Augmented Reality may sound futuristic and far-fetched. But it in reality, it not only exists, but it is readily available – and is at everyone’s fingertips with a smartphone.
And we’ve actually already been seeing it gain popularity. Anyone remotely familiar with the 2016 gaming sensation Pokémon Go understands how AR works as cartoon images of characters unpredictably popped into view, waiting to be ‘caught’ among the real-world landscape when players would aim their smartphone camera at their surroundings.
But AR isn’t just fun and games; it means business – and learning.
In fact, in recent years, there has been a considerable shift toward developing AR devices and applications for the workplace as the technology shows up in headsets, “smartglasses” and is even being tested in a contact lens.
Augmented reality is “ … an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are ‘augmented’ by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory,” according to Wiki. And unlike virtual reality where everything is simulated, augmented reality makes reality bigger or greater by adding to it.
AR apps, therefore, blend the real with the digital as users see the physical world around them but the view is overlaid with virtual media.
Most simply put, augmented reality serves to expand on human potential, allowing people and machines to function better collaboratively than either could alone.
Quality assurance. Where once workers used clipboards or even tablets to complete checklists during the inspection process, smartglasses that leverage a form of AR can help users see digitally overlaid components as needed. Users can pull up information whenever they need it and when they don’t, the smartglasses act as safety goggles. In fact, one company which used AR app technology reduced its inspection times by 30 percent, and its tractor production times by 25 percent.
Training. With AR, employees with little to no formal training can be taught to do highly skilled tasks – and quickly. Because where traditional training often stops once a class or video ends, an employee who uses AR can learn in perpetuity every day, in real time, as needed. For example, if a machine part malfunctions, an augmented reality app can train an employee to make the necessary repair.
Safety. Augmented reality apps can also provide critical safety training. For instance, AR apps can simulate a live wire on the ground, a jet engine failure or an oil well blowout so workers can safely practice what to do until the proper procedures are committed to memory. Further, with AR, workers can practice identifying potential hazards and rehearse different ways to handle emergencies.
As part of our commitment to educational innovation, Vector Solutions has been looking into the future of content development and more specifically, developing virtual and augmented reality content at scale.
The Vector Solutions’ AR app serves to walk a technician through a valve-and-plug procedure, a process required before performing maintenance on certain equipment. Each item in the process populates one at a time, and users must confirm each step to complete and progress. The app also provides a safety check so technicians confirm they are wearing the correct protective gear before they begin the process.
As we begin to scratch the surface of all of the real-world applications for AR technology, its capabilities will increase exponentially as prices decrease so that in the not-so-distant future, we could all experience AR seamlessly integrated into nearly any industries.
This is only the beginning for AR technology and though its place in the workplace is still being determined, its limitless potential is clear.