Everyone is running into each other. People are actually hurting themselves. And the Internet is exploding. Yep, Pokémon Go is giving Augmented Reality (AR) its big moment.
This is how disruptions in technology often happen: a technology is developed to serve a niche market, until it hits an inflection point and achieves mass appeal. It’s so common there’s an entire hype cycle built to document it. And then it gets old (I know I’m tired of hearing about the “Uber of X” phenomena).
We saw it with platforms like Twitter, which had slowly gained steam since 2006 but reached a breakout cultural moment in 2009 after a plane crashed in the Hudson River and its users broke the news. Virtual Reality, which has been around in some form since the 1960s, had its watershed moment when Google Cardboard partnered with The New York Times. And now, Pokémon Go has shined a spotlight on the potential of AR—a technology that has also been around in some form since the ‘60s, depending on who you ask, but is only now getting its day in the sun.
What does this mean for companies with complex communication challenges? Here are some things clients often ask us about new technologies and their potential for businesses:
How do we stay ahead of the curve on new technologies before they reach mass market?
1. Dedicate a portion of one person’s role to innovation. Pick the most inquisitive person in your organization; staying ahead is more about natural curiosity than tech ability. Have them sign up for newsletters from FastCo, PSFK, and Crain’s to keep in touch with what trends are bubbling under the surface.
2. Pick 1-2 key business issues and customer issues, and focus efforts on learning about how new technologies can solve those problems.
3. If possible, hire a Chief Innovation Officer whose job it is to embed curiosity in an institutionalized way across the organization.
How does a business evaluate the right use of these technologies?
1. Make sure it makes sense in the first place. The kneejerk reaction can be to find a reason to use a new technology. 10 years ago, many clients called us asking for help in setting up a Facebook campaign. But in reality, Facebook wasn’t the right channel to reach their audiences. It’s not about being first or even necessarily about being in the game—it’s about getting it right for your customers.
2. Figure out the ROI for your business. Is the new technology a more compelling and efficient way to serve a business or customer need than your current options? Consider ROI over time as well; sometimes a short-term investment will yield long-term value that makes it worth taking a hit up front.
3. Create a culture that values fast failure. You can do the analysis and still realize when you implement that maybe it wasn’t the right way to go, but sometimes the learning is more valuable to the organization than the negative impact to the business. Pick discrete pilot projects to try out new technologies to limit the exposure to the whole business, and roll out successes more broadly once you have the learning.
What is the potential for complex industries?
1. Help employees work more efficiently. For example, Lockheed Martin is using AR tohelp train engineers and increase accuracy and efficiency of the work when they build fighter jets.
2. Help clients visualize the finished product. Real estate companies, for example, can help potential tenants see the potential in raw and unfinished spaces.
3. Make complex concepts compelling. Infosys used AR to show the impact of a plane landing on the landing gear construction and various material layers of the wheel—turning an otherwise mundane and dry concept into a highly engaging and social moment.
4. Help donors envision the impact of their money. In higher education, there’s an opportunity to help affluent benefactors see their names on new buildings, and give mass affluent donors the chance to “brand” areas of campus in a virtual world for big events like reunions.
We’re particularly excited about Google Tango, which is making AR more accessible for businesses by removing the need to have markers in physical spaces. We can’t wait to use this for one of our marquee clients in the next year.
If you are wondering how to adapt to technological disruptions or wondering how to use a technology to help you achieve your business goals, please reach out.