Given the current talent shortage in many digital skill areas, many companies are – rightly – concerned about their ability to acquire the specific skills needed to make their augmented reality initiatives a success.
Our new research from the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work highlights that 80% of our senior executive respondents – and 89% who identify as experts in fully-fledged AR initiatives – put a premium on the need for UX and UI skills to ensure successful outcomes.
The fact that UX and UI skills top the list shouldn’t really be all that surprising, given the highly interactive nature of AR as a medium (where answering questions like “How’s it look?” and “What’s it do?” are critical).
But demand for UX/UI, especially people who are experienced in this field, is already high, even without the influx of AR initiatives. The same is true for other top AR skills, such as natural language processing and other forms of AI, both cited by over half of respondents.
Expert respondents in our study placed greater emphasis across the board on the need for all skills as a determinant of success but particularly accentuated the importance of partnering skills. When it comes to AR, those who know what “good” looks like are clear: you can’t always do it alone, and specialist and generalist partners alike will usually be needed.
Finding Inspiration for the AR Skills You’ll Need
So where will business turn for AR inspiration – and execution? It might come as a surprise to see both gaming and the media and entertainment industry (e.g., Disney/Lucasfilms’ ILMxLab and Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop) at the top of the list. Yet a big avenue for the AR-fueled experience economy might best be described as being “the pursuit of happiness.” New, big-budget initiatives such as “Vader Immortal” and “Project Porg” from ILMxLab are banking that the power of presence in storytelling will give way to “story living.”
Additionally, media heir James Murdoch just pumped millions into Utah’s Void LLC, which operates spaces for immersive entertainment experiences (like Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire) in a number of cities worldwide. (Imagine the opportunities to transform dying retail malls into safe AR immersion centers – experience economy arise!)
AR: Not just “a game thing” (or is it?)
For AR adoption to grow, the massive compute power of gaming engines that already undergird the wildly successful online video games market will be a critical ingredient. Consider this observation from Unity’s Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello: “We call it a game engine, but really it’s an animation/interactive/ lighting/physics/presence engine. And it happens to also be what Audi needs. And it happens to be what the guys at the Large Hadron Collider also need.”
Our respondents agree: 65% said that gaming engines (like Unity or Epic’s Unreal engine) will have the biggest impact.
As things like the AR cloud become important building blocks, gaming engines offer an unlikely source of inspiration for building out AR journeys. These platforms promise to transpose powerful ingredients from the online gaming world to AR, bringing standardization and huge amounts of back-end computing power needed to drive beautifully rendered, immersive 3-D content.
For example, visualization specialist Theia Interactive used Unreal Engine to craft an AR demo for Harley Davidson where people can toggle between an old classic rusty “barn find” and a completely overhauled specimen of the same motorcycle overlaid for the user in real reality.
Respondents were less impressed by the role of process platform/workflow specialists in the future of AR. However, companies like Upskill, which delivers just-in-time, step-by-step assembly instructions in manufacturing, and Augmedix, which provides automated note-taking in the medical profession, arguably have some of the best case studies on the AR market today. While this may seemingly contradict the undeniable importance of today’s business processes becoming tomorrow’s AR journeys, it may also simply reflect the limited “point solution” nature of this category of provider.
New Skills, Next Steps
The good news is that many of the essential skills may already exist inside many organizations, including people with backgrounds in computer-aided design (CAD) or 3-D modeling. A wide diversity of backgrounds in skills like animation, marketing design and even psychology will not only “make AR work” but will also be essential to helping new jobs of the future, such as AR journey builders, reach their full potential.