“There are few emerging technologies which can truly overcome the reality and limitations of the physical world. AR, MR and VR concretely change the way people interact and perceive reality”. Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality are presented in this way in the recently published Engineering White Paper “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality. Where real and virtual worlds meet“, whose introductory part gives an exact definition of the three often confused technologies.
AR, VR and MR, mature technologies, applied in many contexts and with investments on the rise and destined to increase further, reformulate industrial processes and improve overall efficiency, increasing the perception of the surrounding environment, the experience and the care of the user.
Why use AR, VR and MR?
Initially conceived as technologies to be used mainly in the field of video games, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed 05Reality can be successfully applied to different business processes, with advantages ranging from an increase in health and safety standards to the acquisition of new skills, to an easier dissemination of corporate know-how, to the strengthening of collaboration between people employed in project teams.
By redesigning processes, AR, VR and MR can contribute not only to the reduction of costs, but also to the profound transformation of the ways of learning, assisting, benefiting from information, giving support to colleagues or customers.
Which are the required components?
Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality are applicable thanks to the combination of hardware devices which work as displays, such as the head-mounted display, the smartphone or smartglasses, and other input devices such as sensors, cameras, gyroscopes, and so on.
In addition to hardware components, the implementation of technologies requires software applications that transform data into 2D or 3D images as well as remote web and Cloud servers to store data and related information.
When can collaboration, maintenance and training be called “augmented”?
There are three areas of application in which the use of Augmented Reality, Virtual or Mixed Reality make the difference and which are reported, by way of example, in the paper.
The combination of the three technologies allows users to collaborate more easily, even if geographically at a distance, by sharing and handling content among multiple users in real time, and by being able to interact in a virtual environment which has been reconstructed as if it were real. In particular, there are advantages in Field Service Management, i.e. in all those activities aimed at supporting the workforce operating in the field, at customers’ premises, on assets or on technical networks, or within production facilities and plants. In addition to improving safety standards, overall efficiency and the quality of the work performed, AR, VR and MR can reduce the margin of error and the time required to complete the work.
Augmented Reality, thanks to which it is possible to show additional information about an object that is being classified on special devices such as smartglasses or smartphones, improves the quality of the work of maintenance technicians, allowing them to carry out assembly and maintenance activities in industrial environments more quickly and safely. It is precisely in the areas where maintenance processes are particularly complex that AR complements the skills of the technicians, providing the large quantities of documentation required in order to carry out the work with high quality standards.
The training of technical figures is another field of application in which the difference is highlighted not only by the availability of specific documentation and the assistance of experts, but also by the possibility of seeing reality enriched by data. Extended Training, available through different devices, from tablets to immersive HMDs, is particularly effective in the case of simulations of complicated or expensive situations when recreated in practice, where the virtually recreated environment allows the full immersion of users who can put into practice what they learned during training or simulate an activity. Extended training allows employees to acquire the necessary field skills better and faster, no longer based only on theoretical indications to be contextualized, but on practical experience.