We are now in the era of Industry 4.0; the fourth industrial revolution. And it’s the fastest one yet…
Almost 80% of global senior IT leaders are confident that the upcoming five years have a century’s worth of technological advancements in store for us. It isn’t hard to see why, with the exponential development and incorporation of the Internet of Things, machine learning and the smart factory. Technology is everywhere, in almost all facets of our work and home life, and there’s simply no way to avoid it: if businesses can’t adapt to it quickly enough, they will get left behind.
We now live in a world where technology isn’t just a novelty or a convenience we work with; it’s a necessity that now works with us. And this brings to its head a huge job for immersive technology to carry out during this era: to bring humans and machines even closer together seamlessly. Here are just some of the ways companies have realised the immense potential of virtual and augmented technologies to make the smart factory become even smarter.
Augmented reality – manufacturing
The use of augmented reality can make an excellent interactive environment where workers can learn while practising on the job. The following video shows an augmented reality training application in use, serving as a visual production guide for the assembly of a Ducati motorcycle engine.
Through projected instructions, sound effects and colour-coding, the system clearly walks the user through the manufacturing process and can measure the exact torques and angles of tightened screws. It can also detect errors such as a screw being tightened at the incorrect torque, and alerts the user of these through visual and aural feedback.
Even fully trained assemblers working with complicated products quickly could benefit greatly from such a system, to make sure their output is consistent and free from human error. Such a tool may prove particularly handy for rush jobs while preventing sacrifice of quality!
Virtual reality – product design
Virtual reality offers product designers the opportunity to test their prototype products in the form of interactive computer-generated models. You can get an idea of what ideas would work and what wouldn’t within having to invest in materials and assembly, so you can save resources for only building the products you are most confident in.
Here is an example of such an application in action, designed for Jacuzzi to test out a prototype for one of their showers. The user can step into the computer-generated simulation of a shower cubicle to assess space and comfort. Then they can adjust the virtual shower head through gesture control to get a feel or its ergonomics and ease of use.
Augmented reality – quality control
As well as making assembly much smoother, augmented reality can prove to be invaluable in the quality control process. Even inspectors with the best eye for detail can overlook particular product defects (this is part and parcel of being human, after all!), but a digital application can highlight these quickly and safely. This is a proof of concept for such a system developed by German software provider CAQ AG, demonstrated with the inspection of a ballpoint pen.
Powered by gesture control, the system allows users to select inspection processes to carry out, which it then assists through instructions and visual cues. Not unlike the aforementioned Ducati production guide, the application can measure component parts and highlight any unacceptable deviations from product standards.
Virtual reality – simulation training
This is perhaps the use case we have heard of most often in the workplace: more and more companies have adopted the use of interactive virtual reality applications to train their employees, where they can develop soft skills and an understanding of health and safety guidelines. There are many benefits for virtual reality training applications over traditional methods:
- Users can put their newly-learnt skills to use, and even learn by doing
- A practical experience is more engaging than a standard presentation or paper-and-pen training session. It’s also easier to remember!
- Virtual reality offers a convincing yet safe atmosphere for users to prepare for hazardous, high risk situations.
In fact, the virtual reality training application has become so widespread and versatile in recent years that we even have a separate article with use cases and more information, which you can check out here! link here immersion and training).