A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Dec 16, 2016

The Impact of Augmented Reality In the Workplace

Not just greater efficiency, but providing better data that leads to more optimal decision-making. JL

Sara Castellanos reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Augmented reality superimposes digital content including hologram-like images onto a user’s view of the real world. The global 3-D imaging market, which includes holograms, is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $16.6 billion by 2020. Holograms are useful for visualizing data because they engage the spatial awareness part of the brain that allows humans to understand complex concepts more quickly and promotes greater retention
The future of data visualization is unfolding on the factory floor of AGCO Corp., a manufacturer of agricultural equipment. Factory workers in Jackson, Minn., don augmented-reality glasses that display diagrams and images of instructions to help them conduct quality checks on tractors and chemical sprayers. Logging quality checks is up to 20% faster with the use of Google Glass, said Peggy Gulick, director of business-process improvement.
Next year, the company, based in Duluth, Ga., will experiment with computer-generated hologram-like images, using the three-dimensional images to help guide workers through the process of welding 30-foot booms to chemical sprayers.
The use of augmented reality, which superimposes digital content including hologram-like images onto a user’s view of the real world, is in the earliest stages of commercial development. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say improvements in the performance of AR equipment, like the Microsoft HoloLens, and expected reductions in its cost, will help drive the technology into the mainstream, specifically in the supply chain.
MIT is working to hasten and improve the process by constructing a multimillion-dollar Visual Analytics Lab where corporations and researchers there can experiment with computer-generated hologram-like images and interactive touch-screen walls embedded with layers of supply-chain data that is often obscured. That information could range from customer and product information to population, socioeconomic data and real-time traffic, weather and social-media data.The 500-square-foot lab is expected to be built at the university’s renovated Center for Transportation and Logistics in Cambridge, Mass., funded in part by corporations with which MIT already has existing relationships, and open for experimentation to both corporations and researchers across MIT departments beginning late 2017.
Spearheading the project is MIT researcher and 30-year-old German native Matthias Winkenbach, who holds a Ph.D. in logistics and supply-chain management and is an expert in last-mile logistics, or the movement of goods to their ultimate destination.
“AR can be a game changer in data and analytics because it’s so much more immersive,” Dr. Winkenbach said. “You’re…experiencing much more than you’re analyzing.”
A rendering of MIT's planned Visual Analytics Lab where corporations and researchers will experiment with computer-generated hologram-like images and interactive touch-screen walls embedded with supply-chain data.
Early versions of AR are being used by large corporations today and analysts predict its uses will increase sharply. About 14.4 million U.S. workers will use “smart glasses,” such as Google Glass and HoloLens, in 2025, up from 400,000 this year, according to Forrester Research Inc. Large companies will spend $3.6 billion on smart glasses in 2025, up from $6 million in 2016, according to Forrester. The global 3-D imaging market, which includes holograms, is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $16.6 billion by 2020, according to Markets and Markets, a research firm in India.
Holograms are particularly useful tools for visualizing data because they engage the spatial awareness part of the brain that allows humans to understand complex concepts more quickly and promotes greater retention, said Brian Mullins, co-founder and CEO of Daqri, a maker of a smart helmet that provides augmented reality-based work instructions and data visualization for companies.
“In cases where you have to react with very complex amounts of information, it can tell a much better story than just a bar graph,” said Mr. Mullins, whose six-year-old company has garnered more than $130 million in funding for an advanced AR headset outfitted with infrared, thermal and high-speed wide-angle cameras, which will also allow users to see high-definition holograms in direct sunlight, outdoors.
To gain an edge over competition, companies are experimenting with early versions of AR in the supply chain.

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