AR and VR: Game-Changers for Industry?

Robert Jones, manufacturing engineer at Nissha Medical Technologies, also sees the huge potential of AR technology in the manufacturing space in training operators as well as remote maintenance.

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VR can simulate emergency scenarios, allowing users to experience and practice evacuation procedures in a realistic virtual environment. This enables individuals to familiarize themselves with emergency routes, equipment locations, and evacuation protocols, leading to better preparedness and faster response times during actual emergencies. Additionally, VR simulations can help identify potential flaws or bottlenecks in evacuation plans.

What’s next for AR and VR in the industrial sector?

VR, on the other hand, offers immersive simulations for training purposes, allowing workers to practice complex procedures or hazardous scenarios in a safe, virtual environment. This helps them to acquire new skills, mitigate risks, and save costs.

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AR and VR: Game-Changers for Industry?

Experts in design and manufacturing describe the role of augmented and virtual reality

“In our facility, we use both manual and semi-automated processes to manufacture safe and functional medical devices,” says Jones. “Training operators for these tasks can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. An AR-based program could transform this, offering real-time work instructions for efficient assembly. Paired with AI, it could even provide real-time alerts and corrective actions.”

Real-time AR instructions can be particularly beneficial in complex assembly processes, maintenance tasks, or quality control procedures, where precision and accuracy are extremely important. Companies like Airbus have already integrated Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens into their factory processes.

Remote maintenance

In the industrial sector, AR is employed to enhance worker productivity and accuracy by overlaying digital instructions, real-time data, and visual cues onto machinery or workstations. This aids in assembly, quality control, and maintenance, as well as troubleshooting, reducing errors, and downtime.

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On the other hand, virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that users can interact with and explore. VR typically involves wearing a headset displaying virtual content, and may include additional peripherals like hand controllers or haptic-feedback devices.

How can you use AR and VR in the industrial sector?

Apple’s Vision Pro announcement has sparked a renewed interest in the world of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Looking through the lens of industrial environments, these technologies have already made significant contributions in manufacturing, maintenance, and training processes. Here, we’ll examine key areas where they hold potentially transformative power for the industrial sector, with input from Hubs’ in-house engineers as well as other industry experts.

A primer on augmented and virtual reality

Through wearable AR devices or mobile applications, workers can receive contextual information overlaid on their field of view, such as step-by-step instructions, safety guidelines, or equipment specifications.

VR can create immersive environments in which operators can practice handling various scenarios in a safe and controlled manner. By replicating real-world situations, trainees can gain hands-on experience, improve their skills, and learn how to respond to different challenges.

Real-time AR instructions

“We’ve got the software we need, but the hardware has some catching up to do,” Goin says. In his opinion, AR seems to hold the edge over VR until VR becomes photo-realistic, which again is going to be hardware-driven. The biggest moves in that field were, of course, made by Meta, HTC, Valve, and now Apple. Given that others paved the way but didn’t quite strike gold, it will be interesting to see where Apple takes it.

With AR, technicians at the site can wear smart glasses or use mobile devices to stream live video to remote experts. Experts can then overlay virtual instructions or annotations onto the technician’s view, guiding them through the troubleshooting or repair process in real time. This significantly reduces travel costs and downtime, because experts can diagnose and provide guidance without physically being present. German brand Oculavis has demonstrated such capabilities over the last couple of years.

Safety alerts and evacuation

AR and VR can revolutionize factory layout planning by providing immersive and interactive experiences of a factory before it’s constructed. With AR, designers can overlay digital models onto physical spaces, allowing them to visualize how different equipment and layouts will fit within the factory environment. This can help identify potential design flaws or bottlenecks before construction begins, saving time and reducing cost. XYZ Reality uses AR to ensure precision in prefabricated construction.

For example, as AR advances, it may become more compact and wearable, with devices like smart glasses becoming increasingly lightweight and comfortable. This will make AR more accessible and practical for workers, allowing for hands-free operation and better integration into existing workflows.

For further insights on where AR/VR currently stands in the industrial context, and to identify the steps needed before it could play a more significant role, Hubs reached out to experts in design and manufacturing. Here’s what they had to tell us.