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August 10, 2023

Augmented Reality and Manufacturing

What is Augmented Reality? And what does it mean for manufacturing?
augmented reality will have a huge impact on manufacturing
Nate Taylor, Director, Transition Technologies


What is Augmented Reality? And what does it mean for manufacturing?

From google glass, to virtual reality headsets that give us an immersive experience of the metaverse, to a head-mounted display that gives manufacturing workers a digital overlay of relevant information, augmented reality is making leaders in the physical world stand up and take notice.

What is Augmented Reality?

The term augmented reality describes a range of apps, wearable devices, and interfaces that bring the virtual world, and any relevant information it contains, into the real world where it can be used in real time. You might be familiar with ar apps such as pokemon go or other video games for apple’s iphone or android. Or you might know about applications of ar systems for work, where ar technology is used in healthcare to project digital information onto the real world environment.

But what is the benefit of augmented reality for manufacturing?

To answer this question, I turned to Nate Taylor, North American Director for Transition Technologies. Nate Taylor advises companies on how augmented reality technology can help OEMs and customers better leverage digital content, and how companies can use these ar applications to boost their profits in real-life.

At a conference where AR experiences were everywhere, where someone in smart glasses was navigating a virtual environment and vendors were exchanging business cards over their mobile devices, Nate Taylor and I shared a very real-world conversation about impact of augmented reality on manufacturing.

Manufacturing Can Make Real-World Objects Better Through Augmented Reality

Leah Archibald: we’re talking a lot about augmented reality. How do you really see that fitting into manufacturing processes?

Nate Taylor: With augmented reality in general it comes to enabling both your workers and your customers to make better decisions through digital information. So being able to build solutions that enable your workforce to be more efficient and faster. Everybody’s got a resource issue these days. So if you do get the right resource, you want them to be as efficient as possible as soon as possible.

That’s inside of the four walls of the manufacturing organization. And then now augmented reality has created new use cases — new lines of business for OEMs to enable their customers in the real world. Let’s say a customer has a simple problem with an appliance — a maintenance task that a computer-generated system could walk them through. If artificial intelligence can get the customer a 3D model of the fix, or if the customer can see an animation of their repair on their ar glasses, they can save the trouble of needing to hire a repair man and waiting around for those service calls. So it’s two parts. It’s both enabling internal workers to use digital information more profitably, and also enabling your customers to be more efficient.

Leah Archibald: So you can kind of think of augmented reality as a way to bring insights into the hands of the manufacturing workers, and eventually the customers.

Nate Taylor: Absolutely. Bringing the digital information to them so that they can consume it faster and do the right process at the right time. For manufacturing, that means being able to get a product out the door as fast as humaly possible. The visualization piece of augmented reality means that people can be faster and more efficient. That’s huge for manufacturing. And also there’s the potential to avoid costly mistakes and safety risks. Boeing uses a Microsoft Hololens headset for safety training. So three are safety applications of ar technology too, especially when you get into the complex products that are here today.

Augmented Reality and IOT

Leah Archibald: So I feel that a meta definition of augmented reality might be: insights pushing out. And then when we talk about internet of things, or the IOT, it feels more like insights coming in to the organization from products in the field.

Nate Taylor: That’s a good way to put it. They both teeter that line in some ways. IOT can be a visualization piece that you need inside your four walls to understand the health of your assets But it can also use mobile apps to connect to assets out in the field that are being used every day, either by customers or the workers that you’ve hired and invested in. The IOT is bringing in the relevant information needed for each role, so that you can really understand the overall health of the product.

Leah Archibald: What new arkit are you most excited about?

Nate Taylor: I have an Oculus headset at home and I have to fight over it with my kids. Videogames are big for them.

But in terms of real-life ROI, I’m excited about the investments PTC has made in Service Max. To be able to put the ar technology wrapper around the digital thread, that’s where I think we’re going to see augmented reality work for the manufacturing industry.

What is the Use Case for Augmented Reality?

Leah Archibald: Do you think augmented reality is going to be adopted more readily in the manufacturing industry as people like you get excited about using ar devices in their personal lives?

Nate Taylor: I believe that augmented reality apps will get adopted faster in other industries like healthcare or ecommerce. There’s a wow-factor to see virtual objects in an overlay on the real world, which is part of the appeal of snapchat or pokemongo. But for manufacturing, we’ve got to get past the wow factor of augmented reality and get to the pure use cases. How can we enable workers with relevant information in real time? How can we enable customers to take something as easy to use as apple’s ipad and do something in the physical world that makes their real life easier. That is going to have a major business impact, when we focus heavily on trying to find the use case.

Leah Archibald: I’m excited to see it. Thank you so much for talking to me.

Nate Taylor: Thank you for having me.

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