Driving assistance, maintenance, surveillance, assembly lines: augmented reality and virtual reality are proving valuable in a number of areas and being adopted by the most tech-savvy industries.

Augmented reality – not to be confused with virtual reality – is an object or physical place that is enriched with data, be it  text, numbers, sound, graphical content, video or GPS. Wearables such as smart glasses (e.g. Google Glass, Vuzix) are promising examples of this type of technology, but a number of applications are used on tablets and smartphones too. Virtual reality, meanwhile, a prime example of which is the head-mounted display by Oculus, now owned by Facebook, replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined world.

réalité-augmentée-maintenance-industrielle_uneAugmented reality is increasingly being developed for consumer uses – in fields such as education, tourism, culture and retail, but also has considerable potential for the corporate world: as Grégory Maubon, AR expert and co-founder of RA’Pro, an organisation which promotes augmented reality, explains: “Augmented reality is basically just an interface for displaying data. So from that point of view, it can potentially be used in any company.”

The technology and its various marketing or business applications are being snapped up by  the digital giants: after Google and Microsoft, Apple have now begun exploring its potential by buying out Metaio, a German AR company with a  portfolio of prestigious clients in retail (Ikea) and the automotive industry: Volkswagen, who started up the Metaio project, and Ferrari, (Tech Crunch*).

Car manufacturers are hooked on augmented reality

An avid user of AR since 2010, Skoda deployed the technology at the beginning of the year at Waterloo station in London for the launch of its new Fabia. Commuters could sit in a real car seat in front of a screen and personalise the car with the colours and accessories of their choice.  The videoed image of the user, sitting in an augmented reality car, was then displayed up on the giant screens around the station.*

AR is also used for new driver assistance services, such as head-up displays of information on positioning via GPS, and actual and legal speed limits. PSA has developed a more sophisticated version with information on the car’s ’environment (routes, obstacles, etc.).

Continental, meanwhile, has developed a prototype for a new Augmented Reality Head-Up Display (AR-HUD) system (pictured below) which enhances  the conventional windshield-type HUD  display data (i.e., vehicle road speed, local speed limit, basic navigation aids) with real-time portrayals of the vehicle’s turn-by-turn route guidance, lane-departure warning (LDW) and adaptive cruise control (ACC) functions.

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AR for enhanced industrial 3.0 equipment and processes

Augmented reality has also been successfully deployed in assembly lines (using wearables so operators have their hands free) and mechanical maintenance in the aeronautical and automotive industries.

In the field of industrial site maintenance, in France, SPIE Sud-Ouest and its startup UBleam recently distinguished themselves with an offering for managing installations that give a glimpse of the factory of the future. A tag and 3D detection is interfaced with a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) database and tablet or smartphone. The solution speeds up procedures and operations for equipment (traceability, fault detection, repairs, security).

The technology can also be deployed in the construction industry for tracking building and energy and nuclear power for monitoring critical zones and equipment.

According to Lionnel Joussemet of Diotasoft, one of the key aspects of industry 3.0 is “the decompartmentalisation of the IT system, the engineers and the field operators.” Diotasoft specialised in AR solutions for clients such as Dassault, Air Liquide, Total, Renault, Volkswagen and Bouygues Construction.

Virtual reality will become more and more widespread: one of the highlights of the latest “Industry in France’” expo, the technologies have already proved valuable for training agents in complex and dangerous operations and designing products for naval, aeronautical and automotive building.

* Reference articles