How smart industrial manufacturers can fully capitalize on augmented & virtual reality

Aug. 24, 2020
The quickest wins with augmented reality come from virtual supplemental productivity on the manufacturing floor.

By Dijam Panigrahi, co-founder and COO of Grid Raster Inc.

Even before the world even knew of coronavirus, a growing number of manufacturers were familiarizing themselves with new virtual technologies promising to cut costs out of the production cycle and substantially increase workforce efficiencies—augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). 

Grid Raster's Dijam Panigrahi

AR is a promising new technology that can help improve both the way manufacturers operate as well as how the business customer or even the consumer experiences products and services. For many, however, it is still a concept that hasn’t become a reality just yet, even though a recent survey showed that businesses are entering the planning and implementation stages with more frequency. 56% of business leaders said they have implemented some form of AR/VR technology into their organization over the last 12 months, and another 35% said they are considering doing so. More than a quarter (27%) said they have fully deployed an AR/VR solution and are looking to scale further.

Augmented-reality is a technology that transforms how information is captured, managed and communicated, both within a business and with its prospects and customers. It can significantly improve the way a business conducts collaborative engineering-design reviews, sales and marketing, field service, skills transfer and manufacturing. 

The AR market is expected to be worth $61 billion USD by 2023, and it will be dominated by large tech companies like Google, Samsung, HTC and Microsoft. 

So, what does a manufacturer need to know about AR? For starters, it’s good to know that the earliest advantages of AR come from virtual supplemental productivity on the manufacturing floor; virtual training modules; virtual customer visits; and virtual design and engineering. To get significant and early returns out of AR/VR, businesses should map their operational needs to one of these four areas:

  • Virtual supplemental labor on production lines
  • Virtual customer-service visits
  • Virtual design & engineering
  • Employee-training programs 

Consider an automotive manufacturer that needs to keep production cycles flowing, yet keeps losing plant workers who are getting sick from coronavirus. The automaker could utilize AR/VR technology to assist the buildout of cars on the production line, as well as virtual tools to help design new vehicles from remote locations. AR technology can also be used by consumers who want a series of different interior looks overlaid on their smartphone device when building their ideal car online.

The right way to launch AR/VR technologies for your business

Enterprise-grade, high-quality AR/VR platforms require both performance and scale. Most enterprises have a rich repository of existing, complex 3D CAD/CAM models created over the years. These 3D models may vary in their complexity (such as poly count, hierarchy, details, etc.), making it difficult to run on standalone devices restricted by device limitations.  

Businesses need to know that as these virtual environments become richer and larger, the problem of scalability compounds. This cycle is repeated for each of the different hardware platforms, making it difficult for any enterprise to move from experiments and pilots to full-scale deployable solutions, thus stunting the speed of innovation and effectiveness. 

The device limitations also severely restrict the capability of existing AR/VR systems to generate and work within most cloud environments, which is essential to collocate and precisely fuse the virtual objects on top of physical objects in the real world riddled with complex surfaces, and varied lighting and environment. 

Manufacturers are overcoming this significant challenge by partnering with AR/VR platform providers that leverage distributed-cloud architecture and 3D vision-based AI. These cloud platforms provide the desired performance and scalability to drive innovation in the industry at speed and scale.

Businesses today are experiencing the next wave of technology innovation that will fundamentally alter the way they operate. This transformation is primarily driven by a merging of the digital and physical world to create a better, smarter and more efficient way of operating. Immersive technologies such as AR/VR are playing a pivotal role in this transformation. The organizations that take a leadership role will be the ones that not only leverage these technologies, but also partner with the right technology provider to help scale appropriately without having to stunt technological growth. 

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