Augmented Reality: what is it?
Augmented Reality (AR) refers to the enhanced reality achieved by superimposing digital content (images, video, text, sound) over a physical environment. Therefore, AR is also called Extended Reality.
Whether you are running a manufacturing plant, an automotive industry, a logistics company, a retail business, or a scientific research lab, the goal is to balance the basic business triangle (scope, cost, and time) without compromising the delivered quality.
To elucidate further, to meet the business objectives, you must overcome various challenges such as physical prototypes cost, employee training, installation of units, and other resources required to carry out maintenance, operation, and repair (MOR).
Being a business owner, an influencing stakeholder, or a potential investor, you might often imagine tackling all these challenges with a super-smart investment in one technology. If this is true, then Augmented Reality is the only correct answer!
Augmented Reality and Industry 4.0
Augmented reality became popular when the 4.0 industrial revolution started gaining traction in 2016. However, AR is no longer an emerging technology as it finds its advanced applications in significant industries at a breakneck speed. The estimated worth of the AR market is projected to be over $18 billion in 2023.
Leading companies like BMW and DHL are setting trends by leveraging the potential of AR to induce efficiency and efficacy at an optimized cost. BMW reported having expedited the prototype engineering process by twelve months owing to an AR-based application. DHL has boosted productivity by 15% in its logistics and supply chain management operations by deploying AR applications in its processes.
Difference between Augmented, Assisted, Mixed, and Virtual Reality
This immersive technology is undoubtedly transcending the usual ways of achieving business goals, and science fiction is becoming a magical reality. But, given that the tech industry is evolving at a brazen speed, you have many options! Therefore, before jump-starting the deployment of AR solutions, it is essential to learn about its siblings, i.e., assisted reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality. It might be possible that a combination of any of these technologies could fit better to your needs rather than implementing only one.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality provides a partial immersive experience as it overlays the digital information on real-world elements. It enhances reality by adding virtual details and additional information to it. The devices commonly used to leverage AR are heads-up displays (HUDs), smart glasses, and smartphones/tablets.
Example: By deploying AR-enabled technology such as AR glasses and AR service apps, you can ensure good employee training while at work. Usually, text and video tutorials consume a lot of time. But AR will enable your employees to access the required guidance in real-time while they are still doing their tasks in the real world.
Assisted reality enables you to access the required information in real-time. You can view the information on a virtual screen within the immediate field of vision (FOV). Unlike Augmented Reality, assisted reality does not block your view of real-world objects around you.
Example: A factory worker can use AR glasses as a hands-free instruction manual while operating machines. In this case, the information of the object in view will be displayed on a virtual screen that appears upon wearing smartly configured industrial smart glasses.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality offers a fully immersive experience by completely obscuring reality. You can enter a completely different digital world powered by VR applications, haptic devices, and audio and video content. VR is leveraged to simulate the real environment for training purposes and to offer a thrilling experience for gaming and entertainment purposes.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Mixed Reality is a blend of the virtual and physical environment. AR enhances the real world, while MR allows you to interact with the enhanced real world by using virtually available information. With MR-enabled devices, you stand on the cusp of virtual and real-world environments. The connection between the two is established via gaze, gesture, or voice recognition technology through a headset or a pair of motion controllers. Microsoft HoloLens is the best example to understand the concept.
Example: A newly hired worker at your factory is sent to start the process by turning on the installed machinery. With MR technology, he would be able to locate the physically installed machine, read the instructions that are available virtually, and turn it on with the help of the virtual gesture. Avoiding bewilderment, he can do all of this without needing to confirm from his trainer/co-worker or sifting through the pages of an operating manual.
Augmented Reality Applications
Remote Assistance and Maintenance
The modern industrial application of AR is the MOR (maintenance, operation, and repair). With AR-enabled technology, you can access expert services anywhere, anytime. The expert can view the device in real-time and troubleshoot issues there and then. The input device will be the AR glasses worn by the field technician to capture the view of the device for the remotely located expert. The output will be the AR elements, such as simple drawing markers (circling the object, arrows, etc.) and the textual instructions on the AR screen.
