activities—which is the kind of
work inherent in many unfilled
positions. And, unlike traditional training where learning often stops once a class or
video ends, a worker who uses
AR has the potential to learn
more every day. For example,
if a machine part malfunctions,
AR can help a worker to make
the necessary repair. Because
AR training is interactive, it
can also be more engaging.
Between 2015 and 2025,
almost 3. 5 million manufacturing jobs will become available—and by 2025, 2 million
jobs will be unfilled, according to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte.
More than increasing productivity, bridging the skills gap is “the bigger market opportunity
that is in front of the entire [AR] industry,” Upskill’s Kim says.
Agco follows what the company refers to as a 3x3 cross-train-ing model, meaning that each employee knows how to perform
three jobs, and each position has at least three people who can
do it. Before using AR for training, “we were taking between
50-90 days to train a new hire in one operation. Now it’s 30-45
days for multiple operations,” says Bradley Quinn, Agco’s manager of training and development. In addition to cutting training time almost in half, he says, the quality of new hires’ work
Barriers to Adoption
Before AR can be used on a wider scale, though, some potential
challenges need to be addressed.
• Cost. Right now, AR is mostly used by large to medium-sized
businesses that can afford the investment of between $1,000 and
$3,000 per employee for commercial use and have needs where
it can make an impact, Liao says. But that could change. A 2016
Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research study found that in
the last 20 years, hardware devices like laptops and smartphones
have dropped in price by 5 percent to 10 percent a year on average. If AR follows this trend, it could become a justifiable technology for many workplaces.
• Usability. Wearable AR should be wireless and comfortable
to allow for easy and safe movement, and all forms of the tech-
nology need a sufficiently bright display—especially for outdoor
work. AR programs use a lot of power, so the battery must be
• Motion sickness/headaches. While this is a bigger problem for VR, AR users can experience nausea, dizziness and other
• Employee reluctance. Some employees may be skeptical of
AR—or fearful that use of it could lead to their jobs being eliminated. That’s why HR should make sure workers “understand
the tangible benefits that [AR] will bring to both the employees
themselves and the company as a whole,” Elkin says.
AR for All?
Just because information can be put into an AR format doesn’t
mean that it should be. “If you don’t have a problem to solve,”
Gulick says, “you’re not going to find value in the tool [of AR].”
Yet, for Agco, AR is invaluable for training—and is even a money-saver. Each pair of smartglasses costs the company $1,500, and
none have broken so far. The tablets workers previously used cost
$3,000, and one broke about every 10 days.
The real-world applications of this technology are just
being discovered and, as the price declines, more leaders will
be curious about what it can do for their workforces. Twenty
years from now, AR may be seamlessly integrated into all jobs
and across industries, or it might just
make sense for specific, highly technical uses. It’s the beginning for this
sci-fi-like tech—and while its position
in the workplace of the future is still
unknown, its potential is very real.
Natalie Kroc is a staff writer at SHRM.
‘What’s different now is it’s no longer just
a lot of AR evangelists. There’s real market
presence by the most innovative companies
in the world: Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Google.’
—Jay Kim, chief strategy officer at Upskill
Upskill’s Skylight augmented reality
software is used across a wide variety
of industrial applications to increase
efficiencies, reduce errors and improve