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Opinion: Is AR leading us to Augmented Redundancy?

AR could be pushing us towards a dumber state of being

If you guys have checked out some of the major conferences that happened this year then you’d have noticed that everyone’s gung-ho about AR (Augmented Reality). It’s no longer the over-hyped futuristic technology but we’ve now started seeing more pragmatic use cases. Sure Google canned Project Tango, but they did so because ARCore ended up being a superset and that too a more powerful one. Even Apple’s pushing for AR with more features shipped in ARKit 2. In fact, it was one of the highlights worth mentioning from their developer conference earlier last month. Even at enterprise conferences such as Liveworx, there was a lot more around AR based applications than anything else. What stood out at all these conferences was the “shared experience” or “multi-user experience” aspect that all of these AR frameworks showcased. That’s great! Well, it is great from a technology standpoint but it’s going to be a pain for the job market.

One of the use cases where shared AR shows the most promise is to educate fresh graduates and reduce their training time. The written medium has been the staple of classrooms since time immemorial, then we saw audio-visual content making its way into the very same classrooms in the 20th century and now AR is poised to be the next big education accelerator. Yes, AR will definitely help you understand concepts faster since it’s nearly as good as experiencing them physically. Want to know what happens when you add 1 Molar Sulphuric Acid to 1 Molar Hydrochloric Acid? Well, why don’t you try it out in an AR environment and watch the violent reaction from a safe perspective instead of the real one where you stand the risk of having those strong acids sputtering onto your person and giving you third-degree chemical burns. Or perhaps, you want to know how a nuclear power plant will react if you pull out the coolant rods. You can experience Chernobyl 2.0 without actually causing Chernobyl 2.0. It’s certainly a great tool for education!


AR and assistive tech in stores is already poised to take away the jobs of in-store employees

Even large-scale companies see it that way. You can now hire fresh graduates out of college, have them go through a short training period and ship them off into the field with an AR headset and a handy tablet. Got a motor down in section 5? Send the rookie in right away and beam the repair guidelines right into his visor. Rookie gets to work and has the motor up and running in under an hour. A couple of years down the line and you start seeing a lot younger workforce around you. All going about their daily duties sporting their fancy visors and tablets. Then you get called in by HR for a meeting wherein you’re told that your 15-years of experience are no longer needed because the rookies can do your job without all that experience thanks to the new AR visors. That’s where we’re headed.

It doesn’t matter how passionately a CEO or CTO gives a speech on how AR in the industry is going to create more jobs, that’s never going to be a good thing for you. Just like AI, these new jobs are going to be created in the AI market and in our case, in the AR market. Your ordinary factory floor is simply going to replace you with not only a robot who’s less articulate but way smarter, but they’re also going to do away with the more experienced folks in favour of rookies who are heavily dependent on their AR HMDs. At the end of the day, a rookie assisted by tech is way cheaper than someone with 15-years of experience and for a business that’s money saved. A paper submitted to the University of Chicago concludes that ‘the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces the available cognitive capacity’ ergo you become stupider if your smartphone is around you. Your smartphone is literally your brain’s kryptonite. I reckon that AR is going to do the same to our skilled workforce. It’s going to make the rookies so dependent on receiving constant instructions that they’ll forever remain in the state of rookie-ness. Over the course of a couple of decades, humanity will be rendered a bit stupider the same way every assistive tech has done thus far.


Mithun Mohandas

While not dishing out lethal doses of sarcasm, this curious creature can often be found tinkering with tech, playing vidya' games or exploring the darkest corners of the Internets. #PCMasterRace