With the “Pokemon Go” phenomenon sweeping the globe, millions of consumers are getting their first taste of augmented reality, though many are unaware what else augmented reality technology is used for.
As I discussed with NPR’s “On Point”, there is already massive interest in how AR can go beyond gaming and entertainment to serve more practical needs in fields such as education, medicine and industry.
Today, I’m going to focus specifically on AR applications in industry. In a manufacturing context, AR can be used to convey the orientation, placement and scale of parts (instead of, say, a Charmander) to guide a worker through step-by-step instructions visually in a real-world environment. These augmented guidelines help new workers get up to speed more quickly and reduce unnecessary errors.
To understand how AR works in industry, let’s look at a groundbreaking Boeing study conducted with Iowa State University comparing the efficacy of traditional desktop work instructions with augmented reality work instructions. The team observed first-time trainees doing complex manufacturing tasks, and tracked a few key productivity stats. Major increases in efficiency, accuracy, speed, and worker satisfaction were found. Here are some highlights:
- Accuracy: Trainees utilizing AR instructions made fewer errors than those using desktop instructions by a factor of 16-to-1 on the trainees’ first time completing a task. On the second time around, those using AR had perfect performance — zero errors. Overall, the AR work instructions improved first time quality by 94 percent.
- Speed: Trainees using AR instructions were able to complete tasks significantly faster than their counterparts, reducing job completion time by an average of 30 percent and, in some cases, as much as 50 percent. These improvements in efficiency often translate directly to the bottom line.
- Greater focus: AR allowed workers to maintain focus on the task at hand. Trainees using AR looked at their instructions less frequently and for shorter periods of time, demonstrating that comprehension was happening rapidly. As the team put it, “The fewer number of looks meant that participants were not ‘bouncing’ back and forth between the instructions and the physical task.”
- Satisfied workers: How did they feel about the experience? A post-action survey asked participants if they would agree with the statement, “I would recommend work instructions like this to a friend.” The answer was a resounding “Yes,” at rates roughly 4 times higher than the median score for questions like this at more than 400 companies in 28 industries.
The AR instructions in this study enabled employees to complete tasks faster, more accurately and with greater enjoyment. Such results promise cost savings and improved outcomes for industrial businesses, while also enhancing quality of life for workers. For example, we are already seeing great results in our work implementing AR in the field and on the factory floor with industry leaders including Siemens, Parker Hannifin and Hyperloop One.
Looking ahead, the future of AR is bringing the technology to all areas of people’s lives. Just as automation in the last century created new jobs with higher cognitive skills, the implementation of AR platforms in the workplace will create new opportunities and increase organizations’ ability to innovate. When people are no longer tied down by non-strategic, repetitive work, the possibilities increase vastly.
Across all industries, augmented reality can help people communicate more effectively, be more productive, and learn new things faster. Gaming, art, education, medicine, industrial design, science, engineering and many other fields will all be transformed by myriad AR applications we can scarcely imagine today. Augmented reality will be the next major communication platform, one that gives individuals the power to express themselves, connecting to the world in a whole new way. And right now, millions of users are catching a glimpse of that vision.
Gaia Dempsey is co-founder and VP of DAQRI.