augmented reality

Tag: augmented reality

A look at the future of Augmented Reality from #ARinAction

PPR visited the #ARinAction Industry Summit, which took place at the MIT Media Lab on January 16-17. This is a great event to not only see the future of AR, but also to learn how augmented reality is being applied in industry today. Here are some highlights:

  • Near-instant 3D model creation of interior spaces just a few years away? “In the next year or two there will be devices that can capture a 3D model of a room in a few seconds,” said Mark Billinghurst, Professor of Human Computer Interaction at the University of South Australia. If he’s right, and the models are accurate, this greatly reduces the requirements for 3D model creation in closed spaces, which could be a boon for AR as well as industrial IoT applications that require spatial data.

  • PTC’s Mike Campbell trotted out some industrial AR demos which were slick … yet didn’t look that convincing. For instance, one showed Ford engineers or designers wearing Hololens headsets and looking at data layered on top of a model sports car. It was neat, but it didn’t seem like the value delivered from this experience was superior to screen-based or paper alternatives.

  • PTC wasn’t the only one showing off unconvincing AR demos. One of the academic presenters had an AR tool for demonstrating math and physics concepts to students, which looked cool, yet also seemed complicated and costly. There are not many school systems that could realistically invest in hardware, training, and content to make this work for their students.

  • On the other hand, the DHL augmented reality system demonstrated by PTC seemed to be an effective solution for a real industrial use case. It is used to find and track items in a large logistics operation, and seems more promising, as it’s hands free and speeds the completion of specific tasks. This is similar to the Google Glass system used by AGCO to track completion of manufacturing tasks, and may even be competitive with other IoT logistics systems entering the market, such as ProGlove.

  • Speaking of Google Glass, it was barely mentioned at ARinAction. This surprised me … isn’t Google trying to reposition Glass for industrial use? But then Steven Feiner of Columbia University shared a piece of information that might explain why Glass was MIA from the conference: Google Glass is not really augmented reality: “Google Glass isn’t a true AR display,” Feiner said. “It can’t handle overlays, for one … Doesn’t have stereoscopic view, either.”

  • Solos AR glasses for cycling based on Kopin componentsInnovations from the military are making their way into industrial and consumer devices. John Fan, the CEO of military supplier Kopin presented an example – the heads-up displays used by F-35 pilots have led to technologies that can be used in AR-equipped firefighting helmets from Scott Sight. There was also a prototype cycling AR display (see inset photo) that used Kopin components. Fan shared a relevant observation about helmet-based AR: “Basic premise: humans don’t want to wear things on their heads,” he said, explaining that the technology has to deliver real value to get them to wear headsets … and keep them on. This is true for military and public safety uses in which lives are stake, but perhaps less so for other applications.

  • “Interim devices” are the trend in augmented reality for the next 10 years, according to futurist and author Charlie Fink. “For AR to realize its potential, it needs to know you, and where you are, and it has to have access to data,” Fink said. “We’re not there yet.” He stated that a lack of infrastructure and key breakthroughs are holding back AR.

  • There is a lot of froth in the marketplace. Analyst Tim Merel, a former engineer, noted the arrival of ARKit and other AR tools from Facebook, Tencent, and others, which fuels interest in the field. Nevertheless, “there are even more VCs than there are startups,” he said. Merel noted “mobile AR still at the very early stages” and exits will be relatively small in the near term, as dominant companies have yet to emerge.

Endpoint: It was interesting to see some of the trends and examples in augmented reality, but at the same time there seems to be a lot of wishful thinking among some of the technologists, academics, and investors, not to mention a fair number of research projects or proof-of-concept applications that won’t go anywhere. Just because a technology is cutting edge and dramatic doesn’t mean it will be useful out in the field … or that humans will want to use it.

Google Glass never died, it just moved to industry

We all know that IoT is not just about the Nest, Amazon Echo, and Web-connected security cams. But it would be a mistake to discount the importance of consumer technologies.

Email and the Web upended businesses beginning in the 1990s. With the introduction of robust smartphone and tablet platforms, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend disrupted enterprise IT’s outlook for managing security, communications, and specialty applications. Now, we’re starting to see some interesting consumer IoT tech crossing over to the industrial realm.

One of the most fascinating case studies shared at #IoTfM17 was from Peggy Gulick, Director, Business Process Improvement at AGCO Corp, a manufacturer of heavy agricultural equipment such as tractors, combines, and bailers. AGCO had already embraced IT into its production workflows, but it was problematic for operators to have to enter data into tablets or PCs. Here’s why:

  1. Data was entered in fits and starts as operators worked on a process.
  2. The devices often broke – one QA scenario described by Gulick involved placing a ruggedized tablet next to or on top of the treads as they were being inspected, and then revving up the vehicle and inadvertently turning the tablet into a $3,000 pile of broken plastic and silicon.
  3. It’s dangerous enough working around 5-ton vehicles and industrial equipment without having to handle a tablet and look down at the screen every five minutes.
Google Glass enterprise edition. Source: X Company
Google’s spectacles for industrial use.

Enter Google Glass, Enterprise Edition. The wearable, connected glasses were part of the early “wearables” trend in the consumer space, but became a laughing stock after a series of embarrassing privacy incidents (Protip: Wearable video cameras don’t go over well in dive bars). But Glass has enjoyed an unexpected comeback in heavy industry. Gulick showed videos of operators using Glass to check diagrams as they assembled components, or using it as a hands-free QA checklist. According to Gulick, the project has not only reduced process time by 30-35%, it as also led to an unanticipated reduction in training time — from 10 days to 3 days. She adds operators are also working more safely.

Here’s a video Peggy showed at the conference of Glass in action:

That wasn’t the only example of consumer tech making the jump to manufacturing. Jaime Rivera, Software Engineering Manager at flooring manufacturer Shaw Floors Inc., showed a diagram of the company’s data architecture. Holding it all together was Kafka, a scalable, low-latency messaging bus technology that was originally developed at LinkedIn!

Endpoint: Just as consumer tech transformed businesses in the 90s and 2000s, industry has begun to experience technologies originally intended for consumer IoT crossing over to the factory floor. Pay attention to how consumer IoT tech might be adapted to industrial use.