Using Augmented, Mixed or Virtual Reality in Engineering or Manufacturing is still in its infancy. Whilst there are large Automotive, Aerospace and Defence companies already using Virtual Reality in Caves or Powerwall’s, generally most organisations are just starting to figure out if and why they need the technology. They are determining which technologies are the best fit for them and which companies can provide what they are looking for, especially in relation to the newer Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies.
The reason is that the new technologies offer new experiences at dramatically lower price points than the Cave and Powerwall implementations. These new technologies have two clear use types- commercial use and consumer use. The technologies and the devices are the same, but it’s how they are used and what they are used for that differs.
Virtual Reality has already been used commercially for over 30 years, but to date has run in Powerwall’s and Caves, and is driven very much by niche suppliers in the engineering space. Automotive, aerospace and defence were, and continue to be, big users of it but it is very high cost and is fixed to a particular location. Therefore, even for companies with deep enough pockets, the availability and access to it is very limited. A new wave of low cost VR devices, along with devices for Augmented and Mixed Reality technology, is beginning to gain momentum for commercial use.
Consumer VR is being driven by a very different requirement which isn’t the engineering and manufacturing world, but the Gaming and Social Media world. It is these industries which have driven the creation of the technologies. Obviously gaming itself has been around for 20 years or so, but the VR/AR/MR devices for gaming are relatively new, and they are very low cost, and because of that they are very widely available. So what’s happening here is the technology is merging these two worlds.
Engineering and Manufacturing involve complex processes and so it’s not as easy as, buy a device, load some data and we are away. Whilst the technology and price points are compelling how to use it and determining which processes to change takes time. This probably means that the market in Engineering and Manufacturing for this technology and its solutions won’t become mainstream and widely adopted for the next 12 – 18 months.
Both Theorem, with our Visualization Experience, and the Engineering and Manufacturing organisations we are marketing it to, are ‘early adopters’. We are trying to determine the best use cases for these new technologies and at the same time working out what the return on investment will be.
It’s mainly the big companies who are making the early investments, and they are doing that so they can determine what the return on investment will be for them and to work out what methods and which processes need to change. Generally speaking it’s the first movers trying to steal the lead over their competitors and it’s likely it will follow the tradition that early adopters will be followed by the early majority.
Although there are companies who offer Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality solutions for use in Engineering or Manufacturing, Theorem are one of the first to offer a solution for all three technologies. Theorem’s Visualization Experience app is available for Augmented, Mixed and Virtual reality devices. Our solution means that the CAD and PLM data only needs to be prepared and optimised once, but can then be used on Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality devices, allowing flexibility and freedom of choice.
Freedom of choice is essential, there is no one size fits all, the different technologies provide different experiences which means certain technologies will be better suited to specific use cases. So for many companies, the first movers, it’s about making sure existing CAD and PLM assets can be used. Figuring out how the new devices and technologies are best suited to different use cases and then working out what processes need to change to support that. The result will be understanding the areas to tackle first to improve products, take time out of processes and cut costs. Companies starting now will obviously have that 12-18 month competitive advantage.