There’s no getting around the fact that product design is hard. First, there’s the creative challenge of coming up with the big idea and then the technical chore of bringing that idea to life in a way that jibes with the economic and go-to-market goals of the business.
As if that isn’t painful enough, there’s the harsh reality of meeting those design objectives with product development teams that are often dispersed and disconnected—whether that means far flung collaborators lodged in different parts of the business or those that hail from different companies all together.
More often than not, the make up of design teams is siloed and disparate, and it can be a slog to conduct effective design reviews that keep everyone in sync and the project moving forward.
Augmented Reality (AR), once the stuff of Sci-Fi novels and summer blockbuster flicks, is rapidly emerging as a possible work-around to these design review bottlenecks. The technology, which superimposes computer images onto the real, physical world to offer a composite view, has been catapulted into the mainstream over the last few years.
Augmented reality overlays digital parts and data onto a real-world airplane.
In part, that’s because it’s easy to experience, requiring only a mobile device and a free app. In fact, it’s becoming so widespread, that a recent report from BIS Research says that you can expect augmented reality market to grow from an estimated $3.48 billion in 2017 to $198.17 billion by 2025.
Among those taking advantage of the new technology are product development teams that want to make design reviews more productive. They’re finding that the technology enhances and in some cases can replace their existing design review processes. Here’s just a few reasons why:
AR improves collaboration. Typically, the various stakeholders—from engineering or procurement, for example—do a lot of manual paper-pushing as part of their early design reviews, which can be difficult especially if collaborators are located in different venues let alone different time zones and geographies.
Paper documents, schematics, and even CAD models don’t tell the whole story. That’s because these media lack context. For example, think about a wind turbine blade or a bicycle design. A digital model on its own may not accurately convey the true sense of size and space in relation to real-world surroundings.
A digital model sits next to a physical bicycle in this AR experience
3D printed prototypes don’t always provide that grounded sense of reality as they are typically produced at a much smaller scale than the final manufactured product. A former PTC consultant, Dave Martin, likened the experience to the “Stonehenge” scene right out of the popular “This is Spinal Tap” movie, when what you see in the context of the real world becomes far less dramatic.
AR is more secure. Unlike 3D CAD models and digital mockups, an AR model doesn’t maintain all of the critical intellectual property (IP) and design intent within the model. That’s especially helpful if you’re sharing your models beyond company walls. When you hand off an AR experience, others won’t see how the design was made. Need even more control? With some software, you can even encode permissions into the link, specifying who can and cannot open the AR experience.
AR links and file sizes are far smaller than traditional CAD models and complex assemblies, making it easier and more convenient to share.
AR-powered design reviews bring a certain wow factor to the table. It’s a lot easier to generate excitement and get an extended team engaged in the collaboration process when they can easily visualize the proposed design in the context of the real world, getting a sense for its true form and proportion by walking around it, doing a deep dive under the covers, and seeing how it looks and operates.
You can get started today. AR is still relatively nascent and there’s plenty of work to be done to fully integrate the technology into traditional design workflows. However, with Creo Parametric, you can turn any 3D model into an AR experience with just a click of a button. The software then generates a link or a scannable code that you can send anywhere. Recipients open the experience in an app, and they’re quickly and safely seeing your design first hand.
Don’t have Creo? Just click here to download the free trial to see how it works.
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.