Augmented Reality (AR) in Enterprise

Note: The AR Playbook section is dedicated to PTC AR B2B Use Case analysis and is compiled from their Course just to assist Blog readers with relevant content for future reading.

Why AR Expertise ?

Augmented reality technology combines the physical and virtual worlds together by overlaying digital information into the user’s environment, typically via a two-dimensional display.

Learning how to implement AR to transform businesses is a high-demand skill in the enterprise sector. Companies are ready to invest in AR but need experts who can build effective strategies to implement AR solutions that transform products, processes and people into smart, connected enterprises.

Augmented Reality is a breakthrough technology that could considerably ease execution of complex operations. Augmented Reality mixes virtual and actual reality, making available to the user new tools to ensure efficiency in the transfer of knowledge for several processes and in several environments.

As per research AR has use cases in almost 70% of the industrial work and has plethora of opportunities in Medicine, Military ,Education,Gaming,Retail etc.

Learning how to implement AR to transform businesses is a high-demand skill in the enterprise sector. Companies are ready to invest in AR but need experts who can build effective strategies to implement AR solutions that transform products, processes and people into smart, connected enterprises.

  • AR has profound implications in increasing human productivity enabling us to see digital information as we go through our daily work.
  • It can be used to bring products to life in a digital design review.
  • It can be used to teach new processes or on board workers more efficiently through Just In Time Instructions.
  • It can be used to promote remote guidance and facilitate customer self-service.

What we will see in this document is three goals to our understanding :-

  • Technologies behind AR ?
  • How companies are using AR?
  • What decisions you have to make to execute a successful AR Strategy for your Business. ?

AR in Enterprise Use cases

Let us see some of the important and widely implied use cases of AR in Enterprises.

Use Case 1

Engineers want to review with Client or Product Manager different variations of the Product by creating Holograms and projecting them out to Customers or Product Managers in a Design Review.

Use Case 2

AR can be used to guide Assembly workers in form of work instructions that appear right in front of their Manufacturing Work Settings.

Use Case 3

AR can be used by Marketers to create AR Marketing Experiences that reinforces the brand of the product in differentiation to the brand value that the product has.

Use Case 4

AR can be used by Marketers to create AR Marketing Experiences that reinforces the brand of the product in differentiation to the brand that the product has.

Use Case 5

AR can be used to provide remote service and support to customers through AR Annotations that guide the customers in terms of how to resolve a problem.

Use Case 6

AR can be used to train workers and when combined with VR can simulate environments for those workers to be trained at.

Use Case 7

AR can be used to customize the User Interface of Machines and Equipments with AR Dashboards and Controls to allow Operators and even Consumers to control the machine.

Use Case 8

AR Aided Education and AR Aided Healthcare. Elements 4D & Anatomy 4D by DAQRI and GoogleSkyMap

Use Case 9

AR can be used to create any landscape virtually and see how it is going to look without the need to actually build something and redo if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Also, it allows making measurements without a tape-measure and can calculate the work cost.

Use Case 10

Tourism is an area where augmented reality can do great. AR can visualize the information on places people want to visit. Maps with augmented reality are what tourist have been waiting for. That kind of guides can provide great user experience.

Use Case 11

AR can be used in e-commerce and retail to reinvent customer experiences and increase sales.AR technology provides customers with the opportunity to try out things they want to buy, so they get more attached to the product. Moreover, e-commerce brands can draw attention to themselves by using this technology. IKEA catalog is an AR app for retail. It allows you to see how chosen furniture will look inside your home.

Use Case 12

AR can be used to create Teleconferencing apps. Augmented technology helps visualize everything from data to people, and it also lets users see everything from different angles.

AR Trends: New Business Opportunities

AR potential is enormous. It’s just a matter of time and practice before businesses become completely augmented. Let’s see the forecast for AR technology by looking into the crystal ball by examining the latest AR startups activity. Here are the trends:

  • AR format of content. The technology has proven to be an engaging and popular way to deliver content. For example, Building Conversation is a tool designed to bring augmented reality applications to your business, projects or platforms to facilitate understanding and communication between different groups of people.
  • AR takes over mobile. Even though goggles and AR glasses are not going anywhere, AR will focus on mobile. For example, Asus partnered with Google to develop first ever smartphone with Tango and Daydream ZenFone AR.
  • Industrial IoT. With the fast progress of Internet of Things a new need arised. Massive amount of data is being collected and analysed. AR can provide users with a simple and interactive interface. For example, a smart tennis racquet, is part of IoT and the only access to its data is through the app. AR can help visualize data from the smart devices with the use of headsets and special glasses.
  • 3D printing. Creating 3D models can become way easier with AR technology. For example, 3D Doodler is a pen that creates 3D content in augmented reality space.

