What is augmented reality (AR)?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology overlaying digital objects and information on a screen (either a tablet, phone, or headset) that is capturing the physical environment in real-time.

In enterprise and industrial settings, augmented reality (AR) is used to train new workers on assembly lines and to train industrial workers to perform maintenance and repair operations for different industrial products.

How is AR shaping the future of warfighting?

In addition to AR’s numerous commercial industry applications, federal agencies are utilizing the advanced capabilities which AR offers their warfighting teams. The Air Force Agency for Modeling Simulation plays an increasingly vital role with the USAF’s ability to train warfighters, optimize systems, and evaluate the complexities of an evolving battlespace. Their primary goal is to keep our armed forces prepared to encounter its most worthy adversaries, regardless of the domain.

“The problem we have today is our enemies have got the same technology we have, and our ranges really don’t provide the same experiences they used to,” explained Col. Robert H. Epstein, commander of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation.

“Everything we’re doing today [with AR] is creating the realism necessary to fight the future fights and the expandability to incorporate the threats that will be coming versus dealing with yesterday’s fight.” 

“We don’t want to give away all our capabilities by radiating in free space, so it’s driving us more and more to [figure out] how we can go into a virtualized synthetic environment to allow us to do that training that we think we’ll see in combat,” Epstein said.

Given the importance of warfighter readiness, it is paramount for the military to continuously innovate, advance, and adapt to recent technological changes.

How is augmented reality (AR) used in Industry 4.0?

In Industry 4.0, augmented reality is transforming the product design lifecycle. Designers and engineers can build a product with detailed real-world specs. Whether it’s a piece of equipment with a designated footprint in a manufacturing facility or a product that is meant to fit in a specific-sized shipping container, virtual prototype testing is possible with AR.

Applications in industrial manufacturing substitute digital instructions for traditional paper manuals. More and more companies are exploring AR headsets that overlay digital instructions on top of a work area, removing the need for operators to toggle between viewing machinery and instructions. The use of AR promotes worker safety by providing important maintenance updates on the functions of machinery.

Applications in quality control allow factories to verify component placement in assembly by validating the work instruction well in advance. AR makes the verification process much faster than traditional methods.

Applications in aviation include virtually examining a running engine in motion during the product design and development phase. Aside from design and manufacturing activities for planes, AR is being used for passenger entertainment. Air France has virtual headsets for passengers to watch 2D and 3D TV programs or to experience a virtual journey, such as taking a tour of a Parisian museum during a flight.

Applications in logistics increase operational efficiency in the areas of warehousing, routing, and transporting goods. AR glasses can be worn by warehouse employees to identify the shortest path to locate and select items needed for shipments.

Advantages of using Augmented Reality (AR) in Industry 4.0

The direct benefits of using augmented reality in enterprise and industrial settings are to optimize handling and operation times, ensure proper use of materials, and execute the right task at the right time. AR also helps workers avoid time-consuming manual operations involving locating and identifying different components with a manual. With AR-powered headsets, this work can be accomplished hands-free.

Industry 4.0 technicians and workers in a company can watch real-time information and get immediate feedback from the work they are performing to make corrections more efficiently. AR also can provide field technicians with information about the problem a machine or service is having, allowing them to overlay a digital user guide or open a video channel for feedback from a more experienced technician.

Overall, augmented reality enhances industrial training and learning while reducing risks and costs in Industry 4.0.