Augmented & Virtual Reality Industry Applications

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR & VR) are ground-breaking technologies being leveraged by companies and organizations across many different industries in an effort to transform processes and improve operations. 

Due to the growing recognition and popularity of these tools, Augmented & Virtual Reality application developers are becoming more in demand by companies looking to explore these digital technologies further. This is not surprising, for these innovative tools are providing novel solutions to business problems and can be utilized in a multitude of ways, in any industry.

The versatility of AR & VR is a big part of what makes these technologies so exciting. You will find AR/VR implemented in a vast array of industries, from Healthcare, to Education and the Military, as a result of how useful and adaptable these technologies can be. 

Before we go further into specific industry applications of Augmented and Virtual Reality, let’s first go over what AR & VR are, and what differentiates the two technologies.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

The main difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality has to do with the types of ‘realities’ created by these technologies. AR incorporates both the physical and digital world, creating a hybrid reality where digital objects are superimposed over physical reality. AR is possible with an AR headset, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, and can also be used with a smartphone, or AR glasses. 

The main function of AR is the ability to layer digital objects on top of the real world, whereas VR, eliminates the view of physical reality, and replaces it with a 360 degree, virtual environment. This provides a fully immersive experience for the user, and is only possible with a VR headset, such as the Oculus Quest 2 or HTC Vive. 

Now that we have covered what AR & VR are, and what differentiates them; let’s now discuss specific industry applications, and the different ways companies and organizations are leveraging these revolutionary technologies: 

Healthcare

Healthcare is a unique industry because of the high-stakes involved: human life. This places a pressure on the Healthcare system to be as effective as it can be, for the price of failure could be the life of an individual. Because of this, the Healthcare industry is highly dependent on the use of cutting-edge technologies in order to be as effective as possible. 

Augmented and Virtual Reality are a natural fit for Healthcare because they offer many solutions to the challenges within the industry, and can be implemented in many areas, such as for medical training, or in the operating room. 

Surgeons that are exploring the use of Augmented and Virtual Reality in the operating room are finding the results to be both exciting and paradigm-shifting.

At Imperial College London, surgeons are using AR while performing reconstructive surgery on victims with severe leg injuries. For theses surgeries, knowing the location of the blood vessels surrounding the broken bone is very important. This is because tissue grafts from other parts of the body are usually used, and they need to connect to the local blood supply at the spot of the injury. 

3D images of blood vessels, bones, and soft tissue are created and rendered compatible with an AR headset, allowing surgeons to view holographic projections placed over the leg, and to see the locations of blood vessels and bone fractures, before making an incision. 

This ability to visualize the critical injured locations during an operation with AR is a more effective, and faster approach to surgery, and has the potential to improve patient outcomes. 

Another application of AR and VR in the operating room is their use as a collaboration tool. With these technologies, surgeons are able to collaborate virtually during procedures. 

In 2020, 5000 procedures had taken place where medical teams and surgeons collaborated virtually. Dr. Jim Porter, Director of Robotic Surgery for Providence St. Joseph Health and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, recently was able to remotely guide a London-based surgical team that was 4,700 miles away. He lead them through a complex series of incisions on a patient with a rare form of cancer. 

Here is what Dr. Porter had to say about using Augmented Reality:

“I have used many remote-surgical systems and nothing compares. I particularly like the feature that offers remote surgeons a 360-degree view of every corner and every machine in the operating room. There’s also no lag or latency, meaning it’s a seamless experience when I share my expertise.”

Dr. Jim Porter

There are many applications for AR & VR in the Healthcare industry, and the use of these tools in the operating room as a means for data visualization and collaboration, are just some examples of the ways the industry is adopting these technologies. 

Other areas where AR and VR are making a big impact are: pain management; rehabilitation and therapy; medical education and training; and patient care management.

Automotive

Augmented and Virtual Reality are becoming more and more embedded in the Automotive industry, as automakers look to these innovative technologies to improve and transform the processes in all phases of the product development cycle, from design to manufacturing. 

VR is changing the automotive design process by shortening the time it takes to design a new vehicle, a process would take upwards to 5 years without VR. With Virtual Reality, designers and engineers are able to develop and validate design concepts in a much quicker fashion leveraging 3D models and virtual environments. 

Using these virtual design environments with VR, engineers and designers are able to collaborate remotely– transcending geographical distances, and making the project more accessible to all team members. This eliminates travel time and expenses, and removes any barriers to collaboration. Team members are able to work on the design prototype any where, at any time, leading to a faster, more efficient design process. 

