Autonomous, Connected & Interactive:

Technologies Defining the Next Wave of Product Innovation

Section Four: AR/VR Shifts the Boundaries of Product Experience

Augmenting How We Train and Work

As natural as voice interactions can be for humans, we tend to rely on our sense of sight far more to navigate the world. For this reason, AR and VR applications will continue to have an ever-increasing impact on the way humans interact with their environments both at work and at home.

Augmenting How We Train and Work

Augmented reality, as the name implies, “augments” our experience of reality. It usually does this by overlaying information on the environment, either by taking advantage of the camera function of a mobile device or relying on microdisplays in glasses or goggles. This technology has already found a wide range of industrial use cases. First of all, it can be used in training. For example, Bosch teamed up with Re-Flekt to create an AR tool that could help train mechanics on the exact location of components in vehicles produced by Jaguar Land Rover without requiring trainees to remove and replace the dashboard.

Augmenting How We Train and Work

Additionally, AR can actually aid in conducting repairs or assembling complex machinery. To this end, Boeing has leveraged Upskill’s Skylight tool to guide workers engaged in wire harness assembly in aircraft. By walking workers through the process as they do it, Boeing was able to cut production time by 25% and lower error rates to near zero.

AR technologyThe beauty of this approach is that AR tools can capture the work of subject matter experts as they perform a complex task, providing their colleagues not only with training materials, as in the case above, but also providing guidance as they actually complete the task themselves. What’s more, you can also apply the same technology to things like QA, guiding QA techs as they conduct inspections and providing them with a way to record any defects or issues they discover.

Finally, thanks to advances in image recognition and other visual systems, as we discussed in the section on robotics, companies can use AR to help workers find things in warehouses and even identify spare parts. These applications have also found uses in retail environments. For example, Bell Integrator, which launched an AR platform in 2017, developed an app for an auto parts chain that allowed customers to identify the replacement parts they needed simply by viewing their vehicle through the app.

AR has also established a foothold in healthcare, providing doctors and other practitioners with tools allowing them to “see” a patient’s vascular system—allowing for greater accuracy when drawing blood or starting an IV—or visualize tumors in 3D. As was the case in the industrial space, AR is being used for training in healthcare as well. Physicians can use AR headsets, for example, to be “telementored,” whereby a remote surgeon can watch a surgery as it is taking place and provide the acting surgeon with real-time guidance. Similarly, physicians can use these headsets to record what goes on in the OR, coordinate OR staff, and assess surgeon performance.

Advancements in VR

Advancemens in VR

While still in its infancy, VR is also having an impact in healthcare. Specifically, research is currently being conducted on training surgeons using VR. Research conducted at UCLA involved using VR to train orthopedic surgeons on repairing a bone fracture. Students who went through the VR training were able to complete the surgery more quickly and follow protocols more closely than their traditionally trained counterparts. On another front, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that VR could help patients manage severe pain, using VR games to distract patients during painful procedures.

VR applications in manufacturing and product design also continue to evolve. On the one hand, you have use cases such as leveraging IoT data to create explorable models of everything from individual machines to entire factories.

On the other hand, you have the use of VR as a proving ground for new product designs. We saw this above in the case of simulations being used to train the robot arm, but this use case has unlimited potential when it comes to evolving product designs based on responses to an endless permutation of environments.

As AR and VR become more established as media, they will continue to influence product design and innovation. And they will prove even more powerful when combined, in novel and unforeseen ways, with the other technologies we’ve described.