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How might professionals use augmented reality?

Dan Bennett  Vice President and Head of Enterprise Data Services

Dan Bennett  Vice President and Head of Enterprise Data Services

Recently, Wired magazine provided an in-depth take on Magic Leap: one of a fast-growing number of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) companies.

After reading the article and considering the investments that Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and others are making, it’s clear to me many tech companies are betting that a pair of glasses will become our primary output device for computers.

What I find interesting is the potential for augmented reality to replace the myriad of screens we all carry with us. One of Magic Leap’s demos shows a virtual TV — meaning a cell phone, laptop, tablet or TV screen wouldn’t even necessarily be needed.

So if our future has all of us wearing glasses (or further out, contact lenses?) how might we use augmented reality in the future as professionals? To answer that question, a basic understanding of how AR works is necessary.

How augmented reality works

Essentially, an augmented reality lens overlays the physical world with information. In its simplest form, AR would provide purely textual or graphical information with no connection to what a viewer is looking at in that moment in time. In this use, the lens delivers information we currently receive on our phones or watch screens, like news alerts, our athletic performance, incoming messages, or alerts. (This is largely what Google Glass and similar devices do.)

The second class of augmented reality “tags,” or labels, objects in the viewer’s field of view. This use case offers all sorts of interesting possibilities, such as recognizing a document being read and showing additional information about entities and themes in the document. Or the lens might recognize a person and tag them with relevant information — such as their name. (This would be very useful for those, like I, who are prone to remember faces but not names.) Imagine a salesman armed with a device that tags customers with relevant information, such as if they are a recently lapsed customer, or what business connections they have in common.

People wear Samsung Gear VR devices as they attend the launching ceremony of the new Samsung S7 and S7 edge smartphones during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX27XXM
People wear Samsung Gear VR devices as they attend the launching ceremony of the new Samsung S7 and S7 edge smartphones during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea

The third possibility for augmented reality I find really powerful for collaboration scenarios. This version places virtual objects in the real world. The Microsoft Hololens is the current example here (although Microsoft calls it “mixed” rather than augmented reality).

The device captures sufficient information about the physical surroundings that an illusion can be created of the virtual objects within. As you walk around the object, the system would render the correct 3D projection to maintain the illusion that the object is there. What’s particularly intriguing about this class is that multiple users can experience the same virtual object. A compelling new way to present and share company or financial results, perhaps? Or, what if a jury were able to inspect and walk around a recreation of a crime scene within the courtroom? 

The possible use cases for augmented (and virtual) reality in the professional world are endless. For Thomson Reuters, it is an opportunity for us to present our data intelligence, technology and human expertise in a whole new way.


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Visit Innovation @ ThomsonReuters.com to learn more about how we are pairing technology with human expertise and how you can get involved.

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