1What exactly is AR and what is the advantage of this technology?
I think most of us are already familiar with virtual reality (VR) and many of us have seen or even used a VR application. But the big disadvantage of this technology is exactly the submergence into a virtual environment during use. An interaction with people or objects in the real environment is impossible. The situation is completely different with Augmented Reality. With AR I still see my normal environment, but by fading in virtual elements I get additional information about real objects. The big advantage of this technology is that I not only get information offered and displayed, but that I can also place it at the place where I need it. For example, if I have a classic assembly instruction on paper, I constantly have to pause my work to look up the next steps in the instruction. When using AR, I get the information about which parts I need to assemble directly in my field of vision and I don't have to interrupt my work. In addition, I can see information about screws, the necessary torques or other relevant content.
2In which areas can AR be used well in companies?
AR always creates significant added value where the virtual content can represent scenarios that otherwise can only be realized with great financial or time investment. In the areas of service and training, AR is already being increasingly used today. Service technicians can call up diagnostic information, maintenance instructions and repair guides directly at the machine and receive localized information on what action needs to be taken in each case. This considerably reduces the time required for service and training and familiarization. AR is also ideal for planning tasks. For example, I can place virtual objects in real rooms to plan a new production line, an office wing or workshop areas. This allows me to optimize workflows and routes or to carry out ergonomic and safety-related considerations without affecting the current operative business in these premises. In principle, useful AR applications can be found for almost all areas. In my experience, braking factors tend to lie in the difficulty of thinking into such applications. Therefore, most projects are preceded by an intensive consultation with our customers.
3What hardware is required for AR?
The selection of the right hardware creates an important framework condition. When it comes to AR, most companies immediately think of data glasses, but today the technology can be used with any modern device. Depending on the application, it could be a laptop, smartphone, tablet or data glasses. With a smartphone or tablet I can capture the environment via the built-in camera and display it on the screen with additional virtual content. No additional hardware is required for this, which means that the applications can be made available to many employees at low cost. Of course, data glasses offer additional advantages because I can cover a larger field of vision and do not need to hold a device in my hands when I want to move around the room. However, it is often the simple solutions that already offer significant added value and thus lay the foundation for larger projects.
4What should you do if you want to use AR?
In principle, an AR project should not be implemented in isolation, but must be part of the digitization strategy. I experience time and again that companies focus too much on individual solutions such as Google Glasses or HoloLens from Microsoft and lose sight of the big picture. Many find the gadget interesting, but don't know how to integrate the devices into a long-term strategy and the project doesn't make it out of the pilot phase. That's why I always start every project with an intensive workshop with the customer to clarify key issues together. What do I want to achieve through digitalized production? What equipment do I need for this? Which tools really add value? Of course, these are not all questions that should be answered in advance, but in fact they are questions to which a satisfactory answer must often first be found.