Use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in Industrial Training

As we discussed in our blog last week, VR/AR training offers substantial cost-savings opportunities for manufacturing and industrial enterprises, and is a vital tool for addressing the skills gap and high workforce turnover rates affecting these enterprises. In this blog, we discuss the specific applications and use cases for which VR and AR are best suited and the differences between these technologies.

Virtual Reality

In virtual reality (VR), a user is fully immersed in a virtual 3D environment with no visual of the physical world. Everything seen by the user is a computer generated visual. Examples of VR headsets include the Oculus Quest 2, Windows Mixed Reality HP Reverb G2, and the HTC Vive family of products. Some of the benefits of VR include complete immersion in the virtual world, which allows for the display of entire facilities and/or equipment which wouldn’t fit the physical space available to the user.

Applications for VR in Industrial Training

  • Health, Safety, and Environment Training – trainees can walk through the digital twin of the facility to identify potential hazards, exit pathways, safety procedures, etc. Virtually create hazardous situations to test identification and response procedures.
  • Maintenance and Operations Training – technicians can practice maintenance operations on equipment that is difficult or impractical to physically train with such as undersea structures. Avoid plant shutdowns by training on the digital mock-up of the equipment instead of the physical equipment.
  • Assembly and Virtual Build – practice assembly operations before a product is actually available. Prepare your workforce for a new product line or train your customers and partners on product assembly before it arrives.

Applications for AR in Industrial Training

  • Health, Safety, and Environment Training (if the facility is available) – displaying virtual information, hazards, exit paths, etc. as a user walks through the physical structure. 
  • Field Maintenance and Operations – displaying virtual work instructions and operating procedures overlaid on the physical equipment as the user is performing their tasks. Leverage the expertise from remote experts as they collaborate with technicians in the field.
  • Assembly and Virtual Build – a trainee can view virtual work instructions overlaid on the physical object as the user assembles the actual structure.

Final Considerations

Many of the same use cases are suitable for either VR or AR training, and it comes down to the specific industry and/or availability of the physical space and equipment. But virtual reality offers some benefits over augmented reality even when the physical equipment is available. These include: the ease of training creation and modification, the quality of the visuals, and cost/availability of the headsets.

The iQ3Connect Platform makes the VR vs. AR debate less important when choosing a training solution. Any training or experience created in iQ3Connect can be used on any device, whether VR, AR, PC, or a mobile device.

Can XR be Headset-Free?

Over the last few months, we worked on some intriguing research with our brilliant AI/ML intern, Zain Raza, who just completed his undergraduate degree at the MakeSchool. The objective of the research project was to investigate the performance and reliability of hand and face tracking using a webcam for industrial collaboration and training applications. We aptly named the project “Headsets: Goodbye!” envisioning a future where devices to consume and interact with immersive 3D content will become ubiquitous and no longer exclusively in the domain of headsets.

Why did we embark on the “Headsets: Goodbye!” Project? Well, remote, real-time collaboration is arguably the most environmentally-friendly way to conduct business with globally distributed teams, suppliers, and customers. Even with employees moving back to offices and factories, remote collaboration can undoubtedly minimize latency, cost, and carbon footprint due to the reduction in travel of personnel and equipment. However, we have increasingly seen the negative effects of video-conferencing fatigue, lack of social interactions, and other challenges of working from home.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are already changing the way we work remotely. Hand tracking is already gaining traction with mixed reality headsets such as the Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus Quest, and there are several R&D efforts to incorporate face tracking (such as expression or eye movement) into such technology. However, VR/AR headsets are not available to everyone. The advantage of using a webcam is that no additional trackers or complex equipment are required to enhance the human-virtual interface. This significantly reduces the barrier to entry for XR applications for collaboration and training whether in business or education.

To learn more about Zain’s work on Roberto The Empathetic Robot and our project, check out the article linked to below: Https://Blog.Devgenius.Io/Digital-Avatars-The-Next-Leap-In-Remote-Work-C72c0cd369a7