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Augmented Reality: From Pokémon Go to Industrial Applications

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based Augmented Reality mobile game and it has taken the world by storm. So far, it is officially available only in the US, Australia and New Zealand. It immediately became the top free app in the US and was so popular that servers crashed briefly on launch day. The share price of Nintendo, the company who owns the Pokémon franchise and 33% of the company that developed the game, shot up 50% in three trading days since the game was launched.

The technology behind the game, Augmented reality (AR), is the real time integration of digital information with the user's physical environment. AR uses the existing environment and adds layers of information on top of it, which is unlike virtual realitywhich creates an entire digital environment.

AR has been the stuff of movies, from Terminator in 1984, to Iron man in 2008, where Tony Stark's views the world in AR in the Iron Man suit.

1stpic

Consumers might also be aware of the 2013 release of Sony's Playstation 4, which included a camera and software called Playroom. Playroom allows you to call out and interact with AR robots on your TV screen.

While AR has been around for years now, it owes a lot to Pokémon Go as it brings the technology to the main stream masses, increasing awareness. The maturity of the technology factors that have enabled the phenomena includes;  connectivity speeds and reliability have improved, decreased costs and increased processing power in a smart phone allowing real time interactions.

In addition to consumer applications, augmented reality has the potential to impact industrial processes, improving productivity and allowing businesses to better manage risks. Leveraging on these new technologies will be important for Southeast Asian enterprises to compete with their global counterparts.

Logistics and Distribution

At the 7th edition of Asia Internet of Things(IoT) Business Platform, DHL presented a case study showing that it has successfully carried out a pilot project testing smart glasses and augmented reality in a warehouse in the Netherlands. The technology was used to implement ‘vision picking’ in warehousing operations. Staff was guided through the warehouse by graphics displayed on the smart glass to speed up the picking process and reduce errors. The pilot proved that augmented reality offers added value to logistics and resulted in a 25% efficiency increase during the picking process.

Manufacturing

Boeing sees the future of augmented reality on the assembly line. In 2014, Boeing partnered with Iowa State University, putting 45 students through assembly projects in 3 groups. Each group used a different method of instruction; paper instructions, instructions on a handheld PC, or instructions using augmented reality. Boeing found that the augmented reality group had significantly fewer errors, and took less time to build in comparison to the other groups. That data provided the business case to move the pilot into a factory and a step closer to real-life testing.

Boeing thinks augmented reality could drive down costs and increase first-time quality on many fronts -- reducing training time, speeding up build times, making it easier to shift employees across tasks, and aiding the transfer of "tribal knowledge" from retiring workers to newbies.

Challenges in implementing AR

While pilots have been successful, technical challenges exist in rolling out the technology on a large scale in a complex environment. Big leaps in hardware would be required, this includes processing power of the chips, high resolution touch screen panels, cameras, sensors and microphones within the AR device. The other challenge would be seamless connectivity of the devices to a stable and reliable network.  Security of the network is another challenge that needs to be overcome.

That being said, Pokémon Go has helped to improve general awareness of AR technology and i believe that this will help open up the minds of enterprises to keep abreast of technological developments in AR as a potential technological solution to current pains.

Join the discussions on Internet of Things(IoT) in Manufacturing and Logistics & Distribution at the 9th and 10th edition of Asia IoT Business Platform held in the week of 15th August in Jakarta, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

By: Ernest


By Ernest Ho | May 1st, 2017

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