Even in the manufacturing industry, an increasing number of companies have introduced XR technology to promote digitization. XR technology, which refers to Extended Reality that includes VR and AR, is moving beyond the temporary boom stage to the practical stage.
Therefore, in this article, we will introduce how XR technology is used, focusing on its use in the manufacturing industry.
What is XR?
XR is a general term for technologies that allow you to express and experience things that do not exist in the real world. By fusing the real world and the virtual world, we realize new experiences and problem-solving that has never been experienced before.
The XR stands for variables representing different technologies. There are three main types of technologies included in XR:
- VR (Virtual Reality)
- AR (augmented reality)
- MR (Mixed Reality)
VR and AR are already kind of familiar technologies to us. Still, let’s take a quick look at the features of each technology.
VR (Virtual Reality)
VR is an abbreviation for “Virtual Reality”. This is a technology that allows you to feel as if you are actually in a particular space by projecting images in the entire field of view with special goggles.
There are two types of VR — a viewing type where you just watch the moving image, and a participation type where you can freely walk around in the image using a controller and touch and experience things.
Examples of the viewing type include watching sports and education, and examples of the participatory type include games and real estate viewing experiences.
AR (Augmented Reality)
AR stands for “Augmented Reality”. It is a technology that allows you to experience the virtual world superimposed on the real world. By superimposing a virtual image on the real-world image can be seen through a smartphone or dedicated goggles, like text can be displayed to supplement information, or 3D data can appear to add information.
Smartphone applications are a typical example of the use of AR. It is used in games that make images of characters appear in the real world, and apps that can simulate a room by making images of life-size furniture appear.
MR (Mixed Reality)
MR stands for “Mixed Reality”. It is the same technology as AR in which it superimposes the image of the virtual world on the real world with a technology that has further evolved AR. In the case of MR, by superimposing the coordinates of the real world and the virtual world more accurately, you can experience the virtual world image as if it were actually in front of you.
For example, in MR, you can go around the object displayed in the centre of the room and view it from any angle from top to bottom and front to back. In addition, since multiple people can view the same video at the same time, it is possible to have a meeting while viewing the same design data from a remote location.
Compared to VR and AR, MR still has few practical examples, and the technology is expected to develop. If MR becomes popular, new experiences that have never existed before will be created one after another.
Examples Of VR/AR Utilization In The Manufacturing Industry
Here are some examples of the use of VR and AR in the manufacturing industry.
A typical example is a design review that utilizes VR. In the past, we reviewed products designed using paper media such as drawings and specifications, but there were problems such as difficulty in sharing images and easy oversight of problems. However, if the design data is projected on the virtual space in VR, it will be easier to share the image. In addition, you can review the product as if you were looking at the actual product, making it easier to find and improve problems. This will greatly reduce the designing man-hours and the cost of prototyping.
One may also can experience a manufacturing site using VR. By reproducing the manufacturing site in a virtual space. It will be useful for safety measures and reviewing the manufacturing line. You can also use it to visit overseas factories while staying in your country, so you can improve manufacturing sites.
In addition, some companies are using VR and AR to train workers by showing complicated workflows in images and reproducing the movements of skilled workers for easier learning.
Next, let’s look at an example of using AR in the manufacturing industry.
First, an increasing number of companies are using AR for work support. For example, when performing maintenance work, a tablet or special goggles are used, and information on the work procedure and the place to be inspected is superimposed on the object. It eliminates the need to carry a large number of manuals. AR is also used in applications where skilled workers support work performed in remote areas.
Simulation by AR is also a method of utilization with many benefits for the manufacturing industry. By calling up 3D data and superimposing it on the real world, the manufacturing site can check the layout after equipment installation and the operating range of the product. Also, when selling products, by displaying products in AR, customers will be able to get a complete image.
If the manufacturing industry utilizes XR technologies such as VR, AR, and MR, various merits such as productivity improvement and technology inheritance can be obtained. Like IoT and AI, XR technology will become an indispensable digital technology for the manufacturing industry.