Augmented reality (AR) is the fine line where virtual and real meet. According to Wikipedia, AR is a live, direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. In the manufacturing industry, augmented reality superimposes virtual reality over real objects, providing all the necessary data an engineer needs to make an analysis to perform a task.
All this might look like something out of a science-fictional movie, but it has already found its way into the manufacturing industry. Instead of trying to guess what is wrong with a particular part, now manufacturers can make the part show why it is not working correctly. And this has been made possible by using the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality. In addition to being able to manufacture products more efficiently, augmented reality can help reduce training time by providing real time access to digital, virtual, and augmented scenarios.
Where virtual reality tries to alter and replace the physical world, augmented reality adds information to real objects that help in augmenting and enhancing the real-world experience.
Leveraging augmented reality in learning for manufacturers
For a manufacturing workforce, augmented reality can create a safe environment away from any physical harm by creating simulated environments for practice and learning purposes.
The technology incorporates touchscreens, voice recognition, and interaction to annotate an image of real objects by superimposing (in real-time) information from the training content. This way, the learning content is directed towards learners' needs in the some combination of plain text, images, audio, and video output they are already accustomed to.
One of the biggest advantages of using AR as a learning tool is that it allows learners control over their own learning process. This constructive learning method can impart learning in a fun way in comparison to the monotonous classroom learning sessions.
The prevalent knowledge gap, or the so-called skills gap, can be reduced by delivering information when and where it is needed. Additionally, by bringing training in-house instead of sending an entire workforce out to the foundry or shop floor, the learning process can be accelerated.
Another benefit of AR is that it can be used to train a workforce on operating expensive machinery as there will be no costs for making mistakes and errors.
As AR hardware has become more affordable, more readily available, and better capable of delivering different types of rich content, manufacturing companies should start leveraging the technology to improve universal access to organizational knowledge. Moreover, manufacturing companies should evaluate areas where this technology can be used not only as a learning tool, but for product improvement or as a decision-making tool.