3 Questions about XR Technologies

Guest Blogger: Karen Alexander PhD – XRconnectED

What Is XR?

XR is a term that refers collectively to a range of technologies.

  • Virtual Reality is a completely computer-generated environment that is experienced by wearing a VR headset. Because the environment and the objects within it are digital, they can be manipulated and the user can interact with them. For this reason, it is highly effective for simulated training, among other uses.
  • Augmented Reality refers to the overlay of digital information onto the real world viewed through augmented reality glasses, a smartphone, or tablet. The digital information displayed can be in text form or 2D or 3D images, including video. It is possible to transmit what the viewer sees to someone in a remote location, who can provide guidance via voice as well as supporting materials that can be viewed in the glasses, allowing employee expertise to be distributed across distances.
  • Mixed Reality is used to refer to devices that have the capability to switch from virtual to augmented reality. Microsoft uses the term for its Hololens device as well as its line of virtual reality headsets that come equipped with pass through cameras, which allows the possibility of use for augmented reality as well.
  • 360-Degree Video is video that is recorded in all directions, which allows a viewer in a VR headset to look up, down, and even behind them because they are immersed within the video. 360 video can also be viewed on a tablet, smartphone, or computer, and the image can be moved around to see from multiple perspectives. 360 video can be great for providing virtual tours of a site or for engaging stakeholders.

Why should you use XR in manufacturing?

XR can bring increased productivity and improved efficiency and safety. It is also an effective means of training workers and supporting them on the job. For example, with augmented reality glasses, a 3D image of a piece of equipment can be overlaid on top of the actual machine, displaying information about maintenance history and visual guidance on how to perform tasks. This gives workers the information they need in the context in which it is used and leaves the hands free, lessening the cognitive load and physical difficulties required to translate printed instructions into action, cutting the time needed to perform a task, and reducing error.

When should you start planning for incorporation of XR into your operations?

Now! Many large companies—including Boeing, Xerox, Porsche, Ford, and GE—have already begun using XR and have seen impressive results. While XR technologies are still rapidly developing and changing, it’s best to conduct a phased implementation that prepares your organization to expand use into the areas where it will be most helpful. Start small, but start now.

XRconnectED is a Pittsburgh-based company offering consulting and strategy that can help you realize the benefits of XR.