Think about all the myriad things you do in any given day, either in your work life or your personal life.
Nearly every interaction we have involves a journey -- either a trip through physical space or cyberspace. Shopping. Perusing the Sunday real estate open houses. Going to the doctor. Traveling for business or pleasure. Enduring the rush hour commute. Even simply killing time, waiting at your kid’s dentist appointment.
Journeys also abound at work. Pick, pack and ship. Field service fixes. Deliveries of all kinds. Each of these activities involves information exchanged while we’re on the move (or “on the wait”).
The Center for the Future of Work just published a widened aperture of the long game on augmented reality. Organizations across industries need to begin weaving immersive technologies into customer, employee, supplier and partner interactions – or risk irrelevance in the years to come.
So, what exactly is an augmented journey, and why is it important to you and your organization? Rather than being synonymous with “processes,” journeys are a new way of thinking about steps within processes, and changing those processes as a result.
The time spent getting from Point A (the start, or beginning) to Point B (the destination, or conclusion) is the setting for enhancing the interactions among people, places, things, content, scenarios and next-best-actions, using AR during linear progressions and processes. The field service worker, for example, could overlay a repair diagnostic on a piece of equipment. The home-buyer could view the finished house (plus interior) from the sidewalk of the empty lot. The traveler could navigate the airport as Sherlock. Said differently, time and physical space are the canvas, and AR content is the paint (or, as Shakespeare might have said, “All the world’s a journey, and we are merely viewers”).
These reimagined experiences, in the form of AR journeys, will propel outsized revenue uplift, nextgen levels of customer engagement and full captivation of customers’ and employees’ attention. This last outcome is what is often called “being in the zone,” a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
Don’t Lose the Plot: Six Elements of an Augmented Journey
To harness AR, businesses need to understand the critical elements of the AR journey. Every business process within a journey has a main character that moves through a “plot,” often involving time and space.26 Plots are the central “actions” that manifest any business process.
- For an airline, it might be what happens from gate-to-gate.
- For a travel company, it could be what happens from the customer’s home to his or her destination (and back).
- For an auto manufacturer, it could be the customer’s experience in the car.
- For educators, it’s the learning that students do to improve their performance.
- For a P&C insurer, it could be the claim, and the variables that impact it.
- For a trader, it might be the rationale for a trade order.
- And so on ...
Further, every business process has a defined start and stop – a beginning, middle and end. Think about how an app of convenience like TripIt basically maps time, place and forward movement – and is able to switch modalities, from transportation (plane, car, train) to lodging (hotel, Airbnb, etc.) – depending on the flow of time.
Say you’re a huge fan of George R. R. Martin and are on a five-hour plane ride from JFK to SFO. What if you could plug into your AR Game of Thrones immersive channel and dynamically interact with different characters, settings or kingdoms? When you get bored, how about switching to the Indiana Jones channel, or venturing into the world of Stranger Things, Harry Potter or the dancers of La La Land? And so on?
We believe every process that can be transposed into an augmented journey needs to focus on getting the following six elements right.
- “Flow:” Overlaying the entire AR journey is the flow. For any journey in any industry, flows are the actions required to get from “here to there.” A flow could incorporate any combination of places, tasks, enhanced situations, customer expectations and the physical spaces or environments in an augmented world for new creative experiences and business models.
- Intro: This is where the flow begins. Any great story consists of three stages – the beginning, middle and end – and the same is true for AR journeys. In the world of augmented journeys, the intro serves as the transition into the augmented experience from the non-augmented, analog “real world.” Seamlessness is key; the shift can’t be jarring or stilted. The world of video games offers something of a template or guide to best practices here: You want to create an engaging first impression that fuels curiosity and a desire to dive deeper.
- Genre: This is what sets the context for the journey. Genres differ greatly by industry and process type. To establish the genre, businesses should ask several critical questions: Is this part of a personal or work journey? What is the process, and is it geared toward education, entertainment, creativity or something else? Is the main character moving or fixed? Some genres – especially in a medical context – will require heightened emotional intelligence or involve painful situations.
- Plot: This is the central action of the flow – who, what and how it all happens (and – for commercial journeys – how to buy). As participants move through the process journey through space and time, the plot unfolds. It will include information like characters and the narrative of the story or process. To stay highly situational and responsive in real-time to unfolding or dynamic events, it will require an algorithm to accommodate changes of events, propose A/B choices or support next-best actions. It will also need to foster exchanges and interactions with other real or virtual participants in the flow. Lastly, the plot needs to support transactions, such as instant identification of people, places, objects and information (e.g., a Pokémon, “Easter Eggs”, etc.), and enable ways to instantly obtain goods or services (including, potentially, support of instantaneous retinal purchases).
- Vignette (or “skin”): This is the visual vernacular style applied to the flow – and is where the real creativity begins. If you were to create a “Pandora” or “Spotify” for journeys, the vignette is the channel you’d plug into, as it establishes the set, mood, historical time, etc. of the journey. Another consideration is the “active” or “passive” character interactions within the process flow and genre. To establish the vignette, developers can leverage metaverses of content, such as Google images, asset stores from Unity 3D, Wikis, etc., to decorate and adorn the flow and genre.
- Outro: And back out to the real world again. Like the intro, the shift away from AR can’t be jarring – it needs to gently mix augmented and “real” reality in a way that buffers the experience. It also needs to preserve continuity, which is needed for stops and re-starts, should the flow be interrupted for any reason.
Managing Journeys – not Processes – Will Be a Key Business Competency
AR can be a personal step-by-step process guide or “Sherpa,” delivering just-in-time precision information, fusing things like training videos, sales spiels and guidebooks into an intuitive, engaging, measurable and actionable real-time immersive experience. Workers can couple thorny in-process error and safety alerts, schematics, imminent threats and other crucial information with virtual coaching from senior managers, resulting in massively improved process outcomes. Benefits include increased first-pass accuracy, better customer satisfaction, lower costs and more effective collaboration.
Journeys may completely revamp processes, or just tweak them to make their features and parameters more usable. The primary benefit to workers is access to in-the-moment data so they can work heads up, not down, with real-time overlaid immersive experiences supporting their work.
The new whitepaper from the Center for the Future of Work is entitled: “Augmenting the Reality of Everything”. It can be downloaded at: https://www.cognizant.com/whitepapers/augmenting-the-reality-of-everything-codex3050.pdf