Manufacturers Shape the Future of Augmented Reality

Manufacturing and processing companies provide their input to help focus the direction of augmented reality for use in industry.

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Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that is set to radically transform the way OEMs and manufacturers perform maintenance and repair operations. Several large manufacturing companies have already begun using AR in their facilities and in the field to service equipment, including companies like Caterpillar—who will be speaking about its use of AR at The Automation Conference on May 23, 2017 in Chicago.

To help guide the development of AR technology to make it as relevant and applicable as possible for an array of industrial applications, UI Labs and The Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA) have been working together to develop what they say is the world's first AR hardware and software functional requirements guidelines. According to UI and AREA, these AR functional requirements documents will lead to technology that “improves the performance and efficiency for manufacturers in several areas, including employee training and safety; factory floor and field services operations; machine assembly, inspection and repair; manufacturing space and product design; and much more.”

An important aspect of the development of these guidelines is that UI and AREA did not undertake this project alone. Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar and Procter & Gamble initiated the guidelines development process as part of a project through the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration. In total, 65 organizations—including industrial companies, AR providers, universities and government agencies—came together for a workshop to offer insight into their challenges and needs to help create the functional requirements during a DMDII workshop held in March 2017.

Other well-known organizations involved in the development of these guidelines include Microsoft, General Electric, Rolls-Royce, Dow Chemical, Intel, the US Air Force, Stanley, Black & Decker, Johnson & Johnson, Newport News Shipbuilding, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

The guideline documents address such AR features as:

* Hardware: battery life; connectivity; field of view; on-board storage; on-board operating system; environmental aspects; inputs/outputs and safety.

* Software: authoring; AR content; creating 3D content; deployment of AR content and the Internet of Things.

“For the first time, industry—both suppliers and users in the AR space—will have access to a benchmark set of requirements that will help them develop a roadmap and source, select, evaluate and deploy augmented reality solutions,” said Mark Sage, executive director of AREA. “These functional requirements will be used to help continue the development of the AR ecosystem, and AREA is looking forward to communicating and driving future changes.”

“Augmented reality has immense potential to transform manufacturing, and early adopters are seeing impressive productivity and quality improvements,” said Thomas McDermott, executive director of DMDII.

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