When a design is ready to be tested and refined, a physical prototype is created. Due to the hyper-realism and flexibility of virtual environments that are possible with VR, design teams no longer need to rely on physical prototyping as an integral part of the product development process. Digital prototypes can be tested and validated running digital simulations and tests, and VR is even being used as an alternative means for bench testing. Electric vehicle manufacturers are using VR to validate a new vehicle’s entire electronic system without the need for any physical production. 

Virtual Reality can help vehicle manufacturers optimize their assembly lines and workflows by creating and testing virtual assembly lines first. Ford uses VR to assess the feasibility of building a vehicle by combining VR with 3D printing in order to create virtual workstations that will eventually be replicated as physical production lines. 

In order to create and test these virtual workstations, employees are strapped with sensors to capture full-body motion, and that data is used to project how a future production line worker would have to move and act while assembling subsystems for a new vehicle. The results are sent back to the engineering team so that they can iterate and improve upon the layout and design of the workstation.  

Since utilizing VR as a means to design and validate workstations for future production lines, Ford has been able to reduce employee injury by 70 percent, reduce over-extended movements, and hard-to-install parts by 90 percent; as well as, reduce employee days away from work due to injury by 75 percent.

VR & AR are proving to be powerful tools for automakers, with their ability to enhance all phases of the product development cycle, from design to manufacturing. 

Manufacturing

Augmented and Virtual Reality are being implemented by manufacturers as a way to improve design and product development, as well as, improve the way employees train and learn. 

According to a survey conducted by PWC, more than 1 in 3 U.S. manufacturers currently use AR/VR, or plan on using these technologies. These technologies are being applied in various ways by manufacturers, leading to positive results such as: improving the speed to market, increasing productivity, improving worker safety, and reducing training costs, to name a few examples. 

One application for Virtual Reality is using VR to improve the production process by leveraging virtual assembly lines, such as what Ford is doing with their production lines. Manufacturing lines can be designed using Virtual Reality in a way that maximizes productivity, minimizes cost, and produces a satisfactory level of quality.

Traditionally, engineers in charge of the design of the assembly line receive valuable feedback on the layout of the assembly line once physical prototypes are made. This can produce a lot of frustration, because if design issues arise, it is usually at a late stage in the development process.

With Virtual Reality, these situations can be avoided, as the manufacturability of a product can now be checked at each stage of its development using 3D environments. Design collisions can be detected, and the production lines can be tested running virtual simulations. This gives valuable feedback to engineers at a much quicker rate, and nullifies the need for physical prototyping to test a manufacturing line: saving time, money, and resources. 

Virtual Reality may also be used to test a worker’s proficiency at a future workstation by having them go through hyper-realistic, virtual simulations of processes and tasks that that position would be responsible for. This gives employees an awareness of potentially dangerous areas and equipment, as well as, a way to test and refine their skills in a safe, risk-free, virtual environment. 

Inventory management is a wonderful opportunity for AR because it is a critical and difficult process to manage, and one of the most tedious aspects of that process is inventory checking. Traditionally, employees would run over from different parts of a warehouse to manually check for materials and supplies. Time spent searching the warehouse to find the correct location is wasted, but can be saved with AR. Using Augmented Reality, employees at DHL are guided through the warehouse by graphics displayed on the smart glass of their headset. This speeds up the process of finding and picking objects, with DHL reporting that efficiency went up by 25 percent. 

Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies are versatile tools that can solve a wide array of problems within the Manufacturing sector. When implemented successfully, these technologies can bring many positive benefits: from creating a safer working environment, to providing a faster and more effective way to design and validate assembly lines.  

Conclusion

Augmented and Virtual Reality are innovative technologies that are providing value across many industries, from Healthcare to the Automotive industry. The rise of these technologies and their usage across multiple industries does not come as a surprise, for Augmented and Virtual Reality are reshaping how we interact and visualize data. 

How we live, learn, and work, are being influenced by the growing, widespread adoption of these technologies. Although AR & VR are still relatively new, in a couple of years, these technologies may become standard, foundational, tools for many businesses and organizations.

Now is the time to get ahead of those who haven’t implemented AR & VR, and to start taking advantage of these technologies to gain a competitive edge and transform your business or organization.  

If you are interested in AR & VR and would like to learn more about how integrate and leverage these technologies, then you have come to the right place. We at Comhar Technology Group are 3D Specialists and experts at developing and implementing AR & VR applications. 

We work with clients all over the world, and are passionate about helping them leverage these amazing, innovative technologies, in order to improve their businesses, gain a competitive edge, and solve business problems. 

Click here if you are interested and would like to know more about our services. We look forward to hearing from you!