Augmented Reality Is Becoming Practical Reality

Remote repairs are just the beginning

By Gautam Goswami, CMO and Global EVP, Marketing & Products at TeamViewer

Augmented Reality (AR) is not a futuristic technology concept, it’s one that’s being applied right now in a growing number of high-value applications. 

Here’s how it works: AR starts with a user looking at things onscreen in much the same way they do now, but the on-screen image – which could be on a phone, a tablet, or a PC – is augmented with additional visual information. That new information could be overlaid from a computer, showing relevant graphics or highlighting certain items of interest in the viewing area to be more quickly and easily identified. Or, something highlighted on screen could originate from someone else offsite, providing remote guidance to the person at the scene by, for example, drawing a circle around the object of interest. And the images are typically accompanied by live voice connections between the locations, allowing the people at both ends to talk about what they’re doing in real time.

If you are in a tech support company and a customer needs to set up a router, using an AR app, you can apply your staff’s knowledge to walk that customer through the setup process without sending someone on-site. Of course, a lot of wires, switches, and ports look very similar, and it would be easy for a customer to get confused, frustrated, and make mistakes. But with AR apps, a customer can hold their smartphone or tablet up to the router and share a live video stream with a remote technician, showing the exact configuration. The remote technician can then draw circles, add arrows, or text annotations around the image to specify the parts and guide them through troubleshooting steps – and do it all from a remote computer.

To make sure the highlighted item remains in view, the video stream can be frozen to hold the image so that people at both ends of the connection can examine and discuss its technical details. 

Beyond responding to immediate problems, some AR apps allow for remote camera sharing capability, making them powerful training instruments as well. Using AR, employees can show important process steps, proper tool use, recommended safety measures, quality checks, and even have a seasoned instructor provide virtual training. 

In addition, qualified inspections of urgent repairs, scheduled maintenance work, or even new construction – no matter if it’s thousands of miles away – can be conducted by certified experts from a central location without the need for on-site visits. Anomalies can be detected and repaired proactively, minimizing unplanned downtimes.

However, the same remotely connected AR platform used for inspections, training, and repairs can become the foundation for even more advanced applications. Experiencing a real-world environment, but one in which certain objects it includes are enhanced by computer-generated information, can alter that person’s way of seeing and understanding a scene. This capability is currently being used in many applications, including gaming, entertainment, education, and business. One particularly intriguing application of augmented reality is in the medical field, supporting surgical operations by providing virtual overlays to guide doctors. 

As with any digital technology, security is always a concern with AR. Fortunately, today’s AR systems and the remote connectivity networks powering remote sessions, are engineered with security features to keep data safe and protected. For example, in the case of TeamViewer, all remote connections are secured end-to-end with RSA public/private key exchange and AES 256-bit session encryption. 

Gautam Goswami

That said, however, no system is more secure than the people who use it. Access credentials, including strong passwords, need to be kept private and updated regularly. Authentication systems need to be respected and good digital hygiene needs to be consistently observed by designated users to reinforce the system’s built-in security protocols. Following security best practices is something that applies to all digital systems and AR applications are no exception. The result? AR can be a truly exceptional and practical reality today.

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