Technical Support in an Augmented Reality World

Written by Shannon Wenkoff on Jun 21, 2016

Technology is evolving at an incredible pace. Just take a look at this 1991 RadioShack ad in which every piece of featured technology can now be replaced with just your smartphone. 

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Twenty-five years ago it would have been difficult to believe that one day we would be wearing wrist watches capable of monitoring our health, pinpointing our exact location, and answering our phone calls. Ordering groceries directly through your refrigerator or being driven around by a fully-automated self-driving car were limited to the realm of science fiction.

It’s clear that technology has drastically changed our lives in the past few years and many once seemingly impossible devices have become a reality. It makes us wonder- what could possibly come next?

Future’s Made of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is one technology that holds great potential to fundamentally change the way we interact with each other and our environment. PC Magazine describes augmented reality as “the combination of real and computer-generated images in real time. In augmented reality, digital images or video are superimposed onto the real world”. Unlike virtual reality which is completely immersive, augmented reality headsets allow you to still see and hear the physical world around you.  Physical and virtual elements are combined to enhance each other but also remain easily distinguishable.

You may be more familiar with this technology than you think. If you’ve ever watched American football on TV you probably noticed the yellow first down line moving with the play. AR technology is used to layer the line over the video feed to appear as if it is painted directly onto the field. Augmented reality and 3D face-mapping technology has more recently been harnessed by the video and picture sharing app Snapchat. “Lenses” have become a core feature of the application that has 150 million active daily users.

But AR has the potential to become much more immersive and interactive. Experts agree as we spend more and more time in virtual or augmented spaces, there will be a “gradual migration to virtual space, resulting in important changes in economics, worldview, and culture”. Check out this video to see what a day of work could be like in the future:

Watch the Video here

Whether it scares or excites you, the merging of physical and virtual worlds is seemingly inevitable, and an undoubtedly important step forward towards the future.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a step back and look at a few of the practical applications of augmented reality in the near future, especially in terms of the technical support experience.

The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is skyrocketing, and will soon take over the technological world.  In fact, by 2017, IoT alone will surpass the PC, tablet and smartphone markets combined. According to Gartner, 6.4 billion connected “things” are already in use in 2016, and that number is expected to grow to 20.8 billion by the year 2020.

Although these devices are intended to simplify our lives, the amount of tech support requests will likely increase with the number of devices in use, especially with the inevitable interoperability issues. Today, 39% of smart-home device owners report experiencing problems with their devices, with 10% experiencing more than one problem per device.

And even though many mundane objects turned “smart” such as gaming toothbrushes, interactive dressing room mirrors, and connected socks may seem ridiculous (but also kind of great), IoT devices are also involved in performing critical tasks; tasks that can’t wait 24-48 hours for support when problems arise. Looking forward, connected devices will play an increasingly important role in our healthcaredisaster response, and home security, meaning that when things go wrong, there’s no time to waste waiting for support.

The Age of Augmented Tech Support

Over the last few years the need for on-site tech support has dramatically decreased thanks to the migration of data and applications to the cloud. 50% of enterprises will be on the hybrid cloud by next year, 78% of US small businesses will be fully cloud operational by 2020, and consumers are not far behind.

"The introduction of augmented tech support could effectively eliminate the need for on-site support."

One of the biggest problems our remote tech support agents face today is having to rely on the customer’s description of the issue. With new AR technologies such as holoportation, agents can enter the customer’s home or office (sans meat suit) to locate and fix the issue immediately.

Currently, most tech support interactions occur over the phone or through chat or email. Holoportation or similar augmented reality technologies would allow agents and customers to interact with each other in real-time and communicate as if they were in the same room. Seeing 360 degrees into a customer’s home or business would be invaluable to agents. Plus, by combining the best of human intelligence, artificial intelligence and all of the data available on the cloud, solving complex technical problems will become much more efficient and streamlined.

Despite this increased efficiency, the support experience will become more personalized in order to deliver an enhanced customer experience. Computers are capable of reading and interpreting our facial expressions and body language, and this technology is only going to get more sophisticated. This will allow technical support agents- who in the future will most likely be a combination of human and artificial intelligence- to react accordingly and design and deliver a customized service experience, resulting in high customer satisfaction.

Augmented reality is expected to transform the way in which we learn. Today, 60% of consumers self-install smart home devices, but the majority would prefer professional assistance while doing so. Imagine purchasing a new smart lighting system for your home and having a drone deliver it to your door. You want to set it up on your own, but you need a little help. In an augmented reality world, 3D step-by-step interactive instructions would appear before your eyes, guiding the installation. A version of this already exists in the consumer world. Hyundai has an augmented reality owner’s manual app that can show you how to check your oil level through an animated 3D overlay.

Watch the video here

Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality have the potential to change not only the customer experience but also the way in which we humans interact with each other and with the world around us. Prices of virtual and augmented reality devices will drop meaningfully in 2017 and 2018, and more than 24 million of the devices are expected to be sold in 2018. No longer bound by screens, our whole environment will become digitally interactive. Although a fully augmented reality world may still be a way’s off, we are already seeing its very exciting potential medical, gaming, and customer experience applications.

Here at AppHelp we spend a lot of time thinking about the future and what that means for technical support. By utilizing the latest technological advances to improve our support solutions, we are able to continually exceed the increasing expectations people have for their technology, and in turn, their support. We are excited about all the possibilities that augmented reality could bring to improve the constantly evolving support experience, by bringing brands and customers closer together and simplifying lives.

If you’re interested in seeing our current support solutions click here.