When Pokémon Go took the world by storm in 2016—reaching ten million downloads in a week[i] and doubling Nintendo’s share price[ii]—it was a declaration to the world: augmented reality (AR) is finally here. When, a year later, Apple released what its Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing called the “first smartphone designed for augmented reality”[iii] the AR race was truly on.

AR refers to the overlaying of virtual graphics onto the real world using a headset, phone, or other digital device. Although your first impressions of AR may be gimmicky (think Snapchat’s ubiquitous filters), it has enormous real world potential—as was demonstrated by Oracle at their Modern Customer Experience conference. Here, a technician diagnosed and repaired a broken slot machine[iv] by following virtual prompts overlaid onto the physical world. The technician was left free to use his hands and did not have to waste time leafing through manuals. The evolution of AR has far reaching implications for data center operations and could herald the beginning of a revolution.

Figure 1: Technician’s View

Simplified maintenance is the most obvious potential data center AR application. Picture the following scenario: Your network operations center receives an alert that a server cannot be reached. You dispatch a technician wearing a head-mounted display (picture a more mature version of Google Glass) to look into the issue. She is guided to the correct rack by lines hovering in the air (see Figure 1). When she reaches the rack, the server in question begins flashing red. She troubleshoots the issueguided by simple, visual cues answered by a nod or verbal response. Soon the problem has been found: a cable is unplugged. The correct port flashes red and the cable is highlighted. She repairs the connection and returns to her office. The entire process takes less than five minutes and requires no paper. A record of her actions (for example a video recorded by the head-mounted display) is saved for future analysis.

Figure 2: Real-Time Asset Information

Maintenance is just one possible use case for AR in datacenters. One can also imagine viewing real-time asset information popups while walking through a datacenter (see Figure 2). Reserved/forecasted assets could be shown in their proper locations before they are even installed in the data center. Or, wires could be highlighted to simplify the tracking of physical connections between racks, rows, or even rooms. The possible applications of AR are limited only by our imaginations.

[i] Molina, Brett (July 20, 2016). "’Pokémon Go’ fastest mobile game to 10M downloads". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 20, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.

[ii] Yahoo Finance – Business Finance, Stock Market, Quotes, News. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://finance.yahoo.com/,

[iii] Schiller, P. (2017, September 12). Augmented Reality. Speech presented at Apple Special Event in California, Cupertino. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMBvJ4MTXzc

[iv] Wartgow, J., Bowcott, J., Brydon, A., & Freeman, D. (2017, April 26). Next Generation of Customer Service. Speech presented at Modern Customer Experience in Nevada, Las Vegas. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from http://www.zdnet.com/article/augmented-reality-field-service-proof-points-in-the-enterprise/