Add bar-code scanning to the augmented reality display -- making it quick and easy to locate the object you want to work with -- and this concept could become a viable method of delivering targeted information in an easy-to-digest format. Making technical specs on a large number of machines a scan or two away is perfect for technical support. This is still in the idea stage, though, so it is a few years away. But a geek can hope.
Tech support hero #2: Support systems that know you
You are a smart geek. So before you ever find yourself tossing paper clips in the wastebasket while on hold with a vendor, you have already attempted peer-to-peer support, checked the forums and knowledge base, and tried a few fixes. But when you pick up the phone with the vendor, you usually have to start at the beginning with its technician -- just like every noob out there. In fact, you might have to go through this routine several times on your way to Tier 3 support.
Wouldn't it be great if you were greeted instead with "Hello, Mr. IT Pro. I see you have already accessed our online diagnostics. It looks like that system needs a new hard drive. Let's confirm your mailing address and get that part to you as soon as possible."
It turns out that the technology to do this exists today and is available in product form. "Let's say I typically do a lot of self-help support on the systems I support. But today I went to the company's site several times and eventually picked up the phone. By the time I've identified myself to the automated voice system, it should know where I've been on the Web site. It should also know that I am technical enough to self-serve most of the time. So it should automatically assume that if I called at all, I need to go directly to Tier 3 support," says Anna Convery, the chief marketer at ClickFox, a company that builds tools to help companies understand their customers.
So why aren't you experiencing it? Because of slow adoption, Convery says. Large hardware manufacturers already have enormous phone and support tracking systems in place. Replacing them with something smart enough to know what you've done online and who you are -- or integrating them with that information -- is an enormous, slow task. But there's a good chance they are on it, so being able to take advantage of this fix is just a matter of time. And so is the ability for your company to implement something similar for your own users.
Tech support hero #3: Self-healing and self-aware machines
As machines become increasingly connected to the Internet, they can take on the task of solving their own problems -- or alerting their owners that they have a problem. Today, antivirus software is already doing that. But printers, networks, the fridge, and desktop computers? Not so much. Most hardware still depends on a person noticing a problem and finding a fix.
But that is likely to change. According to Brent Potts, vice president of Hewlett-Packard's Web support operation, a printer that can do a little self-care is not far away -- now that Internet-connected printers are common: "A printer could easily look for updates and BIOS drivers on its own, asking only permission to install them." PCs and many applications already can do this. "And long before something goes wrong with the hardware, a conversation could be going on between the device and a service center," Potts adds.