Over recent years, the topic of augmented reality has really come to the fore. While once just a pipedream, the technology is developing and becoming more functional and user friendly thanks to increasing computer power. As such, questions of whether or not it is yet fit for use in industry are being asked more frequently.

So what is augmented reality? In layman’s terms, augmented reality is a live view of a real-world environment in which its elements are digitally enhanced with computer generated graphics and sensory input, such as video, graphics or sound.

In a warehouse setting, as this video shows, warehouse operatives would be equipped with a wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display, such as Google Glass, on which relevant information is relayed in real time over the actual scene of the warehouse. Such information would likely include picking locations, picking instructions and stock levels. In addition, the wearer would interact with the device with voice commands to be completely hands-free and integrated scanning facilities would capture data during routine operations such as picking and dropping pallets.

In theory, the potential benefits of using augmented reality as part of a warehouse management system may be promising. Whether or not the technology is ready for use in practice is a different question, and one yet to be suitably answered. At present there are a number of factors that are restricting its use on a wide-scale.

One of the main reasons why it is yet to be widely used by warehouses is its high cost, which makes it an unaffordable option for businesses operating in such a highly competitive, bottom line focused sector. More to the point, when there are alternative options on the market that deliver a similar service without the high price tag it doesn’t make business sense to invest in augmented reality.

The Vero suite of solutions, for example, delivers the same information to users as augmented reality systems, but at significantly lower cost. Both technologies enable warehouse operators to operate more efficiently and accurately to improve warehouse productivity, performance and profitability. In fact, the only real difference in features is that Vero displays information on a screen, whereas augmented reality systems present information on a head-mounted display.

Although augmented reality technology is likely to become more cost-effective in the future, at this moment in time the cost is simply too high to guarantee a return on investment for many warehouses. With existing proven systems on the market that already enable improved accuracy and efficiency, it may be some time before augmented reality becomes a common feature in warehouses.