Three Ways AR Is Already Reshaping Product Design

Written By: Cat McClintock
  • 6/13/2018

It’s already been two summers since Pokémon Go got people out on the streets throwing virtual balls at purple rats. While others have been adding flowers and dog ears to their selfies on Snapchat since late 2015. 

 The point is, by now almost everybody has had some kind of augmented reality (AR) experience.

 Still, you might be surprised to learn that AR will soon be part of your professional experience too----if it’s not already. Here’s why:

 CAD design engineers, though intimately familiar with advanced digital design capabilities, have still been limited to working in 2D, separated from their models by a computer monitor.  This has traditionally made it a challenge for designers to fully visualize designs in 3D.

 AR breaks the barrier to 3D: A CAD engineer can use AR to superimpose a model on the physical world as a hologram. This creates new and more efficient ways to evaluate and improve designs.


Why would they do that? Three reasons:

1. Reduce development cycle time. As one example of an AR-based design technique in use today, an engineering team can use AR to superimpose a CAD model of a construction machine in the terrain of its intended outdoor setting. Team members can then virtually “move” around the model to view it from over, under, around, or inside and evaluate its sight lines and ergonomics in this setting. This richer context can help teams make sound design decisions earlier in the development cycle—speeding the path to create and test a more mature physical prototype and ultimately decreasing design cycle time. On top of all that, AR models are easy to share. All it takes is a free app to view an experience.

2. Improve Product Quality. Design engineers can also use AR to superimpose a CAD model over a physical prototype to compare how well the digital and physical models match. Volkswagen uses this method today in its digital design reviews to catch any anomalies between the virtual and physical designs. One result has been better quality assurance—and higher-quality end products.  And since the engineering team no longer has to painstakingly compare each 2D drawing with its prototype, the AR-assisted technique is 5-10 times faster than its manual predecessor—again shortening the development cycle.

3. Provide Data to Fuel Next-gen Product Design. Finally, combined with data driven design, broader use of AR will come in the near future. Once out in the field, AR-enabled products with embedded sensors can harvest unique streams of data and analytics on how users interact with these products under a range of real-world conditions. The resulting insights then appear right on the AR model, informing next-gen product design and giving design teams a competitive edge and a clearer path to creating products that meet customer needs.


Augmented Reality with IoT data shown in real time.

Learn More about AR’s Impacts on Company Strategy: Download the HBR Article, “A Manager’s Guide to Augmented Reality”

From product design strategies and well beyond, AR has already begun to change the face of how players in a broad range of industries create value. Learn more about the choices that companies like yours are making to keep their competitive edge as AR becomes an increasingly central part of their strategies. Get the article here

  • Augmented Reality
  • CAD

About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.