For decades, telephones have been a mission-critical business tool for reducing the need for close proximity of experts and those they support. Internet- and web-based videoconferencing is known to contribute to lower travel-related costs and delays in delivering training and technical support.
As the quality of connectivity, cameras and other components have improved in recent years, the use of personal or company-issued mobile devices by employees for technical support has flourished. In some industrial and enterprise settings, mobile devices are required for rapid access to work orders and instructions, as well as capturing issues and documenting conditions. In many situations, capturing one or more high-resolution photographs when documenting an issue is faster and more complete than composing a written description. When a question or problem is quickly grasped by an expert who is not physically nearby, the expert can avoid travel but not delay the rapid resolution of the issue by proposing the most appropriate steps.
While photos of issues in the field can be beneficial, they aren’t always sufficient to describe a problem fully. And experts reviewing the photos are unable to clearly communicate their findings in a visual manner.
Researchers in academia and industry have studied these problems for over a decade and developed a variety of prototypes to enable clearer communication. Some commercial solutions were proposed prior to 2015 but they were not successful for a variety of reasons.
Needs and Technologies Align in 2016
Customers’ needs and a maturing array of enabling technologies are creating the conditions for AR-enhanced remote assistance to take off in 2016. In the past 12 months alone, dramatic improvements in AR-enriched annotation capabilities in real time for mobile devices and even wearables are visible.
Customers who have implemented pilots in 2014 and 2015 are beginning to share positive results and rapid return on investment with few significant obstacles. They also have increased their abilities to capture tribal knowledge and to train new operators in best practices without sacrificing productivity.
In response to this trend, investments have also markedly increased. Today there are dozens of suppliers in this segment, with solutions ranging from prototypes to battle-tested commercial packages. Matching options to needs will be more challenging in the future without a clear understanding of trade-offs and benefits.
A Vendor-Neutral Technical Report
The AREA’s new technical report is designed to support the dialog between customers and suppliers, and for suppliers to better understand where they can offer the most value to partners.
The AREA report begins with a snapshot of a typical AR-enhanced remote assistance system architecture and describes four generic use cases that apply to hundreds of specific scenarios across dozens of industries. It offers a simple landscape of companies in this area, separating those currently providing technologies for possible integration into a complete AR-enhanced remote assistance system, to those providing complete solutions for remote assistance. In addition, the report’s appendix summarizes the literature published in engineering journals on the topic of remote assistance with Augmented Reality.
Although some of our members provide solutions for AR-enhanced remote assistance, the study is impartial and neutral. AREA members have exclusive access to the full report. On this date, it will be available publicly for use by anyone seeking further insight and understanding of the opportunities and providers.
A Rapidly Changing Market
The AREA’s technical report aims to be an introductory tool for those who are getting familiar with the segment rather than an exhaustive and detailed buyer’s guide. As the level of investment and attention to this segment continues to rise in coming months, the technologies and suppliers are rapidly evolving. New features are emerging with each release. And, although the report does not examine this aspect, new and different business models are being proposed and tested.
Have you implemented projects that introduce AR-enhanced remote assistance to improve collaboration between experts and field technicians? Are you performing research to compile all up-to-the minute details about precise solutions for remote assistance? What unique requirements do you have?