Democratizing Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality

Posted on
5 mins

We rely so much on technology in the commercial world - it simplifies our existence, brings new and innovative ways of doing mundane and complex tasks, and brings entertainment and fun to consumers.

In the Engineering and Manufacturing industries advanced technology is widely used, without it the complex processes that we’ve become used to and the world as we know it today, could not function.

At the same time though, we don’t fully utilize what’s available to us. Cost can always be a factor, as can the fear of the unknown as it’s ‘too new’, so we may not be able to see a need for it, or sometimes we just consider that the ‘old ways’ are still best.

With the latest low-cost devices and technologies for Augmented (AR), Mixed (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) emerging for the consumer markets, the natural progression in to the commercial arena is beginning. In the case of Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality devices, use of the technology is becoming democratized. That said, there really is a bridge that needs to be crossed between these new gaming technologies, and the commercial world of Engineering and Manufacturing.

In the commercial world, the traditional approach is generally taken as a safer bet and, although more resource intensive, time consuming and more costly, it is still often the preferred method.

New technology needs to be embraced!
Some Engineering and Manufacturing processes are still not harnessing new technology and finding new ways of doing established tasks that could save time and money (if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!). But technology has moved on and this needs to be embraced in order to keep up and be ahead of the game - and we see Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality running on the new low cost devices to be that game-changer!

With the new devices and software being released at relatively low price points, they are democratizing the Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality technologies, making them more accessible for everyday use, and engineering and manufacturing is the perfect arena to get full benefit from adopting this technology and deploying it for a variety of use cases.

Technology from birth
We are socialized far earlier with ‘technology’ today than we ever have been, using technology to do “things” is now part of everyday life.

With the younger generation starting their engineering and manufacturing careers, they bring with them the expectation that new technologies can enhance their working life.  They see the potential of using new technology to simplify or create new processes and have a more exciting work experience.

So what are we really talking about here? Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality from the consumer environment bringing enormous benefits in to the commercial engineering and manufacturing environments, due to how widely available the technology has become because of the low price point.

Existing Assets can be used.
We all know that VR has been available for many years in the engineering and manufacturing space, but it has always come with a high price tag and only the few are in the ‘privileged’ position to fully be able to utilize the technology. But now things are very different as the ability to use existing CAD and PLM assets in all of the latest devices without the high price tag, is actually a reality. The biggest obstacle to overcome is convincing staff the traditional approach is not redundant, but that the new technology can complement the old.

Imagine being able to visualize all of your engineering design and manufacturing data in a single visualization application that is completely device agnostic. The same data can be used in the same app on all of the different devices – at the same time if required. Now you can! And it comes with a much lower price tag and better performance.

The App!

A ‘Multi-Device’ Visualization Experience App for Augmented (AR), Mixed (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) devices and markets that has recently been launched by UK based Theorem Solutions.

Although there are solutions companies who offer Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality solutions for use in Engineering or Manufacturing, Theorem are one of the first to offer a single solution for all three different technologies, delivering a single application.

The Visualization Experience, which forms part of Theorem’s ‘Digital Realities’ product family, has been specifically developed for users to engage and interact with their Engineering and Manufacturing data like never before.

With so much importance being put on aesthetics these days, Theorem’s Visualization Experience app covers all bases.

Being Multi-Device, the application allows users to use the same data, in the same visualization application, on ALL of the different low-cost devices.

Users can view, manipulate and interrogate their CAD and PLM data using a combination of touch, wands, hand gestures and voice controls, depending on their choice of device, with each device suiting different use cases and scenarios.

Where does the technology come from?

These new devices and technologies are not coming from the Engineering and CAD/PLM industries, but from the gaming and social media industries - from Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony and Samsung etc. The devices have been put on the market at a low price point compared to existing VR Cave and Powerwall technologies, which is making the devices more accessible and democratizing the technology.

Combining this gaming technology with engineering CAD and PLM data in a single application creates the ultimate interactive user experience, becoming even more powerful when combined with Meta data from MES, ERP and CRM systems - and for IoT and Digital Twin that’s a fundamental requirement.

Use of Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality is being democratized not just on price but also on its mobility and ease of use. The Cave and Powerwall for Virtual reality are not just expensive, they are physically fixed- you have to go to them. The new headsets, tablets and phones can be used on the desktop, on the shop floor, showroom or studio. They are part of a normal office or factory environment and working day, not something to go to and use at a set time.

So it’s not just price but accessibility which extends their reach. As the source data is delivered to the application on the device as needed, there is no need for special data preparation as there is with the Cave and Powerwall.

It’s serendipity! Low price, easy to use, accessible, use anywhere! It democratizes the use of the new technologies of Augmented, Mixed and Virtual reality.

Read more on advanced visualization here: Exploring the Cognitive Gap and the potential of XR technologies.