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Equipping the AR workforce of tomorrow

As part of the AREA’s mission to help accelerate the adoption of Enterprise Augmented Reality (AR) by supporting the growth of a comprehensive ecosystem, we are further engaging with academic institutions to provide feedback on how they can help equip the graduates of tomorrow with the AR skills needed to positively contribute to the workforce.

The AREA, together with our academic partners, has created a very short survey to capture your perspectives on educational needs for future graduates.

We would gratefully appreciate you completing this survey – it should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

The survey is available HERE and runs until July 31st 2020. All contributors will receive a report summarising the findings. If you do have any questions, please contact michael@thearea.org.

Thank you for helping shape the educational future of our workforce.

The AREA Team




AREA Research Committee Issues Call for Proposals to Study 3D Asset Usage in Enterprise AR

The AREA seeks to receive proposals for a funded research project that will examine barriers to and recommend approaches for using existing enterprise 3D assets in AR experiences delivered to employees. The project will also test the ingestion and use of enterprise 3D assets in a set of suitably limited but representative environments.

Organizations with relevant expertise in the research topic may respond to the invitation on or before 12 PM Eastern Daylight Time on April 1st.

Industry Context for the Research

One major barrier to widespread adoption of
AR in enterprises is that developer toolkits and frameworks currently in use
and engines for AR delivery do not accept or cannot automatically use the most common
existing enterprise 3D assets. For the many organizations with businesses built
around 3D data this is a significant obstacle.

When 3D assets are generated/captured or
designed, they meet requirements of their specific use cases in terms of
complexity, level of detail, and additional related data. These requirements
are independent of AR system requirements.

For use in current AR engines and to be
rendered on AR display devices with limited memory and computing resources, 3D assets
“as designed” (i.e., for purposes other than AR) frequently require some
manipulation. In many cases, simplification of 3D assets using pure geometry-based
algorithms does not produce optimal outcomes. For example, for lightweight use
of 3D models in AR experiences, models need to be tessellated. However, once the
complexity of the model has been reduced, there may be loss of embedded domain information.  Linking such information to the simplified
geometry is another challenge.

In some industries and use cases, direct
manipulation of 3D assets is forbidden or prohibitively expensive. This means
that leveraging those 3D assets already available in the customer organization
for AR-enabled delivery of information or instructions is expensive and, in
many cases, not possible.

The lack of “dynamic” or direct 3D asset
ingestion interfaces or processes drives up total cost of AR introductions,
use/ownership and time (e.g., ROI) in enterprise.

Project Goal

The AREA seeks to provide members with
knowledge and resources that will reduce the cost and time necessary to reuse
existing enterprise 3D assets in their AR authoring, publishing, and delivery
systems.

Fixed Fee Project

The AREA Research Committee budget for this
project is $15,000. Organizations interested in conducting this research for
the fixed fee are invited to submit proposals.

More information

Full information on the project needs, desired outcomes and required components of a winning proposal, including a submission form, can be found here.

If you have any questions concerning this project and the AREA Research Committee, please send an email to the Research Committee.


 




What are the current business barriers to AR adoption & what is being done to overcome them?

Industry analysts continue to predict that the Augmented Reality (AR) market will exhibit significant growth and will support a transformation of the ways in which many companies run their businesses. However, as with any new technology, early adopters lead the way and many companies have not yet reaped the business benefits promised by AR.

In this AREA editorial, we take a look at some of the reasons why some companies are not yet fully embracing the potential of Augmented Reality and what the AR ecosystem is doing to overcome these concerns.

In short, what are the current barriers to adoption of Augmented Reality?

We break down this topic into a number of subject domains:

  • Business barriers
  • Use case applicability and deployment
  • IT and security
  • Human factors
  • Content
  • Enterprise systems integration

Business barriers

Key to business adoption and success of any new technology is the ability to focus on the business value of a new technology rather than the technology itself. Augmented Reality vendors need to position their offerings in ways that appeal to senior business buyers and decision makers in order to lower the barrier of uncertainty often faced by executives.

The recent publication by AREA member Atheer of a proposed Maturity Model for AR helps companies paint their own vision for a roadmap to AR adoption by building on the work of those who’ve gone before. It is a useful tool to describe the steps required to deploy AR successfully within their businesses. Geof Wheelwright, Director of Marketing Communications at Atheer, comments “The maturity model articulates how to get started and also how to mature enterprise use of AR to the point where it really does provide a competitive advantage. The AR Maturity Model helps organizations understand each of the four distinct stages of AR Maturity – and the clear steps they need to take to move from one stage to the next.”

