Augmented Reality or A/R may feel like something out of a science fiction movie or a concept belonging to the future, but we already interact with A/R more often than we know. One recent example is the Pokémon Go craze that applied A/R to locate, capture, battle and train Pokemon creatures. Smartphone users of all ages used A/R to superimpose Pokémon’s computer-generated images to views of the real world.
Blending the Virtual and Real
Different than the computer-generated environment of virtual reality, Augmented Reality superimposes sounds, images and text on the world we see. The composite view produced through A/R can enhance the world and offer numerous applications for enjoyment and work. Prominent examples of applications abound in the aerospace, military and automobile industries. These companies use A/R to solve key operational issues and are introducing ways a workforce can more easily perform repetitive tasks in a more efficient manner.
It can also enhance remote work and improve collaboration. For example, applications can free users from the need to refer to a laptop for instructions or the need to be in a set location to call up videos. Users can leave notes, issue voice commands and call up information from colleagues literally before their eyes.
Manufacturing Industry Applications
But beyond demonstrations on a trade show floor or flashy examples from high-end companies with deep pockets, how will it be used in the so-called real world? A 2017 article from engineering.com profiled five possible uses of Augmented Reality in the manufacturing industry.
Complex Assembly – Instead of referring to work instructions on static documents that could be out of date, A/R can make the instructions changeable and easy to update. The technology can include technical drawings, video and comments from the last person on the job. Workers no longer need to leave a task to check a work station for information.
Maintenance – Support for maintenance-related tasks can become easier with A/R. Augmented models allow workers to confirm and record inspection orders and results using voice technology. This method allows workers to ditch cumbersome manuals while streamlining and speeding up the inspection process.
Expert Support – Traveling to a site to perform maintenance is expensive, but the telepresence provided could improve the process. Augmented Reality can allow a technician located anywhere in the world to see through the eyes of an on-site technician performing the work, offering the ability to provide real-time Q&A and support.
Quality Assurance – Manual inspections can also be enhanced through A/R. Inspectors take photos of parts or assemblies under inspection and compare those to an augmented reality overlay. As a result, out-of-spec features become easier to spot and report, potentially speeding up and enhancing the effectiveness of the inspection process.
Automation – Although some associate A/R with the use of robots with subsequent loss of jobs, others see it as supplementation and collaboration, ultimately improving working efficiency. Augmented Reality has the potential to read the environment and then “feed” that information to workers.
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