Did you hear the news about the relaunch of Google Glasses? Have you experienced an immersive Microsoft HoloLens demo? Or what about the Apple AR Glasses rumors? Have you heard those? Do you know the difference between augmented and mixed reality? There is a lot going on and much to talk about, so let me share with you what we in IFS Labs have been working on.
At IFS Labs, we have been following the smart glasses developments quite closely over the past few years. And although augmented reality for handheld devices is starting to become mainstream, we see that the head mounted devices (HMDs) for augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR) still lag.
Does this mean it’s not interesting? No, on the contrary, HMDs have enormous potential for enterprises. Imagine a field service engineer or factory technician having all the information they normally find on paper or a tablet, but now seeing it plotted in the real world, interacting with other (artificial) persons and at the same time working hands-free.
Top four ways to use AR and MR in an industrial setting
First, let’s have a look at some of the most useful scenarios for the industrial usage of AR and MR.
1. Remote collaboration or support
AR can completely change the way geographically dispersed persons connect. Whether it’s the remote engineer that needs to oversee the maintenance being done on a risky maintenance action, the remote support desk providing instructions on complex problems or your colleague that you’re working with, seeing what you see and being able to interact with what you see has huge benefits in efficiency and quality.
2. Smart information on real-world objects
Tap on any object to see relevant information. Today it’s normal in any game but not in the real world. If your device knows the assets you look at, it can overlay the information you need on top of it. Combine it with a smart assistant to not just provide any information, but the right information in the right context, it would be hugely valuable for anyone.
From your teacher looking over your shoulder to getting play-by-play instructions on what to do, both classroom and on-the-job training programs can be made much more effective with the use of AR.
4. Object visualization
Specifically, MR can be used to plot virtual objects within the real world. Does this new machine fit the location in the factory? Or what would it look like if we added a door to this wall? It also brings possibilities like showing work instructions for interacting with an actual asset. Scenarios like this, to see what things would look like or what should be done, can help us to easily determine the best solution for a problem.
How IFS Labs is preparing
Most demos you see nowadays are all designed to leverage the coolest and most advanced features of these devices. Mixed reality, especially with the use of transparent lenses, spatial sound and an understanding of your physical environment, will allow holograms to look, sound and behave like real objects that can interact with the environment around them and with each other. That said, I expect that to sell these big investments to the enterprise world, we’ll need to have an answer to questions like, “What if I don’t have these advanced holograms yet?” or, “How will it help my field service engineers or maintenance engineers with all my legacy assets out there?”
To answer these questions, we at IFS Labs have built a prototype application that runs on Microsoft HoloLens and is based on a generic, works-always approach. This helps customers to get information from the back-end of IFS enterprise software and into the eyes of the service worker at any time.
The backend business applications already have lots and lots of relevant information for the worker. It provides insight in the asset history, real-time Internet of Things (IoT) data, a list of work orders and traditional work instructions (pdf, movies), as already present in the business applications today.
Remote support, photographic and video capabilities are natively available in the HoloLens and added to the application. Then, in addition, starting with the most critical repairs for the most critical assets first, you can start adding the advanced holographic instructions and interactions. This approach returns immediate benefits, while at the same time allows for a gradual adoption of the more advanced possibilities out there.
Augmented Reality: How to change the way we maintain our assets
To summarize, we believe that smart glasses or HMDs create huge potential for enterprises. With an integration of your enterprise application, you get a more effective and efficient technician by providing them with an at-a-glance overview of all the guidance, direction and support they need while keeping their hands free.
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