Exploring the impact and effects of Augmented Reality on SROI (Social return on investment)

The research challenge

The aim of the research activity is to investigate the potential of Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to improve employment opportunities for people who are disadvantaged within the labour market (Social Return On Investment – SROI)

The problem

The Dutch government is facing tremendous cost for improving employment opportunities for people who are disadvantaged within the labour market [1]. The social system today does not show the required effects. On the other hand companies are dealing with a shortage of technical skilled people due to aging and the low number of graduates with a technical degree. Therefore companies are forced to find alternatives in order to fill-up the resource-gap and skill-gap.

The opportunity

Augmented reality technology is a very disruptive technology. The technology makes it possible to place information in the right context that everybody is able to understand. Even unskilled and unexperienced people are able to complete operational tasks without any errors. Several companies in different industrial sectors introduced the Augmented Reality to measure its potential on a group of people not trained. In a pilot study Boeing asked a random group of people to participate in a test in which they were asked to perform a number of tasks. This group was not informed or instructed in advance and did not have any background in relation to the tasks they had to perform. The tasks contained 54 steps of an assemble proces preparing an airplane wing. While performing the tasks they were supported by augmented reality instructions. The effect was that the group were not only faster, but also performed the tasks with only 1 error in 1st aRempt. In 2nd aRempt they managed to complete the tasks without any errors at all [2].

AR technologies will enable a new kind of worker. AR combines education and training with operational guidelines and instructions. AR supplements a view of the real world added with 3D visuals and animated instructions added with computer generated sensory inputs in the form of graphics, video, sound and location data. Moreover, technological developments such as AR generate the need for thorough investigation of human factors and design. Implementation and operation of any new systems will generate a host of new human-related problems and successes that will require fundamental and applied understanding.

The research will be applied to specific working environments at the partner companies: The study will evaluate the opportunity of introducing a new way of learning and working according to methodology and AR technology.

Description of the main part of the project

The main activities during the project will be:

  1. investigating the skillset and resource profile of the worker that partner companies are searching for. Select a numbers of tasks and scenario’s the workers are performing.
  2. gathering information and get insight in the proces, knowledge and experiences of the expert in relation to the tasks and scenario’s, considering human factors, working environment, health & safety persuasions.
  3. analyzing the performance of workers on how they work today in terms of pitfalls, time and errors using methodology. Calculate the cost of the errors that occurred.
  4. digitalize proces knowledge and experiences in relation to the tasks by creating 3d and animated content into guidelines and step by step instructions for augmented reality devices.
  5. executing the tasks by people with a disadvantage within de labour market with support of the augmented reality application. Analyse their performance completing the tasks in terms of time, quality errors, user experience, learning curves according to methodology.
  6. the impacts of the introduction technologies will be measured and evaluated through different parameters (improvement in time and quality performance, reduction of errors, relation between experience and provided information, comparison performance with not Augmented Reality-assisted workers ) and with the collection of additional information through surveys with the personnel to improve the applicability.
  7. analyze to what extend the Boeing case be reproduced for the selected scenario’s at the partner companies and how it can impact employment opportunities for people with a disadvantage within de labour market. Highlighting strength, weakness, impact and effects of the learning and working according to methodology using AR technology. Comparing the cost of the development of applications vs improving employment opportunities of target group, work performance and reducing cost.
  8. life span of the project will be PhD (4 years) or PDEng (2 years)
  9. the research will give client companies insight in what AR technology combined with TSC methodology can bring in relation to SROI – the potential of AR to fill-up the resource-gap and skill-gap – AR can up-skill and transfer process knowledge – the impact of AR technology on current roles, profiles and positions – the effects of AR technology on current service- and business models – to what extend AR improves learning curves – possibilities to reduce cost and improve quality – implementation of AR technology and tooling within the organization.


Recommended foreknowledge:

  • HRM, Asset-management, Computer Sciences, Behavioral Science (or interests)


  • Alberto Martinetti (UT), Averell van den Bos (

Possible Client Company and financial support:

  • NS-NedTrain, Tatasteel, RWE, and Shell (for the test on site of the technologies)


  • Averell van den Bos (

Language requirement:

  • Dutch & English-speaking students


[1] UWV jaarverslag 2016


Confidential | research proposal

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