Augmented Reality in its very nature aims at delivering specific contextual information about some scenarios in order to enhance the user knowledge, and finally ease and improve the accomplishment of tasks that can vary according the application fields. Among the very different scenarios (i.e., entertainment, education, navigation, medicine, military, and more), AR is well on its way to becoming a valuable application tool also in industry. In particular, there are specific stages in the research and development of goods, but also in their maintenance, that would gain a significant benefit from AR exploitation.
In industrial environment, the introduction of new technologies is function of many variables, however cost reduction, process speed-up, and quality improvement can be considered the driving factors of major influence. In light of the AR basic definition, it seems in its very nature to be applied within working/industrial context, where there is a significant need accurate, local, useful, and up-to-date information for the production processes. Think for example to an assembly line, where delivering to the worker the code number and the visual representation of the next part to be assembled can results in shorter production time, trivial training effort for the personnel, significant reduction of errors, and lower production costs.
Although very promising, the application of AR in industrial environment is still very rare. In fact, there are not many real-world application examples in this context, due to the very demanding performance requested in terms of robustness, reliability, quality in very challenging environments. However, very big improvements have been achieved in the last few years that can lead to foresee a very close application of AR in a broad range of fields, ranging from the prototyping, to the production, to the servicing and maintenance.
In fact, today’s products are quickly getting more and more complex in almost every industrial fields. Consider for example the automotive: in a modern car, the complexity of the plan of also one apparatus only (like the plan of the electrical cables and electronic devices) is so big that its printout would be thick as an encyclopedia. So, in case of servicing or maintenance, how can these huge amount of information be delivered in the right moment and place? Relying on AR, not only the personnel can do away with the need of printed schematic and instruction, but a way more rich and updated information can be provided through the online connection to dedicated information and multimedia content databases. This approach can significantly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the whole task, and the more complex the product is, the bigger the potential benefit of AR.
Staying in the automotive field, most of the modern cars provide for diagnosis tasks an interface (e.g., a connector to the main control unit) that allows a very quick and precise analysis of the state of the car apparatus, like the engine, or of the electrical system. However, the accompanying information about the specific part to be repaired are stored in a separated database or, even worst, in some printed handouts. Hence, the object of the diagnosis and the data yielded by the diagnosis are spatially separated. In this scenario, AR can help in bridging this gap, enabling for example the diagnosis results to be displayed next to the specific part, or providing step by step instruction on how to repair, substitute a component.
As for maintenance task in automotive, the application of AR can be successfully applied in a very broad range of industrial phases (like in the system demonstration, system prototyping, and final production), as well as in very different industrial fields (like mechanical engineering, or civil engineering). Although not yet very spread due to technological very demanding performance, considering the very fast growing rate of AR field, we strongly believe that in very short time the maturity of AR will be evolved enough to fulfil industrial needs, and the exploitation of AR in this context will be part of the everyday life.Tags: Augmented Reality, Industrial Scenarios