AREA member Christine Perey of PEREY Research & Consulting adds:

New technology adoption requires the active support of business managers. In an ideal scenario, the business line managers as well as the senior management are ready to embrace the new technology. However, most AR introductions suffer from one or more of the following shortfalls in management:

  • Lack of leadership, either due to lack of confidence in the team or the technology, or, at the other extreme;
  • Company leadership that is advocating for technology introductions without full understanding of timing (and perhaps too early or too quickly);
  • Imbalances with (or poorly informed) risk analyses and assessments.”

Despite constructing a seemingly sound value proposition for the adoption of AR technology, projects often flounder for a number of reasons. Christine Perey comments:

“Many AR projects encounter financial barriers: either funding is insufficient and/or the resources are not distributed across all the components of a successful AR adoption campaign. There is also a general shortage of information about the costs and components of return on investment (ROI). Finally, AR product and service providers are searching for new and different business models (Data as a Service, Software as a Service, Hardware as a Service) which can be unfamiliar to customers and need to be tested before proven.”

To help companies create a robust assessment of the ROI offered by AR, the AREA is currently trialling an ROI calculator.

However, challenges remain. Christine Perey adds:

Despite tools to calculate ROI, there continue to be challenges due to lack of clarity in:

  • Final costs of AR hardware, services and software licenses;
  • Unique or unusual recurring costs which greatly impact the total cost of ownership; or
  • Benefits other than time savings and error reduction that are not easily measured in pilot projects.”

Use case applicability and deployment

A previous AREA editorial discussed the issues related to the fact that AR investigations often stall after development and demonstration of a “cool demo,” highlighting the critical importance of ensuring that investigations into AR are firmly grounded within an appropriate use case and application of the technology that makes sense for the investigating company.

An appropriate tool to use for such evaluations is the “Opportunity versus Readiness” map which, following a set of weighted criteria definitions of potential positive business outcomes and the technical, infrastructure, and other business readiness aspects, enables the initial mapping of potential AR applications to gain a business-centric view of where to focus initial investigations.

An example analysis is shown in Figure 1 with the most feasible and impactful applications appearing in the upper right-hand quadrant.

Figure 1. Example ‘Opportunity versus readiness’ mapping

IT and security

As AR often relies upon the delivery of an enterprise’s Intellectual Property (IP) to new devices and systems that are logically and physically outside the corporate firewall, there clearly must be sufficient measures in place to protect this IP. A recent article explores many of the issues related to cybersecurity with AR, pointing out the uneasy position of AR-related innovation presenting new and ill-understood challenges to corporate IT leadership.

To support understanding of these issues, the AREA’s Security Committee is focused on studying security topics within AR and proposing best practices for adoption by vendors and users of the technology.

Human factors

Owing to the inherent nature of AR, involving both the delivery of visual and aural content whilst in some cases capturing information about the users, often coupled with doing a job differently, a number of concerns have been raised and studied.

Privacy protection is a common concern both legally and at a more personal level. As AR-enabled devices typically use computer vision technology with video feeds from the device camera(s), in addition to capturing sounds, user location, etc., it’s easy to see why there are concerns. However, industrial best practices provide a way to mitigate many of these concerns by ensuring users are aware of what is being captured and how that information is used.

Resistance to change caused by the transformation of an existing role to one that harnesses AR has been shown to be partially offset by involving those impacted in the process of technology adoption. Christine Perey comments:

“Attention to the worker/technician attitudes about AR is extremely important in all stages of the enterprise AR project.

Common steps to reduce resistance include working directly with end users in the design of user interfaces and proving use cases, providing incentives for participation and feedback in AR proof of concept projects and trials, and making sure that there is a highly respected tradesperson or technician on board with the AR introduction plan.”

The wearing or carrying of AR-enabled devices has safety implications. They can cause discomfort or reduce situational awareness, amongst other concerns. A recently published report by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) described some key findings and identified areas for further study. Furthermore, the AREA is actively engaged in supporting discussion of these topics, with a number of members participating in the AREA Human Factors Interest Group.

Content

The ready availability of applicable content to underpin scalable deployment of Augmented Reality apps and experiences is an ongoing challenge. Such content spans 3D models, step-by-step sequences for service and manufacturing processes, and more. A typical first foray into Augmented Reality often involves the manual re-modeling of 3D product models to support the AR experience. However, this manual task has inherent cost and time implications, typically raising management concerns about the applicability of AR to support scalable deployment of business processes.

Moreover, within many companies, there are existing 3D CAD files that offer reuse possibilities if suitable transformation, IP protection and optimization could be harnessed within an automation framework.

David Francis, Chief Marketing Officer at Theorem Solutions comments:

 “Many companies will spend absolutely ages re-crafting their 3D CAD into something usable in a games engine, using a product like 3DS MAX. 

However, in doing so, the connection to the initial design is lost.  Moreover, as the correct geometry isn’t even used, the experience may be “representative” rather than actual.”

