Augmented Reality (AR) is sort of the “new-old” technology on the block. While several consumer and business applications for AR have emerged over the past few decades, ithe technology hasn’t been truly feasible in an industrial setting up until recently.
Which is why engineers working in heavy manufacturing industries should begin to take note. With the explosion of the Internet of Things, big data analytics, and new portable technologies, AR is coming in a big way. But this isn’t a fad… the benefits of AR for training, design, and manufacturing can’t be undersold.
AR Technology Has Never Been More Available
Because of the wide applications of augmented reality, the tools to use AR are becoming more and more widespread. This shows itself in a number of ways:
- Smart devices and tablets that are already equipped with cameras and wireless data connections have already shown themselves to be at the forefront of the augmented reality evolution. The most popular consumer-grade example of this is Pokemon GO. In science and engineering, we are seeing the use of tablets and AR in medical training and manufacturing.
- New developments in wearables (augmented reality glasses) are making more immersive AR possible. Google Glass pioneered this particular area of hardware development, but companies like Magic Leap and HoloLens are starting to bring wearable AR technology into the modern area.
- Software platforms that leverage augmented reality approaches to design and implementation are becoming more and more prominent. Popular game development environment Unity has a fully-realized AR platform for mobile devices, and a company called ThingWorx is building platforms that exist in the overlap between augmented reality and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Augmented Reality Platform and Hardware Development are Booming
The above-listed examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to business investment and technical innovation in the field of augmented reality. Software and hardware engineers who specialize in visualization, 3D modelling, mobile development, and IoT integration are going to be in high demand for the next few decades as AR tech expands into games, manufacturing, and medical fields.
But even engineers who aren’t in software and hardware can expect that their work in the field could be changing for the better. Engineers in utility and energy management, aerospace manufacturing, and medical equipment design are going to find AR applications starting to trickle in to their daily workflows or other integral operations, like design and training.
AR Technology is Changing the Way We Work and Train
Engineers obviously bring years of experience to any job they do. But with increasingly complex manufacturing jobs coming up, it doesn’t mean that knowledge or expertise is always at their fingertips. And it doesn’t mean that everyone can share that information or knowledge quickly with someone actually working on a machine or process in the moment.
Training engineers in the field has always been an issue, primarily because of the disconnect between technical knowledge on the page and engagement in real-life work scenarios. With augmented reality, new employees can carry that knowledge with them. With portable devices or wearable technology, an engineer or scientist can engage a piece of machinery head-on with important data about troubleshooting, building, and maintenance at-hand. This means much more for new trainees who can leverage the AR technology for a multi-sensory experience that integrates information delivery and hands-on labor.
AR is Revolutionizing Engineering Design
Design doesn’t have to exist on the paper or screen anymore. As AR technology advances, we find that designers can use virtual reality and augmented reality to develop their projects in more immersive and interactive environments.
So, instead of simply drafting a model or design in a CAD program, engineers can create fully-representational 3D models to help them investigate how their designs will manifest as real, three-dimensional objects.
AR can Visualize Big Data for Better, More Interactive Analytics
With IoT manufacturinging and logistics coming up as major methods for making business and industrial processes more efficient and responsive, having software and hardware that can merge that data and overlay it on the real-life objects that generate the data is a huge boost in productivity.
For example, many complex industrial processes are leaning on virtual twin model technologies to help predict points of failure and places where reductions in waste can be incorporated. Taking that to its next logical step, data collected from sensors in an IoT system can be processed, stored, and integrated into augmented reality models that provide real-time intelligence that engineers can use to make by-the-second decisions.
Augmented Reality and Innovation
As we can see from the above items, AR is poised to innovate several sectors of professional work in engineering, manufacturing, and process management.
However, “innovation” is a word that gets thrown around quite a bit, and in many cases loses its impact. Augmented reality isn’t a brand-new set of technologies carrying a lot of promises without many results. Augmented reality is reality now. The core technological advances to make AR useful and effective in the places we find it most successful provide a solid foundation that you and your colleagues should be building upon already:
- Portable technologies, like tablets, smart devices, and even wearables are becoming the norm. They are how professional engineers stay in touch with the key data and intelligence they need to do their work at the highest possible level.
- Big data is quickly and fundamentally shaping how manufacturers optimize their building process. Data visualization, data analysis, and data gathering are no longer optional for a truly advanced industrial operation.
- The Internet of Things, which integrates raw data from a decentralized network of objects, processes, and operations, is quickly changing the shape of how we collect data in real time.
With new advances in AR overlay software, these three pillars of modern industry are placing data interaction at the forefront of opposer design and implementation work. Engineers will be able to truly work in a decentralized or distributed manner while still maintaining access to the data and intelligence they need.
If you haven’t had a conversation with your management or outside consultants regarding the potential benefits of AR technology in your place of work, maybe now is the time to start.