It was back in 2006 that we saw the early appearance of augmented reality (AR), and in the 17 years since then, the technology has come on in leaps and bounds. Since those formative years of AR, the landscape has evolved dramatically, and we are now looking at a future where people will completely change how they interact with the physical world by utilizing digital twins. Tim Cook, the VCEO of Apple, recently said that he believes augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever.
In the latest PTC Talk, David Castañeda, CEO of Visionaries 777 spoke about the transformative potential of combining digital twins and augmented reality (AR) technologies to address the challenges of high training costs and facility management downtime. While these technologies are already extensively used in gaming and marketing, the crucial question is: can they go beyond their current applications, and more importantly, are these technologies ready for broader implementation?
Implementing AR within any organization can be a stretch strategy, and you would expect that the limitations were on the hardware, software, or budget, but that is not what Visionaries 777 discovered. The reality they have come to in their many years of dealing with clients is that it is not the technology but the mindset that is the limiting factor. Technology companies such as PTC have developed the required software, while Microsoft, with the HoloLens and Apple and iOS devices, can handle the hardware challenges. The main challenge is simply mindset.
Visionaries 777 have worked on a broad spectrum of solutions working with PTC and Vuforia, implementing real-time IoT data visualization tools on physical objects, where you could overlay data with any language through iOS devices or HoloLens? Through these solutions, it was possible to learn how to carry out maintenance on a machine or train mechanics how to service a car by scanning a physical object with an iPhone or an iPad and overlaying 3D content.
However, Visionaries 777 realized that not every client has a vast budget, like a Nissan or BMW. So, they wanted to deliver more affordable solutions with PTC that were not highly technical. The answer came by combining three elements - real-time 3D, spatial computing, and AR into one solution. The aim was to enable digitalization without always having to use sensors. One of the critical enablers of this was using LIDAR scanners to create digital twins that can be overlayed with real-time data. However, smart glasses are expensive, so this solution could be used with smartphones or devices that most organizations already utilize.
The challenge that many of their clients have, whether you have one factory, multiple factories, one retail location, or multiple locations, is that a combination of low and high-skilled workers operates them. Every one of these locations requires operations, maintenance, security, and cleaning teams. Over the years, these workers are onboarded or trained following archaic models. Most training is still face-to-face, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and distracting for existing staff. It also often lacks digital trails; once people have been trained, they follow paper checklists to ensure their work is being done.
Starting from this principle, Visionaries 777 wanted any organization, regardless of budget, to have the ability to use AR and mixed reality within the onboarding and follow-up processes. Together with PTC, the solution they came up with is an easy-to-use web portal, a 3D virtual world, and an app called Inspeckly. The beauty of this is that it allows organizations independence from developers and allows them to develop their own AR experiences.
One of the best things about the world is that you can create digital twins of physical spaces with scanners that can be purchased off the shelf. With these industrial scanners, such as NavVis, it is possible to walk around and create a digital twin literally. You now have a digital twin online where organizations can create training and maintenance routines for any of their staff, regardless of skill level.
The most crucial point is that these systems are now very affordable. Visionaries worked with Domino’s Pizza, costing around 400 Euros per restaurant for unlimited users and checklists. Anyone could remotely manage the staff.
There are many examples within industry of how AR can enhance equipment maintenance, improve safety, streamline training, and enhance collaboration. Siemens uses AR technology to assist with equipment maintenance. Technicians can use smart glasses to overlay digital information onto the equipment, providing real-time information on the status of the equipment and step-by-step instructions for repairs. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing uses AR technology to streamline the training process for new employees. By overlaying digital information onto the real world, new employees can receive hands-on training without needing expensive equipment or experienced trainers. Freight carrier DHL uses AR technology to enhance collaboration between employees. Employees can easily share information and work together on projects by overlaying digital information onto the real world.
To learn more about how Inspeckly, a partnership between Visionaries 777 and PTC, can help develop AR solutions to improve performance, watch the full Talk here.
Linda Di Gangi is a Program Marketing Manager in PTC’s Field Marketing organization. She is responsible for the marketing strategy for European Emerging Markets and India. She first started with PTC's Corporate marketing in 2006 and managed global events including PTC flagship event, LiveWorx. Prior, she worked for an agency and oversaw PR for B2B companies in new technologies. In a spare time, Linda enjoys working out and hiking with family and friends. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.