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augmented reality (2)

Augmented Reality has been here for some time. Among consumer level products, Pokémon Go was one prime example of primitive level Augmented Reality, it only took a decent smartphone. Lately, some of the social media and networking apps, especially the ones that feature a 24-hour story option e.g. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Messenger are using the basic technologies of Augmented Reality to draw masks and filters over the users’ faces. This is real-time and accurate, and fun nonetheless. However, augmented reality face filters and industrial augmented reality, also known as IAR is vastly different. The first one can act on generic smartphone hardware across a wide range of devices whereas the latter needs proprietary software and hardware. The margin of error in IAR practically needs to be negligible, and there should not be any prominent lag in the system to maintain a precise production output. Augmented Reality has become a thing in 2017, and we believe the inflection point for Industrial Augmented Reality will be around 2018 – 2019.

Augmented Reality in the Production Line

Everyone that works down in the core production facility, e.g. the supervisors, the technicians and the field workers could really benefit by using AR and 3D imagery on top of a real object to speed up the designing and implementation process. A 3D augmented reality model could be drawn in the head-worn VR helmet in 3D space, generated by data received from IoT based sensors placed at different crucial points to build up an effective model. Also, IAR might not necessarily require VR headsets. There are different aspects of AR and workers in a production facility could access them using smartphones, tablets or proprietary handheld devices. As of yet, renowned VR devices in production are being used in several industries - Google Glass Enterprise and Microsoft HoloLens have made their cut. The emergence of IoT and rapid development in the same field would certainly ensure a competitive market of IoT sensors and VR helmets for IAR in the upcoming years. Workers in different industries – production, oil drilling, mining, assembly line etc. will never look the same in a few years!

Challenges in the Application of AR in Industries

Creating the AR ecosystem is the major challenge in switching to a completely AR based industry from old-school manual technologies. Assembly line workers do the same repetitive tasks every day and it doesn’t matter how boring their jobs might be, they have gotten used to doing it. Introducing a new technology could set back production by bigger numbers, cause serious trouble in the supply chain and jeopardize a company’s trades. In technology spectrum, the available IoT sensors are still mostly generic. Depending on what an industry would produce, these sensors will need to change and become more customizable and specific.

IAR Application in Industries

So far, implementation of IAR is seen in the following industries –

• Manufacturing: Boeing is one of the first adopters to put AR in their mainstream production line. A few automobile makers have initiated beta versions of their IAR.

• Military: US Air Force has been using a fully functional AR system for some select models of their air crafts since 1992. Louis Rosenberg was the mastermind behind creating the system.

• Healthcare & Medical: To carry out dangerous surgical operations in sensitive organs, such as the brain and heart, a combination of VR and AR is used by surgeons.

• Education: A picture is worth a thousand words. Imagine how many words a demonstration through AR would be?

• Tourism: Yelp Monocle and Word Lens are two AR based smartphone apps that use augmented reality to provide the user with relevant information.

IAR is the Future

Pokémon Go or Snapchat are fun, but they aren’t the only applications AR is capable of doing. With IAR in the rise, the production lines are going to be more productive and competitive than ever.  Whats your take, do you think IAR will be the next best thing? or is the learning curve too high to be worth the investment?

Greg Conrad is a writer for Ax Control

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IoT meets Augmented Reality

Many years ago there was an entertaining television commercial in the USA where a company, I think it was Wendy's, explained how much care and effort they put into making a perfect meal for their customers. Each and every focal point that showed the extra care and effort they took was followed by some lame guy saying "Boy, you sure make a lot of work for yourselves!!" At the time I didn't realise how many truisms this commercial contained, but the implied message of "Good things take extra effort" didn't escape me and with time I learned to appreciate how much work really goes into making extraordinary things.

PTC also seems to have taken this philosophy to heart. While it is very easy to find large software products that are complex, difficult to use, and bug-ridden, it is a rare treat to find a powerful tool that does a great deal of heavy lifting for you in an elegant and reliable manner. For my dime, PTC has done just that with their ThingWorx ensemble. They have made a lot of work for themselves, so that you and I don't have to.

Although there are numerous vendors offering IoT solutions, ThingWorx is the only one I have found that focuses on developing IoT interfaces with a minimum of coding skills required and has an Augmented Reality design interface. Considering the time and effort that has gone into the development of ThingWorx Studio, I expect it will be a quite some time before any IoT competitors match or exceed the ThingWorx platform capabilities.

ThingWorx is more of a concept than an application suite. It works very diligently to create an ecosystem for IoT devices to be created, deployed and maintained with a minimum of effort and a maximum of consistency and reliability. Whereas in the "old world" vendors would create proprietary solutions, forcing you to live within the boundaries of their technology, ThingWorx opens the world of IoT to allow companies to pick and choose Best-of-Breed solutions for the specific needs that they have. No longer should you be locked into proprietary technology, tying your fate and fortune to that of your supplier.

This article ( is an abbreviated review of the ThingWorx Studio and its surrounding concepts.

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