Technologies behind AR

How to create an AR application

Here are a few things to consider with AR app creation.

  1. Figure out a great idea to enhance your business. Competitor analysis is a good way to handle it.
  2. Explore the market of existing SDKs and platforms for augmented reality development. Pick the one that fits your idea, budget, and expertise. For example, platforms like Vuforia, Wikitude and ARToolKit require profound knowledge of C++, Java, or C#. If programming languages are not your cup of tea, opt for an easier solution — tools like BlippAr or Aurasma are an excellent choice for beginners.
  3. Remember that AR usually needs the presence of 3D objects. You can download existing models or learn how to make them yourself.
  4. Create a 2D tracker, which is a specific picture that gets placed on a surface and scanned by AR-aided devices.
  5. Create a unique design and prepare all the necessary 3D models, pictures, text files and data.
  6. Put all the elements together on a platform of your choice.

Let’s evaluate some augmented reality tools we will need, their features and benefits, so we can make a better choice of a platform.

Top 3 Popular AR SDKs

Vuforia

  • Vuforia is one of the most famous SDKs of today for AR development. So far it has powered 35000 apps.
  • Supports platforms: Android, UWP, Unity Editor and iOS.
  • Programming languages: Provides API in C++, Java, Objective-C++ and .Net through an extension to the Unity game engine.
  • Features available:
  • real object, text, environments and image recognition
  • target tracking
  • mapping additional items with OpenGL
  • scanning objects for recognition
  • virtual buttons

Capabilities: Includes support of virtual reality devices and a test app with comments showing Vuforia capabilities.

Limitations: Lacks a complete framework manual. Instructions and short tips are given randomly, but they can’t replace the required documentation.

Use cases: Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Augmented Reality is an AR app that showcases the engine and its features in four augmented reality scenes. This is an example of a successful AR-aided product promotion. The app lets customers explore this new engine at a distance, as if they were actually nearby.

Pricing: Free and commercial licenses. The free version has limitations in cloud recognition and puts Vuforia watermark on the end product. Paid plan without watermarks and with a certain number of recos costs 99$ per month.

Wikitude

  • Latest Version: Wikitude SDK 8 .
  • Supports platforms: Android, iOS, Smart Glasses, Epson moverio, Vuzix M-100, ODG R-7, PhoneGap, Titanium, Xamarin and Unity.
  • Programming languages: Java and C++.
  • Features available:
  • 3D tracking technology (SLAM)
  • image recognition and tracking
  • geo-location AR for apps
  • improved extended tracking (Wikitude SDK 6)
  • advanced camera options (Wikitude SDK 6)
  • positioning (Wikitude SDK 6)

Capabilities: Free version is fully powered.

Limitations: Free version comes with a watermark.

Use cases: An example of a Wikitude-based app is a display mounted inside Rinspeed’s concept car. The concept of this app is quite interesting. A camera scans people walking past the car and the display shows what they are wearing and where they bought it from. This is how AR brings e-commerce to the next level.

Pricing: Free and commercial licences. Wikitude offers the opportunity to try the free trial version with watermark and the full power of the platform. The cost of this cross-platform Augmented Reality SDK starts at 1990 Euros. Also worth noting, Wikitude is more beneficial when developing markerless AR apps for iOS/Android, compared to ARKit and ARCore (and both libraries have been added to Wikitude recently).

ARToolKit

Supported platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, Mac OS and Smart Glasses.

Capabilities: ARtoolKit is an open source tracking library for augmented reality. ARtoolKit implements the following functionalities:

  • Single-camera or stereo-camera camera position/orientation tracking.
  • Tracking of simple black squares/Tracking of planar images
  • Camera calibration and optical stereo calibration
  • Plugins for Unity and OpenSceneGraph / Optical head-mounted display support
  • Pricing: Free, open source.

Popular AR SDK Feature-wise comparison.

Some FAQs

I use Unity to build 3D environments and know that Unity can export to Android and iOS, but I guess this is for a standard game and not AR because we need AR SDKs such as ARKit, ARCore, or Vuforia. (Correct?)

