Augmented reality – from buzzword to production
In recent years, Augmented Reality (AR) has progressed from being the stuff of fiction, to an emerging technology, to a part of daily life found in many contexts. What was initially viewed by many as something of a gimmick is now clearly here to stay; like WhatsApp or Waze, it’s getting hard to imagine life without it.
Before we go on, let’s clear up a common confusion. Augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality, and here’s how it’s different: virtual reality places you in a new, imaginary environment, that completely replaces the real world; augmented reality creates an improved version of the physical world, adding virtual elements, such as sound or illustrations, that are simultaneously overlaid on top of the image of the actual environment, in real time. In this way, the augmented experience can in fact be even more interactive than actual reality.
Now that we’ve got that straight, here are just a few examples of applications in which AR technology is changing the world.
Remote servicing and maintenance
Especially useful in these times of social distancing and reduced travel, Vuforia Chalk enables experts to provide remote, real-time assistance for servicing and repairs of equipment. In the case of complex or unfamiliar challenges, multiple technicians can collaborate, communicating in real time through the AR tool, via their mobile or desktop. Working together without being together, they can speak to each other and draw digital annotations on their screens that accurately ‘stick’ to the objects they refer to, providing step-by-step, real-time guidance throughout the process. By joining forces in this way, less time is spent resolving issues, increasing operational productivity and efficiency, and all without incurring the time and expense of expert travel or repeat technician visits. Applications for this solution range from routine maintenance procedures, to federal aerospace and defense.
On-site diagnostics and problem solving
When a system needs servicing or repairing, AR can give the technician an inside view of what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’. The Vuforia Online Augmented Reality platform is a full AR ‘digital twin’ solution combining data control via an IoT solution called ThingWorx and animation by Vuforia can create a visual of what’s happening inside the pipes. Imagine, for example, a boiler room, full of pumps and pipes. The user wears AR goggles (such as Microsoft Hololens II) as they review the scene before them. Taking data from a sensor or PLC connected to the system’s control panel, an overlay is created on top of the image shown through the goggles, illustrating key aspects such as the direction of liquid flow, temperature and more. These annotations appear on the AR image and, with both hands free, the technician can use this insight to diagnose the problem, and do what is necessary to fix it.
Knowledge transfer and training
There’s nothing like hands-on training to ensure a really effective learning experience. Vuforia Expert Capture combines highly-specialized, expert guidance with ultimate flexibility. Wearing AR goggles or using a tablet, the user follows instructions pre-recorded by a SME (Subject Matter Expert) as they progress through the step-by-step training exercise. The benefits of this approach are wide ranging. In terms of the trainer, it reduces costs and saves time, as they only have to run through the program once – once it’s in the system it can be accessed and followed by unlimited numbers of trainees. For training participants, it speeds up the learning curve and reduces on-the-job training time for new employees from months to days. The hands-on methodology also enhances information retention, leading to improved work quality, increased productivity and reduced injuries. For employees on the shop floor, it is at least 33% faster than using a paper standard operating procedure.
Marketing & Sales
When buying a new car these days, manufacturers often let customers choose their preferred features – the color of the paintwork, the material of the interiors and even the wheel type. To achieve this, they are increasingly investing in AR experience apps whereby a customer can stand in a showroom and not only select these features on a tablet, but see how they will look on a physical car displayed in front of them. By viewing the seats through the tablet, for example, they get to see their material and color selection in front of their very eyes. Once the new car has been virtually configured, all that’s left is to be get the price and pay for it (also via the tablet). The design is then instantly sent to the assembly line for production according to the customer’s precise requirement, and 48 hours later the car can be ready for collection.
If you like what you’ve read and want to see AR in action, here are two apps you might like to try, just for fun!
Build your own virtual Porsche with the Porsche AR Visualiser – download from the Apple App Store or Google Play
Design and manufacture a drone with Smart MFG 2 – download from the Apple App Store or Google Play