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Virtual Reality has been around for quite some time. Back in the 90’s, whilst it was still in it’s infancy, it was difficult to see a future for it as the technology required to generate a rather poor (by todays standards) 3D polygon world that you could explore required a huge and heavy headset, a cumbersome pod which allowed limited movement and processing power galore. The problem was that the processing power we did have couldn’t produce the creative vision that was behind the product. In the space of 4-5 years VR went from the next big thing to being an also ran.
Fast forward 20 years and VR has been resurrected, along with another development known as AR. Due to rapid advancements in processing power and graphics we are now in a position to realise the VR dream. All those ideas of the 90’s that failed, or failed to materialise, could now be brought to fruition.
The first area to begin pushing the VR agenda was video games which seemed natural considering the 90’s boom was built around the gaming industry. This is all changing however with the emergence of AR and VR in other industries including the Manufacturing Engineering industry.
VR (Virtual Reality)
Virtual Reality is a system whereby a computer generates an entire 3D world through a head mounted display. Whether you look left or right, up or down, you will always see a computer-generated world in which you can immerse yourself. Due to the advancement in computing power these worlds are much more realistic than the worlds created during the 90’s. Instead of standing inside a pod which tracked your (very limited) movements, your movement can be tracked using sensors which gives you much more freedom to move and explore.
In terms of application, VR could be a real money saver. By creating 3D representations of new design and models, manufacturers can see a prototype in action before it is ever built. Engineers can design better products while customers can see final products pre-production, ultimately saving everyone precious time and money.
Data and statistics can now be visualised rather than spread out on paper. Analysts can now interact with data in a virtual world in a more hands-on experience that produces greater clarity and opportunity. Weeks of ‘running the numbers’ can now be done with a simulated interaction.
VR can also help drive efficiency, again, a virtual creation of a product line can help a manager spot any issues, maximise efficiency and reduce waste. Having the ability to spot these mistakes before they are a reality helps to make rectifying these problems easier, if not before they are created.
This can also apply to the health & safety aspect of the workplace. A virtual run through of different scenarios at work could highlight numerous safety issues which can be dealt with at the earliest opportunity. This type of early prevention could help reduce workplace accidents and increase workplace safety.
AR (Augmented Reality)
Similar to VR, Augmented Reality integrates the real world with the digital world. A great example of AR would be the immensely popular Pokémon Go app. Recent popular additions to the AR world would include Google Glass and various HUDs (Heads Up Display) that you see in things like car windshields. Augmented reality apps are written in special 3D programs that allow the developer to tie animation or contextual digital information in the computer program to an augmented reality "marker" in the real world (many apps use GPS to pinpoint your location and any subsequent ‘markers’).
So how does this translate into manufacturing? Modern Manufacturing nowadays consists of putting together thousands of components very quickly. The instructions for these new process lines would need to be learnt and would generally be stored away from the process line to which it relates. AR fixes this by allowing the production line worker to see the instruction overlaid on the job that they are doing. This process would increase efficiency and reduce the number of mistakes made by workers.
Like the production line, maintenance can also benefit from AR. Being able to see a machine’s status simply by glancing at it through an augmented reality display could be incredibly powerful thanks to things like industry 4.0. With an increase in sensor technology and interconnectivity within the workplace, information regarding a specific piece of machinery can be relayed to the technician instantly.
Whilst both technologies are still in their infancy, the scope for their applications is immense. This technology is no gimmick and actually looks like it will be extremely beneficial to the industry.
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Hi, don't know if they informed you but I got a full time contract this week, thanks to you and your team for everything mate I'd be nowhere without Ambitek.
Wish everyone looked after us like you.