What does the future hold for augmented reality and other forms of human data interaction in manufacturing? By Jonathan Chou
Augmented reality (AR), refers to virtual reality elements overlaid on real objects. In theory, instead of referring to a manual, AR can provide near-instant data needed for an operator to perform a task or make an assessment.
Practical applications are being explored, especially in the aerospace agency. At Lockheed Martin, for example, trail runs saw engineers assembling the F-35 wearing augmented reality glasses containing cameras as well as depth and motion sensors.
These glasses overlay renderings of cables, bolts, parts and instructions onto the real-world working environment, including how to assemble a particular component. The company said that engineers’ accuracy has improved to 96 percent while working 30 percent faster.
A Look Into The Future
What about the long-term development potential of AR, and how we interact with data? Dr Antonio Feraco, chief business development officer at the Fraunhofer IDM@NTU project centre, has some insight.
With several published scientific and technical papers analysing the impact of new technologies and the way end-users interacts with them, APMEN talked to Dr Feraco to glimpse some insight into AR as well as other likely evolutions of the Human Data Interaction.
Dr Feraco will also be speaking on “Augmented Reality in Industrial Applications: Tapping New Opportunities” on 5 April at Manufacturing Technology Asia, held in Singapore.
Q: How is the development and future of AR for industrial applications in Singapore and the Asian region?
Antonio Feraco (AF): I’m quite positive with this, because Singapore is already at the forefront of technology and will be pushing these new technologies. We are facing a shifting of the manufacturing sector, and companies are aware that if they do not adopt new technologies, then there will be a delay in the overall deliverable goals.
The Singapore government is very supportive in this respect; I think there are several agencies that will support SMEs if they aim to use these new technologies. I’m quite positive that in three to five years, there will be a much more noticeable amount of SMEs that will try and adopt these technologies.
Q: How does the situation in Singapore differ from over countries?
AF: In other countries, like Germany, it’s different, where larger SMEs (which we call Middlestandts) have more investing power to invest large amounts in research and development.
In Singapore, a positive thing is that the Singapore government is very supportive. The government is pushing SMEs to adopting new technologies; they can test, they can build proof-of-concepts, and they can eventually adopt the technologies.
Q: When it comes to AR in the manufacturing floor, is there an “end goal” that you see in mind?
AF:In the future, I foresee that AR will be able to “learn”. With machine learning, the machine is able to understand what is going on and then transfer it to its knowledge base. After that, it will draw upon that knowledge base for decisions. I feel that AR moving onto the manufacturing field will really help between cohesion between humans and machines.. Many people will say that there will be a strong cut when it comes to the manufacturing plant workforce, but I do not see it like that.
I see the rising skills of workers in the future; they will change and improve so they will basically be able to cooperate with robots, work with them and supervise them. Applications can be anything from robotic arms, forklifts, to automated retrieval systems. There will be change in the traditional workforce, so education in interdisciplinary backgrounds will be a big push on this.
Q: On a broader scale, how have such technologies changed Human Data Interaction (HDI), and how will they continue to change HDI?
AF: My view on HDI is basically the different ways that humans interact with information. Think about back to 10 to 12 years ago, when the iPhone was first sent to market. Nobody was considering a tactile approach (touching the screen) to query information, take photos, and more. This tactile approach was a complete parting shift from previous interactions. So my belief is that we are going to go through a keyboard-less world. because being able to interact data without the keyboard provides you more freedom in terms of space, time and in terms of where you are located and where you want to access the information.
So my view is that there will be in the future with less keyboards and more interaction displays such as mobile phones and tablets. All with these devices will be the bridge between your fingers and the knowledge base that will provide the answers.
I think that visualisation is also gathering a more important role in the overall sharing of information. It is thus very important to design the user interface to improve the user experience, and in this particular aspect, both the user itself, the device and the visualisation of data will ultimately optimise the cognitive process.
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