The need to isolate and minimize contact with other people has forced us to change our habits and made us aware of the subconscious ways in which we behave. During the day, without giving it any thought, we touch numerous surfaces. Under normal conditions, even if we encounter any microorganisms transmitted in this way, it isn’t lethal. However, the coronavirus has radically changed our perspective on such natural, everyday behavior and touch-free technology take on a new meaning.
As touching any surface that can otherwise be avoided is now highly undesirable, we gain a different perspective on touchless technologies. They existed before the pandemic, of course, but we only considered them to be a matter of convenience, not health and safety.
Today, we are advised to use cards rather than cash, delivery companies focus on contactless parcel collection, and contactless office systems take on a whole new meaning in the context of personal protection.
Will the future be touch-free?
Actually, rather than looking at the future, we might question how much of our present reality has already moved in that direction.
- Every day, we use voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant; they help us navigate, make phone calls, and search the internet. Instead of writing, many of us dictate our messages—and this is just the beginning.
- In smart home or office systems, you can use voice control for heating, lighting or roller blind systems, and similar options are also increasingly used in cars.
- We use cashless more often than ever. Contactless payments using a card or mobile phone are entirely touch-free unless it is a higher total and we need to enter a PIN.
- Remote opening of parcel locker boxes has been possible with the use of the application for some time now. Lockers open as the person get close enough.
A new era for AR and VR technologies
Today, AR and VR technologies are opening up completely new opportunities for companies – this is because they can show real objects, products, and spaces in a contact-free manner.
We had the opportunity to work on such a project for SECO / WARWICK during the Thermoprocess 2019 trade fair, where we presented an industrial Super IQ furnace in AR technology.
Instead of transporting the huge industrial SECO / WARWICK machine to the fair, the company decided to show it in augmented reality. Participants scanned a special marker with their own mobile phones and could then see the device on their screen. This solution allowed the company to minimize the costs of transporting the device and at the same time reduce the negative environmental impact.
AR also has enormous potential as an instructional tool. In some industries, it is slowly replacing traditional paper operating instructions. The best examples are giants such as Mercedes or IKEA: the first allows new owners to get to know the car through an AR application, the second uses the technology as an alternative to printed instructions.
This is only a taste. The potential of these technologies is even greater and retailers have very high hopes for AR. For example, scanning product markers and viewing them in 3D form is already allowing fashion brands to offer virtual fitting rooms where the buyer can ‘try on’ the clothing without having the physical product.
Help without a touch
In the time of the coronavirus pandemic, when human contact has become a danger, touch-free technology has been rapidly adopted in dozens of ways to replace the actions that people have always performed to date through contact.
To fight the disease more effectively, the Chinese government used so-called infrared thermometers that measure body temperature at a distance. Monitoring services or citizens complying with quarantine supported drones, which quickly allowed the identification of people not wearing masks.
In Europe, a team of scientists and technologists created Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing tool that, with the use of Bluetooth technology, enables tracing and stops the chains that spread SARS-CoV-2.
These emergency solutions that help us in today’s crisis may soon become the norm along with other topics like drones and self-driving vehicles delivering supplies. All crises throughout history have been a catalyst for the creation and adoption of new technologies, and this will be no different.
Touch-free technology in offices
Non-contact technologies also fit perfectly into the smart office trend. Before the coronavirus pandemic, contactless solutions were primarily dedicated to process improvement.
That’s how AR technology was used in Bookado. When creating the office room booking application, we wanted to give users the opportunity to quickly find an available meeting room by scanning a special marker via a person’s own smartphone.
Our first need was greater efficiency of this process. Today we see it in a completely new light: by eliminating tablets and other touch screens, we not only significantly speed up the receipt of information about the availability of the room, we also allow workers to maintain greater hygiene and thus safety.
The contactless future is already upon us, and the coronavirus crisis has sped up the adoption of touch-free technologies. Today’s difficult situation is pushing us to get creative about the ways we protect our health today and will lead to a safer and more efficient tomorrow.