Augmented reality technology has emerged as a valuable tool in the enterprise, delivering actionable instructions, data and other information directly to workers via wearables devices. In fact, some of today’s largest manufacturers, like Boeing and GE, are using AR on smart glasses to improve productivity, quality and safety as they build aircraft and wind turbines.
Although the number of gaming industry jobs has declined over the last two years, software developer jobs are expected to grow 17 percent by 2024, faster than most other occupations. While a career in enterprise software development may not sound very sexy — especially to young job seekers — it can be just as exciting as the entertainment and consumer tech realms, especially in the field of AR technology.
Fortunately, developing AR software for industrial applications requires many of the same skills and considerations as designing for the consumer electronics industries, allowing engineers to easily make the jump from the gaming and entertainment to the enterprise. The following are three lessons that developers can learn from entertainment and gaming AR that will apply to enterprise AR.
Design for the user
Entertainment and enterprise AR design require similar considerations for the user experience (UX) — developers must create an elegant, clean, and easy-to-use interface. But, because graphics, text, and other content fall into the user’s line of sight, it is important to stay out of the user’s way. For example, in a video game, too many menu bars, character health stats, and maps of fantasy worlds can impede player vision as they fight off simulated opponents.
The same goes for enterprise technology; AR software must feature an interface that is functional, unobtrusive, and easy to understand at a glance so that users can best perform mission-critical tasks. Imagine trying to assemble a wiring harness for a jet engine with utmost precision if digital instructions are blocking your view, and you can see the need for effective interfaces.
Similarly, AR developers must strongly consider user position when designing for UX. Knowing where the user is located, what direction they are looking, and what object(s) they are viewing are key for designing enterprise AR applications, just as they are for entertainment AR. Developers must determine how the user should interact with or move through an environment, then place content in relation to that environment.
Repurpose technical skillsets
Unsurprisingly, some of the same programming languages are used across entertainment and enterprise AR, making it easier for developers to jump from one industry to the other. For example, Microsoft’s .NET programming language, C#, is used heavily in enterprise software integrations, while it is also the language of choice for scripts in the popular Unity game development platform.
Another technical skill that translates well from gaming to enterprise AR is rendering 3D graphics. As the enterprise starts to incorporate more AR content into the workplace, the need for 3D graphics programmers will increase. But, instead of rendering enemies or allies in a game, developers will create rich, 3D models of mechanical components on a manufacturing floor that workers will interact with and use to reference information overlaid on the real world.
Prioritize scalability and security
Many gamers know that when a popular video game is released, servers can crash, because everyone around the world wants to play at once. In these cases, the developer did not consider scalability when designing the game — an aspect that is even more important in the enterprise. With many enterprise AR use cases involving large manufacturers, downtime has a much greater impact than simply preventing a someone from enjoying the latest game. If a software issue holds up the assembly line, the manufacturer’s bottom line is directly affected. And if product quality is affected due to downtime, the manufacturer can face monumental rework costs.
Along with scalability, enterprise AR developers must prioritize security. Cybersecurity incidents are occurring in the gaming realm more frequently and can impact millions of users (for instance, Sony’s PlayStation Network breach exposed 77 million users’ information). However, compromising the security of communications between a game client and its back-end services could just mean that someone is cheating. Security is important in gaming AR, but it is crucial in the enterprise — a successful cybersecurity attack could expose vital customer or company data, costing the business its livelihood. Therefore, developers must equip enterprise AR software with proper security controls from the get-go.
The good news is that the basic concepts don’t change, whether you’re trying to build a simulated world or model a process in the real world. To succeed in either industry, creativity is king — just because enterprise developers aren’t creating an alien world or simulating World War II doesn’t mean that creativity isn’t driving the heart of what they do. With creativity, the right technical skills, attention to security and scalability, and an eye for return on investment, entertainment AR developers can easily move to the enterprise realm, where they’ll create software that impacts the real world. And that’s pretty cool!
Jeff Jenkins is cofounder and chief technology officer at enterprise AR software maker Upskill.
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