Jobs for the average worker are becoming obsolete at rate much faster than anticipated. While advances in automation are revolutionizing the way many businesses operate, the humans whose jobs once catered to these tasks are being displaced.
Many businesses ushering in this automation have been provided hazy answers as to what will happen to the people who will lose their jobs. The common refrain is that new jobs will take the place of old ones or that people will go back to school to be trained in new areas. None of these solutions, however, have been fully realized or proven at scale.
Given this uncertain future, business owners and entrepreneurs may want to explore new approaches of solving this problem to help ease the burden on displaced workers. One such approach may be the use of augmented reality (AR) as an alternative to traditional schooling and careers.
In a world where technology and knowledge are advancing so quickly that even educators are having trouble keeping pace, AR has the potential to provide a workplace dynamic that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and the results could be a net gain for everybody.
AR will help transition displaced workers.
In our lifetimes, we’ve seen the nature of work change dramatically. Our parents viewed work as a single employer with a pension and a retirement plan. As job security became less of a guarantee, our peers entered the workforce knowing they’d likely have several different careers by the time they were done. Then came the gig economy with flexible schedules and pay scales. Now, automation is displacing workforces with an imminent threat the likes of the industrial revolution.
When it comes to the future of the workplace, AR-powered opportunities may very well represent that next adaptation. Thanks to recent developments in AR, jobs that once required years of training and practice can now be completed without prior knowledge or experience, and workers can do these jobs equipped with as little as their smartphone.
One worker can have many jobs.
Augmented reality can provide workers with digital manuals, complete with 3D renderings that can be superimposed onto the objects they are working on, to follow step-by-step instructions, which can be applied to just about anything: assembling furniture, repairing cars, plumbing, electrical work, pipeline maintenance -- even the most complex of tasks.
This just-in-time knowledge will allow workers in the new economy to jump between different fields, working with clients and customers in a wide variety of industries. What’s more, someone can learn practical skills on the job while being paid to perform them. This means the investments made in time or money to learn new skills can be reduced to near zero -- giving those workers career track potential as they move up to remote support or other roles. In a similar manner, AR can even be used as a powerful tool for training workforces more efficiently -- providing opportunities for certifications and diversifying a job portfolio like never before.
Local services will go global.
We’ve seen the world of remote work grow exponentially in the last decade, but the types of work that could be completed remotely have always been fairly limited. AR augmentation will change that, allowing previously local services to compete on a global scale. A plumber in Florida, for example, could be guiding a client directly in Colorado or working with a partnered field agent in Saskatoon.
Conversely, this means that existing markets that have always been dominated by local entrepreneurs will see tremendous competition from an AR-focused workforce and an empowered DIY community.
But, existing local experts shouldn’t be too fearful: AR will provide opportunities for the veteran worker, too. Experience means the chance to educate remotely, whether guiding on-site technicians through complex situations or offering similar services to walk customers through the DIY basics.
Related: Will a Robot Take My Job?
Knowledge is no longer a limiting factor.
While this may sound like technology that is in the distant future, technologies like these are already being implemented internally by Fortune 500 companies. Caterpillar, for example, is providing AR maintenance solutions that allow skilled work to be completed by a wide range of parties, even customers themselves. This decreases downtime for users who once had to wait for a technician to arrive on site to perform the same list of steps to get them back up and running.
Training and education, and in AR’s case location, will cease to be a roadblock that prevents workers from finding employment. Likewise, educational and practical experience become far less relevant from the perspective of an employer. Rather than gambling on prospective hires, job interviews could cut to the heart of the matter in moments: Can the applicant follow the directions correctly and efficiently on the first try? This virtual task economy may provide its own resume by having a digital record and performance reviews of the tasks a worker has performed that can travel with them from job to job.
It’s unlikely that augmented reality will become the majority solution for the employment disruption that automation will cause. But, for those who are in need of income in an era where technological advances outstrip traditional training capabilities, or those looking to increase the size and capability of their workforce with minimal investment, one thing’s for sure: the potential for an AR-powered workforce is an opportunity that’s worth exploring. Both for workers and for business owners.