With Earth Day on the mind recently, I wanted to share some thoughts about how I believe augmented reality can save the planet.
Let me preface this article by saying that I am not a scientist nor do I have a deep understanding of how to improve our planet's health. I do understand that for many days during this past year, I was sick because of poor air quality along the beautiful Wasatch Front. I am affected by these issues and I understand the basics of pollution and things I can do to reduce my carbon footprint--use less plastic, drive less, consume less electricity, etc. So while my only credential related to this earth is that I'm a citizen of such, I am an expert in augmented reality and its current and potential applications.
Augmented reality (AR) technology overlays real images or 3D models onto the real world, allowing the user to experience things never before possible. AR is a powerful tool that is beginning to have dramatic impacts on our lives (beyond sending Pokemon-crazed zombies all over the world). Below, I examine a few of those impacts and how AR will improve our home here on Earth.
Augmented reality allows consumers to more confidently shop from home, reducing or removing the need to drive to and from the store. One of the primary reasons people go to the store is because they want to see what the product looks like in real life.
Reducing returns. If we can reduce the first trip to the store, then why not the second? When you buy something and it doesn't fit, then you're guaranteeing at least a few more trips. You have to return the product and then you have to find a new one. This will further reduce the carbon emissions produced by our vehicles. 30% of all online purchases are returned as well. AR can help consumers make better buying decisions by answering more questions about the product up front.
AR can reduce showroom size for stores. Furniture stores is a great example. You only need to display one version of a couch and then provide the ability to scan a QR code to see all of the different options. As stores become more efficient, they can reduce their physical footprint, save money, and better serve their customers.
When wearables come around, there will be less need to have TVs in your house, removing the carbon footprint of the production and sale of that TV as well as the electricity it consumes. You'll have your own personal 65" screen with you anywhere you go. Reducing screens in general will be a natural evolution of AR when you can have virtually unlimited screens to do anything.
Along a similar line, those wasteful user manuals can be eliminated. Imagine buying a new table from IKEA, but then you put on your Apple Glasses and step by step instructions show you on a heads up display (HUD) how to put everything together. Your AR glasses will be able to scan objects and recognize what the next step is in your assembly process. No more physical manuals = trees saved.
Augmented reality can improve production efficiency by reducing production of every iteration of a product. Companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Ford are using augmented reality to speed up design and lessen the need for manufacturing entire vehicles or modules before identifying problems.
For example, when Boeing is designing a new cockpit, they can use a 3D model of the cockpit and have a pilot sit in a chair and virtually examine the design. If the window is too far forward for the pilot to comfortably see through, then he can tell the engineer to make an adjustment before the plane prototype is ever physically manufactured. Multiply this outcome by thousands of prototypes spread across thousands of companies around the world, and this adds up to a significantly reduced carbon footprint. Designers and manufacturers can engage stakeholders instantly and obtain feedback in a much tighter and more efficient loop.
Telecommuting will become even more powerful with telepresence. You will be able to virtually sit at a conference table with your colleagues from anywhere in the world and feel like you're all in the same room. Less driving = less emissions and better air to breathe.
Half of the battle for protecting our planet is to help people understand how what they do affects the planet. Educational/informative content can be created to allow people to better ways to visualize and understand the world. What the world will look like 30, 50, 100 years from now if things don't change? That can be shown through AR.
Augmented reality can allow average people to participate in landscape and environmental surveys. Check out this GIF below. This app tells you where to go to take a picture, and then it shows you exactly which direction to point as you do so. On your weekend hike, you can also help gather critical data that scientists can use to better observe and analyze our planet.
There are many more ways in which AR can impact our planet. I'd love to hear more ideas in the comments below!
While augmented reality is only a small piece of the puzzle, it will definitely move us a step closer to a world where we take better care of our planet. Here at Seek, we are actively building better solutions that will help everything you see above become a reality. Book a demo today at https://seekxr.com/contact.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.
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