AR and VR in the Manufacturing Industry
When technology reaches the point of everyday consumption, it’s already passed through industries which feel of different worlds. It has to pass through them so they are available for consumers because the tech advances and becomes cheaper. As is well documented, due to research and development costs, manufacturers pitch their products high, meaning they’re only purchasable by businesses and companies, as opposed to those at home. They are used in sometimes innovative ways which cause new uses outside of those imagined, sometimes, altering how it might end up in the public sphere. Virtual and augmented reality follows this trend.
For general public discourse, augmented reality and virtual reality mainly have their uses for entertainment – be it movies, gaming, or a subset of both. The immersion of a new world is imagined. Places known but not really known, of other worlds and times in transcendental colours, of actions and characters which holds us still. Sometimes, they show the familiar. For instance, online casinos have made great use of them. They’ve had a popular category of game called Live casino for a while, which is where, instead of gamers playing a computerised game, card dealers are dealing in real-life which is streamed to the gamers. This enables an experience much closer to the traditional manner. VR can take it that much further. Though, at the moment, animated avatars are the best gamers had at representing themselves, Facebook are developing photorealistic ones.
There’s one application currently though, for VR and AR, – and one which is finding great success – is in the manufacturing industry.
At the design and prototype type stage of manufacturing, VR has obvious benefits. While designs can be rendered in 3D and manipulated as such with software now, they can’t be fully examined as intimately and totally as VR allows. Minute details within designs, tiny components, can be expanded and worked on, but, also, seen in different environments, recontextualised and prototyped without being made physical.
Another key point is that virtual reality designing and prototyping enables remote work. This means companies can attract top talent from around the world to work with and for them.
AR is being used to manage inventory. As AR is mapped onto the existing physical environment, the technology, with the help of AI, can then help workers find what is there looking for, with the help of directions, and all the subsequent details they need. They needn’t use a Magic Leap or HTC Vive headset (which are favoured for this industry), only an iPad.
Employee training is often valued and supported but methods vary to noticeable degrees, especially as different people learn best via different mediums. VR and AR can provide a hands-on environment – a playground, almost – without the cost of having dummy equipment or the consequences of use or operating within a working environment, with real-time feedback from the computer, rather than a teacher who could miss something as they could have others to observe. It enables companies to set up more effective courses and fully prepare employees for a role, all while keeping them and other workers safe.