Every technology has been created for improving human lifestyle, for sharing data and helping humans to make decisions in an easy and accurate fashion. In recent times, the world is becoming more interconnected at a faster pace. There is a sudden explosion of technologies, leading to a challenge in adoption by the industry. Augmented Reality (AR) is definitely one such technology that will be a major disruptor in many ways. Looking at the adoption rates of AR & VR technology, it is clear from the chart below that the number of US users adopting AR & VR has been steadily increasing year over year. This trend will be more prominent globally as well.
Emergence of AR for the future
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, clearly predicts the importance of AR by saying, “A significant portion of the population of the developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.” While the adoption levels of AR are found to be higher in the consumer and entertainment arena, the benefits of AR adoption in manufacturing are found to be immense. Due to the early realisation of the benefits, manufacturing investments directed to the development of AR technology or content are expected to increase by 17% over the coming years. Although the initial introduction to AR was through gaming, the recent industrial trends indicate that AR companies are focusing more on working on industrial applications in 2020 rather than consumer applications. This shift is more prominent towards industrial apps by more than 65%. Another critical pointer that indicates the explosion of AR technology is the number of start-ups. According to Angel List, in 2020, AR related start-ups are more than 2000 and are still counting. All of these leading indicators point towards a great AR emergence in the near future.
AR for industrial settings
After analysing the solutions that can be applied by AR, it is very evident that the technology can impact manufacturing in several key areas and will also provide manufacturers with a key competitive edge. Most of the impacts are really noteworthy, resulting in a great leap for the manufacturing industry.
In today’s world, 95% of the work instructions provided to employees and technicians are in static text format, rest being in video or audio formats. In its current format, employees have to understand the instructions and repeat or follow the instructions for their task. If it is not so repetitive a task, the instructions may be forgotten, resulting in errors. Same applies for complex tasks in which the workers cannot follow it properly without mistakes. AR can replace these static work instruction approaches with an intuitive instruction overlying dynamically on every task that is being handled by the workers. Hence, the chance for a mistake is almost eliminated. Similarly, AR can also be used for job trainings. With AR-powered training, candidates will get an on‐the-job training experience with less wastage and more efficiency. In the manufacturing industry, designing a new product or a variation is a time-consuming step. It takes more time to design a product that integrates into an ecosystem than replicating it for production. Also, the approval cycle for new products is longer as well. With AR, new products can be designed in the fastest possible way and also improves the speed of approval as seeing is more believing. Everyone believes their eyes rather than reading through a lot of paper specifications and imagining the design on their own. This real-time display adoption helps to release improved products in shorter duration.
AR for real-time industry sophistication
Similar to prototyping, quality assurance of manufactured products can be easily verified by augmented comparison against the standard specifications. This will minimise the manual labour in the QA inspection with more technology infused into the QA work processes. AR can also reduce the time spent on inventory management. For example, if workers are provided with a barcode scanning smart glasses, they will have more data on their hands than carrying any piece of the ledger on a mobile computer or manual paper. When connected to IoT devices, workers can run through the warehouse in the best possible way based on AR-based routed guidance. In addition to all these benefits, AR solutions can be improved further into powerful real-time analysis by being combined with other available technologies, such as IoT devices, Artificial Intelligence, to provide meaningful insights. Collaborating all these technologies will sophisticate the benefits for the manufacturing industry.
AR for smart manufacturing of the future
While it is clear that AR provides so much to the manufacturing industry, it still has to go a long way with respect to being adaptable and interactive with the industry. When it matures further, it will certainly change the way the manufacturing businesses run today. With all these impacts, there is no doubt that AR will transform the manufacturing houses into smart houses by 2030.