
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is particularly true when it comes to education. When a student can see, touch and interact with an object, the lesson becomes more engaging. As a result, AR has made its way into workforce training programs, particularly in specialized industries due to its cost-effectiveness, safety and reach.
Imagine learning about bomb detonation, flying a plane or new surgical procedures without any risks. AR can aid in providing simulating real-world environments for these specialised fields, giving employees access to unlimited practice without risk or high costs.
The Singapore Air Force has experimented with using AR training aids to improve realism and effectiveness in personnel training. These include lens which use holograms to simulate real-life environments and situations such as an aircraft emergency response scenarios.
AR’s ability to combine reality with digital content is proving beneficial to car manufacturers on a variety of fronts, including the design of new models, improved accuracy of assembly, quality assurance and enhanced driving safety.
As more car manufacturers engage in making autonomous vehicles, AR will be invaluable in their design, testing and trials. Nissan showcased its in-car AR concept, dubbed the Invisible-to-Visible (I2V) system, at CES 2019. Merging the on-board sensor data the vehicle gathers as it moves, with information aggregated from Nissan’s AR cloud, the technology maps a virtual environment around the car.
AR is also a powerful technology for those in the healthcare sector, providing immersive training for surgical procedures and offering a way to practice without risk.
Scans are a key diagnostic tool for today’s doctors, but MRIs and CTs reports are one-dimensional. Using AR, a surgeon can layer virtual three-dimensional images of the same scans to produce an overview of the inside of the patient – complete with organs, blood vessels, and muscles to understand any potential complications during surgery.
Interconnection: Speeding up AR
The successful applications of AR highly depends on the rapid transfer of real-time data generated from multiple touchpoints, such as customers, enterprises and service providers. The increased use of mobile and IoT devices also demands the processing of big data to make AR apps feasible for practical use.
The data involved in these apps includes images, visuals and audio, which need to be stored, analyzed and transmitted constantly and instantaneously to enable the user of an AR app to react and interact in real-time.
While cloud and network service providers play an important role in supporting the use of AR, enterprises need scalable storage and high interconnectivity between multiple parties to ensure the seamless delivery of AR-enabled experiences to app users and customers. How can they achieve this? It’s Interconnection, also known as the private data exchange between businesses.
The second annual Global Interconnection Index, a market study published by Equinix, reveals Asia-Pacific’s Interconnection Bandwidth is expected to grow at a 51% CAGR to 2,200+ Tbps by 2021, meaning that interconnection is becoming the defacto method for companies to operate in today’s digital world. Businesses need to adopt an interconnection-first approach in order to directly and securely interconnect partners and service providers as well as users, analyze data and engage with customers in real time.
At Equinix, enterprises can leverage ECX Fabric™ to connect to multiple cloud services and providers anywhere in the world on Platform Equinix® where they can access over 2,900 cloud and IT service providers globally including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud as well as SaaS providers like SAP. This enables them to establish the high-performance, scalable, reliable and secure hybrid multicloud infrastructures needed to deliver seamless AR experiences to their customers.
Our global footprint and vast digital ecosystems also enable businesses to easily reach any party in their supply chain or customers around the world via private, secure and almost instantaneous connections, ensuring reliable, consistent AR at all time.
AR is transforming the way different verticals work. With interconnection, the potential of AR can be fully unlocked to further enhance customer experience and offer more benefits to enterprises in the digital era.
To understand more about the development of 5G in Asia-Pacific, read our recent blog post ‘5G x Interconnection = Hot Tech!’ and to understand more about interconnection strategy by downloading our Interconnection Strategy Guide.