Take a look at the augmented reality demonstration below. As you watch it, think not of sand and water, but of cars moving through the drive-through lanes at your local McDonald's. This essentially is what Rainer Dronzek, director of operations research at the fast-food icon, asked attendees to do at IE's Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit in Chicago last week.
McDonald's is studying how to use augmented reality as a teaching tool for restaurant owners and operators. "The idea is to provide an immersive experience for somebody thinking about making a change to the restaurant," Dronzek said during his presentation.
Any video gamers out there are probably quite familiar with augmented reality. Others have probably stumbled across it in one app or another in their Web travels. Nonetheless, I dug out this description from a good Educause piece on what you need to know about augmented reality.
The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulation of reality. Instead, it takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person's understanding of the subject. For example, by superimposing imaging data from an MRI onto a patient's body, augmented reality can help a surgeon pinpoint a tumor that is to be removed. In this case, the technology used might include headgear worn by the surgeon combined with a computer interface that maps data to the person lying on the operating table. In other cases, augmented reality might add audio commentary, location data, historical context, or other forms of content that can make a user's experience of a thing or a place more meaningful.
Augmented reality plays into McDonald's vision of moving beyond static models for delivering insight for decision making, according to Dronzek, who works at the McDonald's Innovation Center. A primary focus at the center, which he called a "factory for inspiration and profound knowledge," is to find ways of improving the business. That's a given, right? So is the fact that analytics would play a role. At the center, his team conducts lab testing and video analysis, and it builds plenty of models.
With a projector and an imaging system on top of an augmented reality app, it's looking at how it might show owners and operators how traffic flow would improve by, for example, replacing a single drive-through window with side-by-side windows. Before their very eyes, owners and operators would be able to see how the cars would move quicker, which means they would serve more customers and increase their revenue.
This type of simulation would particularly help operations research deliver a message to younger folks, "who are used to communicating differently." In this case, it would be delivering a message about unmet demand. Static models used to predict how a change would impact performance aren't always good at conveying the information in a way that owners and operators can absorb. "Many are unable to grasp how much money they're losing if they're not optimizing their staffing and changing other ways they run a restaurant."
As operations research turns to sophisticated tools like augmented reality, it's always thinking about the end recipient. Creating tailored models and personalized tools hastens adoption, Dronzek said. The ultimate aim is to "instill a diagnostic mindset."
Do you have a favorite augmented reality example? Share below.