Scope AR offers cross-platform live support video calling on the HoloLens, for real-time, 3D remote collaboration.
A few months ago I went to the Microsoft offices in London to try out a few of their new HoloLens applications. But even though I got to do some pretty cool stuff—like seeing the inside of a working (holographic) jet-engine, gathering evidence at a crime scene and looking at what a knee joint looks like during surgery—what really stuck with me was a broken light switch, and how I fixed it.
Well, not exactly. Someone in the next room talked me through what I needed to do. They could not only talk to me and hear what I was saying, but they saw everything I was seeing through the HoloLens I was wearing. He was also able to annotate my surrounding environment by drawing arrows or circling objects—such as the appropriate tool to use next. In what seemed like no time, that baby lit right up, and I was left with a giddy sense of accomplishment only the DIY-challenged will be able to appreciate.
To me, it’s demos like that really drive home the potential of collaborative Mixed Reality, specially for enterprise. And I’m not alone, as many companies are developing increasingly sophisticated solutions that go beyond the “out of the box” Skype solution which I used at Microsoft.
One of those is Scope AR. Since 2011 they have had a device-agnostic technology that combines these Augmented Reality capabilities with live video streaming, voice, 3D animation, screen sharing, whiteboarding and world-locked annotations. It works on any iOS, Android or Windows smart device or Windows desktop, to allow an expert to overlay overlay digital content onto the real worldview of what the user is pointing their camera at. Companies like Boeing, Toyota, Lockheed Martin and GE already use it.
But their announcement that they have now integrated with the HoloLens adds a lot of interesting possibilities. Not only because it will be possible for it to tap into the device’s sophisticated spatial tracking capabilities, but that users taking advantage of that live expert assistance can do so without worrying about juggling a mobile device on their hand as they’re performing complex tasks.
Scott Montgomerie, co-founder and CEO of Scope AR cites many scenarios where deploying this type of technology would bring immediate ROI to industry, such as an automotive plant where a small number of individuals based on site could maintain a large array of robotics and assembly equipment.
“A newly trained technician encountering a complex equipment problem can now show the issue directly to a remote veteran with expert knowledge and act as if they were looking over the on-site technician’s shoulder to resolve issues immediately without the need for additional travel costs and delays,” Montgomerie said.
Problems around contamination and security restrictions could also be addressed in areas such as in pharmaceutical production, minimizing the number of workers entering a controlled environment and then re-entering standard areas.
“The ability to remotely access those controlled areas keeps workers productive, rather than forcing them to end their day,” Montgomerie said. “Augmented Reality is finally reaching its tipping point in the enterprise space. We are seeing adoption evolve from small, proof of concept implementations to larger deployments where AR is being used across business units. Organizations that want to stay competitive and improve efficiencies are now building strategies around it, which was not the case even a year ago.”
Montgomerie said the major investment in AR made by the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google have seen the technology improve significantly in the past two years, making it easier for companies to adopt such solutions.
“The applications we’re currently seeing in the market around equipment repair and maintenance, remote assistance and employee training are just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more that can be done once AR becomes mainstream,” Montgomerie said.
As AR, AI and IoT become more integrated, he adds, this could help solve the skills gap, since people would require less training to effectively perform tasks. A field worker, for example, could receive IoT data about a system such as an engine’s temperature, pressure data or maintenance history while out in the field. This data could then be displayed visually as a technician is looking at the engine in the real world, fed into an AI system, and provide on-going guidance to the worker by overlaying instructions on the real world as each task is completed, giving precise, intuitive guidance.
AR is also empowering reduced travel costs and downtime on machinery or equipment as real-time, collaboration tools are giving organizations the ability to leverage the expert knowledge in their company without having to fly them to the site of the problem or needed repair.
“Clearer, more intuitive instructions mean less errors, resulting in increased productivity and a better bottom line,” Montgomerie said. “We are seeing significant gains in workers’ knowledge retention and the accuracy and efficiency with which they complete complex tasks. In some instances, there’s a 25% increase in time savings when compared to a worker completing the same procedure using traditional paper instructions.”