With AR, physical unavailability is no longer a bottleneck in resolving issues, as expert knowledge can now be accessed with greater ease.
By implementing AR technology, you can provide engaging and practical training for your manufacturing employees. Training modules can be recorded to help them learn and complete their tasks using AR glasses or headsets. You can use arrows for directions, danger and warning symbols, geometric shapes, textual indications, and a freehand drawing for instructions. This training mode is beneficial for accomplishing complex tasks that need much more than text or video tutorials.
Learning gained through experience is effective and much faster than conventional methods.
The conventional product design and prototyping method often require a hefty investment, time, and effort. The whole process is often extended to various revisions and becomes monotonous.
With AR at your disposal, you can overlay the virtual objects in the natural environment to visually assess the proposed design. This can expedite the design finalization as well as the development process, as well as reduces the risk of failure. With AR-backed manufacturing processes, you gain a competitive edge in the market by early launches of your products designed with precision and accuracy at low cost! Ford is the best example to learn from. It has already taken AR on board to simulate and create millions of vehicles for better precision and accuracy in the final builds.
Quality assurance and quality control are time taking processes, and it’s still a long way to go for these processes to be fully automated. Therefore, human dexterity for evaluating product quality is still needed. You can still improve the manual process by implementing AR and enabling quick access to required information. Using AR glasses, a quality control analyst/technician can quickly learn about the defective parts of the product and can save a significant amount of time that otherwise would be spent on visual back-and-forth inspection. AR technology can be a fantastic catalyst in identifying, fixing, and evaluating product issues.
Augmented Reality and smart glasses
This cool technology is creating a buzz in the manufacturing industry. Many manufacturing companies like AGCO are adapting to this technology by leveraging AR glasses to expedite the development procedures while enabling the employees to gain hands-on experience as they learn to operate new tools and devices at work.
The AR glasses are smart, lightweight, and easy to carry gadgets as if a person is wearing a regular pair of glasses. The difference is that your employees can be more agile and efficient at work with augmented reality glasses. Smart glasses are designed to blend the physical world with the virtual one while extending the real-world environment with AR elements. If your employees wear AR glasses, and as they move around in the warehouse to carry out a regular logistic process, the information about the object insight will become available to them in real-time.
AR glasses are changing how employees work, whether operating manufacturing machines indoors or working out in a field. AR glasses are a new hope and the ultimate smart move for businesses to achieve their goals with improved productivity, enhanced efficiency, and minimal resources.
The benefits of Augmented Reality in the industrial sector
If we talk about the benefits of augmented reality in the industrial sector, then its application fields discussed above are the actual benefits. There are numerous indirect benefits:
- Reduced cost of training and additional infrastructure.
- Get a competitive edge in the market as well as for talent acquisition because the deployment of cutting-edge technology is an inescapable sensation.
- Act proactively and make timely decisions and amendment requests to the product design team. Get yourself in a position to deliver what you claim!
- Still in the design phase, marketing your industrial product can save you a fortune by getting useful feedback analytics even before the launch.
- AR apps allow for easy, quick, and flexible collaboration between employees working from different locations.
- AR allows you to simplify complex assembly processes. A clear step-by-step guide can keep your line workers on the right track without causing any errors.
- Save time and avoid risk while troubleshooting issues.
Create your own AR service app
Implementing AR in your development or manufacturing processes is not only about buying the right gadgets. To cater to your business-specific needs, these smart gadgets must be integrated with a customized AR service app per your business model and operational requirements. There are various levels of customization. Sometimes, all you need is to white-label the app, and other times; you need to fully customize the AR service app to reflect your company’s manufacturing process.
Acty can help you meet your branding requirements and customize an AR service app. Cavanna Support is one of the critical projects that is completed and delivered by Acty.