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5 Businesses Boosted by iPad 2’s New Camera

The iPad 2 isn’t simply a larger, more awkward camera. It’s a powerful tool that’s going to revolutionize the way some industries operate.

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When Apple demonstrated the front- and rear-facing cameras on the new iPad 2 at its launch event Wednesday, it highlighted images of domestic bliss–grandparents singing “Happy Birthday” as grandchildren many miles away blew out candles, friends catching up via video chat. But despite naysaying about the potential physical awkwardness of using the iPad as a photography device, Fast Company thinks that the cameras may nevertheless have a profound effect on how many businesses operate.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that users will hack the bejeesus out of the device. When the iPad first launched, many dismissed it as nothing more than a glorified substitute for a DVD player on long flights. But less than 12 months later, some of the device’s most ardent adopters are not consumers but businesses. Hospitals are using them to help explain diagnoses to patients. Teachers are using them in the classroom. Even race car teams are using them to hand over training performance feedback to drivers while they’re still in the cockpit.

And so we anticipate that businesses will figure out similarly innovative ways to take advantage of the iPad 2’s cameras. Here are a few of the innovations we expect to see in the coming months:

Interior design: One of the biggest challenges for designers is to help their customers imagine what their living room or kitchen might look like with a new paint job or different appliances. Sure, there’s CAD software today that designers can use to create mockups. But how much easier will it be when a designer, on their first consultation with a client, can simply snap a photo of the room in question and then turn the device over and start mix-and-matching colors, fabrics, and different pieces of furniture.

Film location scouting: Scouts don’t just look for cool-looking places. They have to imagine how a particular scene will work in a particular venue. With the iPad’s camera, they can snap a picture of a particular location and then similarly flip it over and, with a director standing next to them or not, use a piece of software (likely yet to be created) to start blocking the scene.

Gyms: If they’re not doing so already, gyms will start using iPads for new member signups. Instead of having a member write their information on a signup sheet or, worse, dictating it to a sales rep, gyms will simply ask them to fill out the form on the iPad. And then they’ll use the device’s camera to take a picture of the member, to store with their record.

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Casinos: Some casino pit bosses already use iPads to manage gaming floors, calling up or recording information about preferred customers, for example, to ensure they get the drinks and other perks they prefer. But it’s easy to imagine how they might now use them for security. If a particular customer seemed sketchy, for example, they could take a picture of the person discretely—discretely since it’s easy to carry the device as if you were simply carrying a notepad—and then send the photo to the back office for vetting.

Archaeology: Those diggers of dirt will use the camera to take pictures of sites or items discovered and then use the iPad to record notes on their findings.

In introducing the iPad 2, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it’s a “post-PC” world. And indeed it is. Tablets aren’t simply replacements for PCs, and their cameras aren’t simply replacements for traditional photography devices. Instead, they’re new beasts altogether. They won’t simply allow us to do things we’ve done in the past. They’ll allow us to do things we’ve only imagined being able to do. And the smartest businesses will figure out how to leverage those capabilities to work smarter, faster, and more effectively.

[Image: Flicker user robzand]

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Apple

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E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.

About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.

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