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With the market expected to exponentially grow to $140 billion by the end of 2024, Jennifer Esposito discusses what business leaders need to know about augmented reality.

Jennifer is the VP and Managing Director at Magic Leap, who are pioneering a wearable augmented reality platform to amplify enterprise productivity.

How is AR used in the world today?

The technology is still relatively new, and we still run into people that are confused by what it means. Augmented reality is different from virtual reality, because we are enhancing the real world with digital content. It’s digital content that is spatially aware of the physical surroundings.

What are the biggest challenges in developing products in a new space?

It’s not necessarily about whether it’s possible to do something, but it’s about understanding what the use cases are, and what the capabilities are for the technology to actually help people.

We have to often tell people that the thing they think sounds crazy, or fantastic, is actually possible today – with new technology you have to market the front end and educate people, which is why prototyping and demoing is important because you can show people the real world application.

What does the future of augmented reality look like? 

It’s a gradual change, where it is very much integrated into our day-to-day lives, and how we experience data and information. It’s a progression of becoming more ubiquitous in the functions of daily life, but I think the first place where the use will begin is in the workplace.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to build the broader ecosystem so that the functionality of applications is available for the different extremes of the users that are out there.

What are the biggest threats within the AR space?

It’s thinking too small and not having enough imagination about the use cases. People always think about AR in relation to training or education – not that those aren’t important – but there is so much more we can do, and I think we’re taking too tentative a step.

The other thing is changing peoples’ gut reaction that the headset is too big, too heavy or too ugly to wear – that’s not actually true when you look at the usability studies. When they’ve put the technology on a surgeon, for example, they very quickly change their workflow – not because it’s cool but because it’s actually adding value.

How could AR positively impact an organisation’s ability to attract important talent?

AR will enhance the virtual work experience, which make it much easier to collaborate in 3D, so the challenges that we are experiencing today with remote working will improve with the ability to share digital content. There will be more sense of physical space, and it will feel less like there is a flat barrier that is preventing you from sharing the space in this way.

If you’re able to use a technology like augmented reality to bring the right expert to the right place regardless of the physical location, that has a really important advantage.

What have been your biggest leadership learns you’ve taken from leading a new industry like AR, compared to the more established sectors?

In any highly technical sector you have to educate people on these complicated, new technologies.  There is a lot of inherent skepticism with AR because of a lot of early conversation around it was focused on the consumer world, so when you are discussing it in a healthcare context it’s a lot more complex.

What’s the best book, podcast or video you would recommend that you have taken long lasting learns from?

There’s not one in particular, but I have a series of Google alerts with keywords because that will provide unique perspectives on different topics, coming out of channels and avenues you might not necessarily expect.