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With Pokemon GO slowly drifting out of popularity, we were able to get a good glimpse of the potential success Augmented Reality (AR) products can have and how users may react to it, if put in the right circumstances. While Industry 4.0 may not entail flicking a screen to capture mini-monsters, the concept of overlaying virtual data onto reality definitely opens some possibilities around how Industrial Enterprises may utilise AR to educate, provide “in-person” support and interact with their products and consumers.

At Austech 2017, we were able to sit in on a presentation about AR’s place in Industry 4.0 from Allan Thompson, the PTC Technical Manager at Leap Australia. Leap work in assisting companies implement product development technologies and represent ANSYS, the worlds largest simulation software company.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Not to be confused Virtual Reality (VR) AR is no new invention and is traditionally used in sales and marketing to advertise products, such as toys and games, on mobile devices. With VR being one of the most trending technologies on the market at the moment, Allan gives us a simple definition of the differences between the two concepts.

“With VR you are viewing digital information only. Everything is computer generated. What we’re talking about with Augmented Reality is  overlaying digital information onto the real world”

In sales and marketing of products, AR has generally been utilised as a great gimmick that allows consumers to view a digital render of products, usually aided by a sticker, bar code or other point of reference. Allen gave a great live example of this during the presentation, showcasing Lego’s AR ready catalogs.

The New Era of AR in Industry 4.0

So how can AR be implemented for industry use, other than in sales and marketing?

As Allen goes onto explain in his presentation, while this is great for consumers, technology has advanced to the point where AR can now be utilised by companies as a great educational and analytical tool.

How?

Basically, as technology has advanced us to Industry 4.0, our machines and the systems that operate them are now smarter, streamlined and synchronised. To the point that factories in the modern age are now totally connected with multiple machines working together, integrated into multiple systems that are constantly talking with each other by sending and receiving live data.

With that in mind, what the team at Leap are helping business to do is develop systems that allow you to visualise this sea of live data using augmented reality, removing the need for user interfaces and better displaying data.

Here’s a short keynote speech showcasing how AR can be used to display real time information about a sports bicycle.

Not only that, Leap are also using AR as an educational tool. AR systems use digital visualisation to show users exactly where to put parts, what parts may be broken and also give information on the part. Because AR utilises a digital overlay onto the real world, the abstract nature of text based instructions is removed.

To give this some context, here’s a basic scenario: imagine if your car’s dashboard is telling you you’re out of coolant—most people who might not know how to fix this may either go to a mechanic or search up a relevant Youtube video. If, by chance, the car was setup to allow for AR integration, by simply pulling out your mobile and facing the camera at your engine, you could see a visual overlay highlighting where the coolant cap is, what fluid is best for your vehicle and any other live information that may be valuable.

As mentioned in Allen’s discussion at Austech, the University of Iowa did a study on AR based learning vs traditional methods (such as reading a manual). In the study, participants were tasked in fixing an object—one through a text-only manual and the other assisted with AR devices. What resulted was that, with AR assistance, first time fix rates of the part increased by 90%.

This is similar to what the group at DXC are doing with their AR Helmets, which are advancing education in the construction industry. We’ve written in-depth about this in another article, but in short, DXC are also utilising AR systems to visualise live data to apprentices, helping them learn on site, even allowing a second user to give instructions through the inbuilt headset.

Whether AR is adopted into the mainstream for Industrial Enterprises is something we’ll have to wait and see. That said, there’s no denying benefit of having AR based educational systems that can potentially shorten learning time and boost all-around efficiency.

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