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Augmented Reality for the Industrial Enterprise by Leah Hunter

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Industrial augmented reality can make a meaningful difference for workers.

The difference between where it is now and where it will be in 10 years is huge. What can industrial-use augmented reality (AR) do right now? It can help building contractors “see” into walls and know where to lay wiring. How about that AR in 10 years? It could enable the whole crew to walk into a holographic building and virtually lay out wiring, plumbing, lighting, and Wi-Fi systems in real time, checking for problems even before they build.

The first scenario is already in the works. The second is coming faster than you may imagine, and this book can help you get started with your own AR development.

But first, let’s look at the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality (VR).

Augmented or Virtual: Depends On What You Want to Do

In theory, the distinctions between virtual and augmented reality are clear. Virtual reality takes you into the digital world. Augmented reality pulls the digital world into your reality—it weaves digital images onto and into everything.

In practice, it isn’t that simple, and it would take more than a few sentences to explain. Helen Papagiannis, an expert with a PhD in augmented reality, succinctly sums up her view of the differences between AR and VR in “Designing Beyond Screens to Augment the Full Human Sensorium,” if you’d like to read more. For our purposes here, it suffices to say that the new breed of AR systems still relies on VR headsets—like the Oculus—and many of the people who play in one space play in both.

While a lot of virtual reality growth is coming from gaming, AR is starting with business. The reason makes a lot of sense: for AR to work well in business, you need a use case with clearly defined requirements.

Todd Harple, Intel experience engineer/innovation lead in Intel’s New Devices Group—and the man who led several of the company’s VR and AR research projects—explains:

Over the last year or two, AR has taken a turn toward the business side of things. That’s because it takes a tight vertical to make it work effectively. We purchased Recon last year, and a lot of their use cases are tight verticals. Recon Jet was about cycling—that enables you to build the device with only what is necessary for cycling. And it gives you a clear understanding of the physical and linguistic vocabulary, as opposed to “I have a telephone that can do everything on my eyes.” Field service and equipment inspection are similar. You can [program the system to] have a clear understanding of what is in the walls because there’s a CAD drawing somewhere.

Which is to say: you can’t program a hologram to work well in a space unless you understand what is in that space, what people do there, and how it all works together.

For instance, computer vision systems are currently great at understanding that a sofa is rectangular. But they are not great at understanding that the sofa is covered with a material that should squish down when someone sits on it. And in the case of enterprise, you can only create an AR system for picking items in a warehouse when you understand exactly what is in that warehouse, how it is organized, and what is there at any given time.

“The promise of the new breed of AR systems is that they can place content into a world in the way that it seems like it’s natural to that world,” says perceptual neuroscientist Beau Cronin. “From my point of view, the more interesting challenge is that if you are going to put that content out into the world, you need to understand the world you’re putting it into.”

How This Book Is Organized

How can AR help your business? And more importantly, how can augmented reality help you?

This short book gives you answers to those questions, via a hands-on introduction to industrial AR development. It is organized as follows:

Chapter 1, Why AR and Why Now?
Explores why now is the right time for industrial AR.
Chapter 2, AR Creators and Use Cases You Should Know
Outlines how people are using AR to save time and money, via a few enterprise case studies.
Chapter 3, Key Technologies for Building AR Experiences (And Why They Matter)
Gives you the opportunity to create a simple AR project with a tutorial, using ThingWorx Studio—your chance to test the technology.
Chapter 4, Your Best Strategy for AR Growth
Brings it all together, with guidance to help you shape your own strategy for industrial enterprise AR
Appendix A, The Future of AR
Looks even further into the future of augmented reality technology. Because if you’re like me, you’re curious about what’s coming—and what you should be paying attention to as the category evolves.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

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