While augmented reality (AR) technology has been around for many years, it has only recently begun to receive a lot of attention within the industrial world. Remote collaboration, training, maintenance, and operations are some of the key industrial AR applications. ARC Advisory Group is seeing organizations ranging from small, venture-funded start-ups to technology and industry giants focusing on industrial applications of the technology.
Augmented Reality in the Industrial World
AR uses computer technology to augment the user’s real-world environment with digital content. With AR, digital media is superimposed within part of the user’s field of view. The user usually wears a see-through, head-mounted display that projects the AR content onto his or her field of view. However, various other digital tools, such as of smartphones or tablets, can also be used to create AR effects. These mobile solutions are already becoming common in the industrial world, making it easier for industrial organizations to adopt AR technology.
A variety of industrial sectors are implementing AR technology to simplify day-to-day operations for workers. Below we discuss some of the major operations-related industrial applications.
AR has gained wide acceptance for assembly operations. Augmented instructions are helping assembly workers in the automotive, semiconductor, and other industries perform tasks effectively, quickly, and with fewer errors. Industrial assembly operations can be complex. Workers may have to assemble hundreds of complex components precisely and in the correct sequence. Assembly workers typically have to rely on printed instructions and memorize the necessary steps. AR applications take these instructions and make them easily visible in the worker’s field of view. As workers move from one step to another, the application provides them with necessary guidance. Many applications also allow recording of assembling tasks, so if needed, workers can refer to previously recorded assembly videos.
Augmented Reality for Maintenance and Inspection
AR is also helping the workers in process plants. AR applications are now being used for range of maintenance and inspection operations. When well-integrated with other asset management solutions, AR applications can help simplify many maintenance tasks. AR applications can fetch work orders for maintenance workers, direct them to the malfunctioning asset, display the past maintenance records, fetch instruction manuals, and display data readings, all within their field-of view. Properly integrated AR applications can also help staff members input maintenance and inspection data using simple voice commands.
Augmented Reality for Order Picking
AR is quickly being adopted for logistics applications as well. The most prominent application has been to optimize the order picking process in warehouses. Coupled with other advanced technologies such as image recognition, barcode scanning, and GPS-style indoor navigation, AR technology is helping simplify the job of warehouse workers. The AR order picking applications are usually integrated with the warehouse management system (WMS) to fetch the key order information for the pickers.
With AR-assisted order picking, the worker gets all needed order information in his/her field of view and can be directed to the right aisle and shelf using GPS-style navigation. As he/she picks up the item, it can be scanned and the WMS and other relevant systems updated automatically. By bringing together all the key information to workers in a hands-free mode and automating a lot of data retrieval and input tasks, AR is helping the warehouse workers perform their responsibilities with fewer errors, while increasing their speed and efficiency.
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Keywords: Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Logistics, Manufacturing, Warehouse, Assembly, Inspections, Order Picking, Pick and Pack Solutions, ARC Advisory Group.