5 Benefits of Augmented Reality

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the benefits of augmented reality (AR) and its multiple applications in various sectors.

[Featured image] An AR developer stands in front of a whiteboard and gives a speech on the benefits of augmented reality.

Augmented reality, or AR, is more than a trend or buzz-worthy topic. It provides value and varying benefits across different industries and in numerous applications. AR offers unique benefits compared to other types of technology due to its ability to blend the physical and digital worlds. It essentially creates an overlay of digital information onto our physical world, typically using smartphones or other mobile devices. Viewers of AR in varying formats can interact with the sights, sounds, and images of a three-dimensional (3D) digital world while simultaneously engaging in the physical world. 

Common examples of AR include a vehicle’s navigation system, retail apps that let you see how a piece of furniture will look in your home, or apparel companies that allow you to “try on” a piece of clothing or pair of shoes, brands that take customers to unique experiences through the snap of a QR code printed on their products. 

From immersive educational experiences to employee training and beyond, the benefits of enhancing the world with augmented reality are far-reaching, read on the learn more about this technology.

Read more: Augmented Reality: Types of AR

1. AR provides real-time remote assistance in the IT field 

AR remote assistance lets technicians, customers, or other professionals collaborate using AR tools. Using AR remote assistance, technicians working on-site can communicate and collaborate with other technicians or experts located off-site. 

Companies can also use AR-assisted remote support to resolve or troubleshoot IT issues for clients by walking them through the step-by-step process via virtual assistance platforms. The ability to help clients in real-time, remotely, and without needing an in-person visit from a tech means minimal downtime for the customer and better outcomes overall. The company providing IT services doesn’t have to hire additional techs to meet customer needs, and customers can get real-time support more efficiently. 

Some additional benefits of AR-driven remote assistance include: 

  • Organizations save money on operational costs 

  • Customers save money by reducing the need for downtime, store closures, and interruptions in daily business operations 

  • Real-time collaboration among field technicians and remote technicians 

  • More efficient and more accurate problem-solving and troubleshooting issues, making repairs, and conducting maintenance or inspection visits 

  • A greater level of employee support and satisfaction 

Read more: Virtual Reality (VR) Terms: A to Z Glossary

2. Generate immersive learning opportunities in the classroom 

Imagine learning about the Eiffel Tower and exploring it right from the classroom. Creating experiences like virtual field trips and providing students with experiences they may not otherwise have the chance to experience in real life are among the many benefits of augmented reality in education. AR tools can help educators create an immersive digital experience for learners using simulations, interactive environments and classrooms, and other AR-based learning applications to engage students in new and unique ways. 

Additionally, using AR in education and learning allows instructors to teach abstract concepts using hands-on experiences, allowing students to interact with the content and see it differently. The technology may result in deeper learning and greater concept retention. For example, AR tools allow students to view and interact with microscopic objects or geometric forms in 3D. 

Beyond creating deeper, more immersive experiences for learners, AR has emerged as a potential tool for improving educational systems overall with additional learning opportunities for educators and their students. AR-based training tools for educators allow teachers to practice new skills or techniques in a simulated classroom setting before using the new skills with their students. Educators may also benefit from the ability of AR-based learning tools to improve collaboration and communication. 

Some additional benefits of AR in educational settings include: 

  • Expanded opportunities for learning 

  • Increased accessibility to educational experiences when cost or location are issues

  • Higher levels of learner engagement 

  • Engaging learning tools for learners who need additional support 

  • Greater learning retention rates when used to teach abstract concepts 

  • Gain hands-on experience 

  • Access to additional opportunities for learner collaboration

  • Ability to better meet the differing needs of all learners and learning styles  

3. Access to more accurate and other benefits of health care training and AR-driven surgical procedures  

The applications of AR in health care are vast and beneficial to medical students, patients, physicians, and others within the medical community. Common applications include virtual assistance visualization in surgical procedures, more accurate patient education and diagnosis, and access to immersive medical training.

The technology pairs well with the medical community's needs, allowing easier access to patient records in real-time, improving practitioners’ ability to see inside and better understand the human body, and even improving physical therapy and rehabilitation outcomes. AR achieves this goal by using real information with a digital overlay for an enhanced experience that allows users to interact with the physical world while accessing digital details. 

Increased precision

AR can help surgeons visualize complex surgeries with models that outline each step and allow for analysis of the procedure for better outcomes and increased surgical precision. Additionally, surgeons can use AR tools to help them see inside the body while performing operations, which can result in a more effective outcome for both the patient and the surgeon. Some AR tools even allow nurses to locate veins in the body before drawing blood, resulting in more accurate and less painful blood draws. 

Health care education

The education of medical students is another beneficial use of AR in health care. When medical students learn about human anatomy, AR allows students to interact with and visualize complex systems in a way that a textbook can’t. AR can better prepare medical students for their medical training in actual clinical settings as those students have been able to feel what it’s like to be in certain situations through AR care-based simulations. The result is that medical students are hopefully better equipped to work with patients in the real world when they’ve had these immersive experiences.