Ans : Unity is a standard Editor and if you need to use Unity , you can import the above SDKs as all comes with their own set of features. Using Unity along with these AR SDKs makes AR Development a breeze. Unity also has its own AR Package called 8th Wall which ships both to android/ios but has less features and is inelegant. Vuforia and Wikitude are very powerful SDK. Unity and Vuforia has come up with ARFoundation Toolkit which makes coding of simple AR Apps to both platforms including web extremely simple.

Starting Up the Design — The ARPlaybook Model.

AR Playbook is divided into 3 sections: Strategy, Content and Delivery.

Purpose of this Framework: -

  • The right questions to ask when building an AR strategy
  • How to select appropriate technologies to use in implementing AR in the enterprise
  • How to develop strategies for combining technologies to create successful AR implementation
  • How to build strategy relating to AR investments, planning and implementation
  • How industry is using AR to bring value to the enterprise
  1. Strategy
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What techniques will we use to create this AR Experience.?

2. Content

  • Where will we get Information from?
  • How will we bring Information into the AR Experience?
  • Does it need to be configuration managed.?

3. Delivery

  • How will we launch this experience?
  • Will we bring content down live or cached?
  • How will we localize the user into the physical environment?

Setting up Necessary Building Blocks — The ARPlaybook Model.

  1. Strategy
  • Which type of reality will your experience utilize?
  • What capabilities will you leverage?
  • What human senses will you stimulate?
  • Which type of device will you use?
  • What platform(s) will you support?
  • How will you develop the experience?

2. Content

  • How will you represent the physical setting?
  • How will you anchor content?
  • What is the format of your content?
  • How will you source content?
  • How will you configure information?

3. Delivery

  • How will users initiate the experience?
  • How will you track user location?
  • How will you send info from device to user?
  • How will you monitor user interactions?

Mapping Use Case to AR Playbook

In this section, we will see how we can map our previous Use-Cases using Playbook and see that how it’s so helpful to formulate a Business Strategy using our Playbook.

Note : The below exercise refers to teachings by :-

Jim Heppelmann

President & CEO of PTC, Engineer & Author

Please find more on his teachings on this subject from Udemy.

Ref : Use Case 5

AR can be used to provide remote service and support to customers through AR Annotations that guide the customers in terms of how to resolve a problem.

Explanation: Business Strategy via ARPlaybook

This is an example of a Business to Business Use case where some piece of costly and complicated equipment has been delivered to the Customer. It may on occasion needs routine maintenance perhaps filter change or something like that. Rather than sending over the technician to do the job, we would like to enable the customer to do the job himself using Augmented reality. This example is different as its more like an Instructional App with requirement both on iOS and Android where we need to augment the real equipment part to show digital information in terms of assistance to user when machine/equipment is placed under camera. Using computer vision, we are going to recognize equipment parts and then lock on to it and map holograms and texting data to it that we pull down from various technical publishing systems that is probably configuration managed in PLM System.

Now to launch this system, user needs to scan a bar code as we need to know which part of system it is to make sure that we bring down the right content. Now we know which machine it is, and we are going to lock down it and allow user to interact with it using augmented controls and download the right content.

Creating a Playbook Model and formulate an approach.

Ref: Use Case 11

AR can be used in e-commerce and retail to reinvent customer experiences and increase sales.AR technology provides customers with the opportunity to try out things they want to buy, so they get more attached to the product.

[ PRODUCT HOLOGRAM ]

Explanation: Business Strategy via ARPlaybook

This is more popularly used by many users and is used to deliver good sales experience. This is Product Hologram where for example before buying a piece of furniture you would like to download a 3D Hologram of it and place it in living room just like original furniture to get a feel of how it looks and then making decision to buy it or not. Such applications create better user engagements and increase the sales. So here we have consumer and we are going to build a very simple app that can run on any consumer’s machine be it phone/tablet running either android/ios and we are going to place furniture in living room by augmenting it.Now when we think about the content that where will we get the furniture and how are we going to place it , we are going to detect a surface eg. Floor using surface detection and on that surface we are going to download the hologram of the furniture along with some sort of texting data like ‘price’, ‘characteristics’ etc and we are going to pull it from some Product Catalogue server hosted on Cloud having furniture data relevant to that purchase. Now in terms of delivery , we are going to initialize this by consumers staring the special purpose app and manually ask for certain piece of furniture and will download that and place it in room and enabling them to interact with it by allowing them with various configuration options like ‘around it around’, ‘shift right/left’ etc using touch screen of mobile device.

Creating a Playbook Model and formulate an approach.

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