Understand what augmented reality is and how it can be used in industry
Superimpose the virtual on the real
Augmented Reality (AR) consists in adding to the world around us a localized virtual information: it seems to be "attached" to a physical point of interest. We put a filter on the real world thanks to an interface (glasses, helmet, tablet, smartphone) that superimposes, live, data such as texts, objects, animations... Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not cut the user from the outside world; on the contrary, it enriches it. Augmented reality is now a reference in many industrial fields.
Increase the real
The principle of augmented reality is to add virtual information directly on top of the real world. But for it to be truly "augmented" reality it is necessary that the virtual information be both co-located and semantically linked to the object of interest. The immense advantage of augmented reality is therefore to be able to enrich our world without being completely cut off from it (unlike virtual reality). All the digital information that we can find in our smartphones can now be displayed directly on the real world.
The uses of tomorrow
Augmented reality allows to reduce the cognitive distance between an operator and the information he manipulates. Recalibrating the latter on a fixed point of the real space creates in fact a semantic relation between the two; and it becomes possible to submit the virtual data to our spatialization capacities.
For this reason, augmented reality is already firmly established in large companies, especially for remote maintenance, for the visualization of building data, etc. But through the implementation on smartphones, augmented reality can also be a mass channel, allowing to enrich contents (and in the case of a commercial site, to increase sales), or to communicate in an innovative way.
Augmented reality technologies
Smartphone and tablets
This is the most widespread and economical type of augmented reality to develop. The video stream of the tablet is used to add digital information, which is displayed on the screen. The tablet becomes a kind of window on a mixed world.
Augmented reality glasses
These glasses have special lenses that allow digital information to be displayed directly in the field of vision. These devices have the advantage of leaving the hands free, which is appreciated in many activities.
Spatial augmented reality
It is about projecting digital information directly onto the real world. Less invasive than other methods, spatial augmented reality is perfectly adapted when several people have to share a point of view mixing real and virtual.
Points to know
Recalibrating information in the real world is a powerful principle, and technically simple content (texts, symbols...) can already provide significant added value.
The various AR solutions allow for a wide variety of applications, in situations that can be just as diverse. Augmented reality glasses, although popular, are not necessarily the most appropriate solution for an industrial situation. A thorough design is necessary, taking into account the technical and human constraints of the context.
Focus on the SUMATRA project
In this project for ESTIA, we designed and built a multi-device prototype combining augmented reality and digital pen for the handling of technical documentation by operators in the field.