Content management systems have transformed several times since their inception over 30 years ago. These generational changes have primarily aligned with alterations to the internet and how we use it.
First came Web 1.0 with tablestakes internet sites and online shopping carts. Then, Web 2.0, or the ‘social web’, brought more sophisticated and usable forms of user content. Web 3.0 or the ‘semantic web’ is being structured to accommodate for ubiquitous and personalized content delivery across channels and devices.
While certain technologies have leveraged elements from our presence in the physical world, such as GPS location applications in smartphones enabling 2D navigation content, we have yet to fully embed digital content or the ‘web’ to our lives.
The next computing paradigm will inevitably come to the physical 3D world and form the ‘Spatial Web’. This new web will raise questions (and challenges) of how content is managed and mapped within our surrounding environment.
Augmented reality (AR) technology links the physical and digital worlds and is positioned to be a key content management system for the spatial web. While AR will provide innovative means to content accessibility, communication, management, and analysis, it’ll bring challenging considerations including where the information is from, who it is for, and how it is configured in complex deployments.
In order to take advantage of this emerging web, businesses looking to leverage augmented reality needs to ask themselves key questions:
How will you represent the physical setting?
How will you anchor content?
What is the format of your content?
How will you source content?
How will you configure information?
Below we’ll dive into five critical questions when rolling out augmented reality content for your business. For more in-depth explanation and training, AR thought leader and PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann has created a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – How to Build an Augmented Reality Strategy for Your Business – to further educate the market on AR. To round out this series, it will be useful to read our first installment Jump-Start an Augmented Reality Strategy with These 6 Questions and 4 Fundamental Decisions for Augmented Reality Delivery, both based on the MOOC.
Options: None, Surface Plane, Image Marker, 3D Object Model, 3D Spatial Model, 3D Object Capture, 3D Spatial Capture
To create an AR experience, content creators need to understand what the physical world is like so they can map content relative to it. There are an array of 3D Reference Models augmented reality applications can leverage to represent this physical setting.
Through increasingly powerful computer vision, AR can detect flat surfaces or walls for a Surface Plane.
Image markers including QR codes embedded on objects or spaces provide unique identifiers to place content against.
The above are popular options but face ‘drift’ and precision challenges, whereas 3D Object Models (CAD files) or Spatial Models can precisely identify the exact experience. These are excellent sources when available, yet in instances where the experience needs to run next to an old product or building, this information might not be accessible or exist.
Alternatively, new photogrammetry technology and innovative sensors like LiDARs and 3D cameras can capture point clouds of spaces (3D Spatial Capture) or objects (3D Object Capture), where AR content can be overlaid on. PTC collaborated with Matterport to create this 3D experience of our Corporate Experience Center.
Options: None/Unregistered, 3D Waypoint, Detected Surface, Marker Coord System, Object Coord System, Re-tetherable
Anchors are fixed positions, locations, and orientations of the real world and critical coordinate inputs for AR applications.
Anchoring the content in an environment could include using 3D Waypoints where GPS (x,y,z) coordinates trigger the content. Pokemon GO is a powerful and popular consumer example of the potential of using anchoring for dynamic content.
The user looking and pointing at a specific or Detected Surface or a Marker (coordination system) could be useful in spatial situations.
If we are looking for a very specific model an Object Coordinate System can generate customized content.
In Re-tetherable cases the user could detach parts of the content and place it in a different interactive manner.
Options: Text & Data, Images, Sound, Video, 3D Holograms, Haptics, Code & Logic, AI/ML models
There are a mix of 2D (text, images, etc.) and 3D format methods (haptics) that can be leveraged for AR content.
Content can be displayed in many different formats to the user including text, data, images, and sounds.
Mixed reality is bringing video into view, useful in training situations. For an example, check out this video with BAE Systems.
Retailers like IKEA are using 3D Holograms to place virtual furniture into potential customers living rooms.
AR provides a cutting-edge HMI to leverage innovative format interactions such as haptics being used to trigger actions with 3D objects. Using spatial programming where code-logic is overlaid on to the physical object, can drastically reduce machine changeover time and reprogramming costs.
Options: Purpose-built, Repurposed Content, IoT/OT Data, IT Data, Simulation Engine, AI/ML Engine, Human Assistance
Getting or ‘sourcing’ content for augmented reality experiences can come from an array of different systems ranging from paper-based standing operating procedures to smart connected product data.
Sourcing the information for content in AR demos is typically purpose-built, meaning it serves a specific experience. This isn’t as scalable or efficient as repurposed content an organization already has. For example, an OEM could use its 3D engineering data for an AR experience.
Applying Internet of Things telemetry data is enabling real-time insights into physical things and IT data sources (ERP, PLM, databases, etc.) are contextualizing the experience with different business systems.
Options: Hard-coded, File System, Content Server, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Building Information Modeling (BIM)
With mass customization, product and service complexity is growing for OEMs and creating a need for a seamless digital thread operating across domains and departments. AR content strategies will need to accommodate for this vast digital and paper information ecosystem.
Hard-coded configured information is similar to purpose-built sourced content where a specific piece of content is built into the application/demo. This constrains resources and the executable code isn’t easily scalable for net new content.
Separating content from code through a file system can leverage multiple applications to read the content from a single updateable system. Similar to content management systems for websites, effective AR applications will need this layer of content management and a content server to seamlessly introduce content changes over time.
More specific content management systems might exist for objects or buildings. For objects or increasingly complex products, the countless unique configurations and correlating impact on an AR experience requires a PLM system to manage these digital thread information flows to inform the critical content underpinning the use case. PLM provides critical content for industrial AR applications. Volvo Group’s engine quality assurance process is a great example of AR content intertwined with the digital thread driving business value. BIM systems provide similar granular definition data, but for buildings, which is useful for spatial experiences.
Creating content for the 3D world we live in will introduce cutting-edge innovations across commercial and consumer applications. Augmented reality will be the technology bridge to transpose this digital content in the physical world, creating spatial context that forms the ‘spatial web’.