Improved diagnoses and treatments

More accurate patient diagnoses and treatments are vital benefits of augmented reality in health care. AR tools allow physicians to get a more complete picture of a patient’s illness, allowing the medical provider to create a more effective care plan for treatment. The technology can also help patients better communicate their symptoms and improve interactions between medical providers and patients. 

4. Aid in the product development life cycle 

AR plays an important role in business and the various stages of product development, from initial design and prototyping to manufacturing, training, marketing and sales, and ongoing maintenance and support. The use of AR through the product development life cycle enhances collaboration, visualization, and efficiency. 

AR and the design process

AR applications benefit product development professionals who use design visualization. With tools like computer-aided design (CAD), for example, designers and developers can get a 3D view of their products and superimpose those products into the real world. Designers can then interact with and better evaluate the product design. From a quality assurance process, CAD drawings and similar AR tools allow designers and engineers to check the quality of a physical prototype by superimposing the 3D version onto the physical product to check for errors. Car manufacturers, for example, often use this process as a means of quality control, allowing them to spot mistakes in the assembly process while minimizing human error.

Additionally, designers can use development apps and platforms to create 3D models and holographic images of specific products and designs. 

AR improves workflow and teamwork

AR facilitates the overflow workflow of product development as it allows for remote collaboration. When engineers have the ability to collaborate whenever, wherever, with a 3D model that everyone shares, often the result is an accelerated design and production process overall. Saving time, money, and materials, engineers and designers work efficiently and with greater accuracy when creating and testing prototypes as well as through the design to manufacturing stages.  

Other benefits of augmented reality in business

Some additional advantages of using AR in business and product development include: 

  • Real-time monitoring of specific stages in product development

  • Remote control of certain operations  

  • Ability to make more informed decisions about a product’s development and catch issues earlier with the use of real-time data

  • Enhanced collaboration and communication among engineers 

  • Cost savings on material costs associated with prototype development 

5. Enhance the customer shopping experience in retail settings 

Online shopping is only growing. Experts anticipate that it will surpass in-person shopping over the next 10 to 20 years, with projected growth of 8 percent year-to-year. [1]. These statistics underscore the potential opportunity for retailers who use AR-based tools as part of their branding and marketing approaches. It helps them engage with customers and enhance the customer shopping experience. 

Virtual try-ons and virtual sampling are two ways AR enhances the customer shopping experience. Brands offering virtual try-ons allow customers to see how clothes, eyeglasses, make-up, shoes, and more will look on them—without even touching a physical product. For companies selling these products, this enhanced virtual experience leads to greater sales and an overall revenue boost. “Projected product catalogs” are another form of AR where customers can see how certain furniture or decor will look in their home before purchasing. 

AR enhances marketing and the customer experience 

As part of a brand’s marketing strategy, AR integrated into print and video ads enriches the customer’s overall experience and interactions with the brand, affecting the customer's actions. Essentially, AR has the potential to shape the behaviors of a consumer in a way that benefits the brand by way of increased revenue, higher rates of engagement with the brand, and more. The interactive environment creates a sense of fun, novelty, and usefulness for someone trying to make a purchasing decision. 

In short, when brands use AR tools, they streamline the buying process for the consumer in a way that works well for both the consumer and the retailer. Whether shopping in-store or online, AR-based tools give the consumer additional ways to assess a product, come to a decision, and make the purchase. 

Some additional benefits of augmented reality in retail include: 

  • AR tools like virtual try-ons are accessible to almost all consumers with a smartphone 

  • Influences customer engagement 

  • Affects customer’s feelings of value by a brand

  • Higher inventory turnover for the brand 

  • Reduced sales costs for the brands 

AR vs. VR

Virtual reality (VR) has components similar to AR, except that VR is an entirely immersive, computer-generated experience. AR uses the physical world as a foundation for computer-generated content that is overlaid or mixed with the real world. VR does not use the physical world to create simulations for the viewer. To experience and interact in a VR setting, the user wears a special headset to view the simulation. In contrast, AR requires no special tools or equipment beyond a smartphone. 

Similarities do, however, exist between both AR and VR. Both alter reality for the viewer or person interacting with the simulation. Both AR and VR also use 3D computer-generated images. 

Getting Started 

If you want to get started in AR, consider enrolling in an online course. The online course Foundations of AR on Coursera is part of the Meta AR Developer Professional Certificate. The course includes a basic introductory course to AR, AR technologies and capabilities, computer vision, and the AR software development lifecycle. Enroll today and start learning more about AR. 

Article sources

  1. Adobe Experience Cloud. “Top ecommerce statistics for 2023, https://business.adobe.com/blog/basics/2023-ecommerce-statistics.” Accessed January 8, 2024. 

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