So, if you are planning on using 3D content in your XR app then it is probably best to find a solution that can make best use of your existing CAD assets.  A solution that can read the geometry as it was designed and will prevent someone having to spend hours redoing something that the designer already did.”

Enterprise systems integration and interoperability

A compelling feature of Industrial AR is the ability to present pertinent content over the physical world. Depending upon the use case, this data, in principle, can be extracted from IoT, ERP, CRM, PLM, or other business systems. This systems integration task is often perceived as difficult and costly, if indeed possible at all.

Additionally, there should be systems in place to deliver content that is relevant, up-to-date, secure and correct. David Francis agrees that when such delivery systems are not available, “Any downstream changes to 3D CAD models will need to be manually re-modeled, as these are maintained outside of the PLM process.” 

However, there is growing support for such enterprise systems integration by vendors in the AR ecosystem but more is needed.  The AREA Interoperability and Standards Program is promoting a workshop in January 2020  to specifically focus upon AR interoperability requirements with the aim of sharing the outcomes with Standards Development Organizations and AR vendors to help accelerate adoption of standards within the AR community.

Conclusion

The following summarizes the points made in this editorial article:

Domain

Barrier

Recommended solutions

Business barriers

Uncertainty of value

Lack of strategic planning

Elevate sales tools and positioning to focus on value propositions of AR solutions.

IT and Security

Fear of IP leakage

Lack of understanding of AR solutions

Present clear and unambiguous technical means of addressing concerns; engage IT leadership.

Human factors

Privacy, change, safety concerns

Engage the workforce.

Continue focusing on and exploring safety aspects.

Content

Expensive re-modeling of existing assets.

Concerns over cost-effective enterprise scalability.

Develop automation frameworks to reuse existing 3D CAD assets to strip IP and reduce data size.

Enterprise systems scalability and interoperability

Concerns about cost of systems integration

Lack of standards

Further focus on leveraging data from enterprise systems.

We hope this AREA article has explained some of the current perceived challenges and ways in which they are being addressed. As with many new technologies, the AR market of solutions is rapidly maturing to address these challenges and working hard to help global industries embrace the value offered by AR to transform many business processes.

For further reading, we invite you to read a report, commissioned by the AREA, which examines some of these objections which pertain specifically to the manufacturing sector. 

The AREA actively promotes discussion in a number of the domains discussed in this article by supporting various AREA committees. These comprise AREA members with expertise in the various topic areas who meet on a regular basis to help move the ecosystem forward.

We thank the contributors for their perspectives and welcome your feedback.




The AREA at EWTS

The sixth annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) was recently held in Dallas. The event, produced by AREA member Brainxchange, brings together many of the enterprise AR experts, practitioners and evangelists from around the world.

This year, in my role as Executive Director of the AREA, I was excited to be invited to be asked to moderate two panels:

  • Leading Utilities & Energy experts discuss how they’re leveraging AR/VR & wearables
  • Ask the Providers, leading solution providers answer your most burning questions

The panels were a great success, both were well attended and the panelists offered real insight and know-how.

The Utilities & Energy experts panel included representatives from leading companies, such as Chevron, Southern Nuclear, Ameren, American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

It was great to hear about the different use cases, returns on investment, and challenges the companies and practitioners have overcome to deliver benefits to their organisations.

The second panel closed day 2 and was slightly different from many of the other panels. This time, the focus was on providers (rather than enterprises). The session allowed for the audience to ask questions to a wide range of provider companies: Circuit Stream, HPE, Iristick, Jujotech, Peregrine and Tobii Pro.

Again, it was a very engaging and wide-ranging conversation focusing on what enterprises need to do to support the deployment of AR solutions. It was great to hear from some of the leading providers of AR technology talk about their approach and engagement with large organisations.

My thanks to the Brainxchange team for allowing the AREA to be part of this excellent event!




AREA Issues Request for Proposals to Execute Research Project on Web-based Enterprise AR

Recently, AREA members voted to have the organization’s sixth member-funded research project focus on the challenges and opportunities ahead for those who  use Web-based technologies to create, manage and deliver AR experiences in the workplace. The research will include an in-depth study of the W3C IW working group’s activities, and a comparison of benefits and limitations of using Web-based delivery of enterprise AR content versus the existing native application approach.

The AREA request for proposals for the research project provides additional context for the research and details, including the deliverables that members seek:

  • a written report containing the results of research and analysis with recommendations and a bibliography of sources and appendix with list of experts who contributed to the research;
  • a working demonstration of Web-based AR delivery and presentation for an elementary enterprise use case; and
  • a case study or executive summary of the research to be published on the AREA Web site.

Organizations with relevant expertise in the research topic are invited to respond to the request for proposals on or before 12 PM Eastern Daylight Time on September 16, 2019.




AREA Members to Vote on 6th Research Project Proposals

The AREA is currently in the midst of planning its sixth research
project with member voting now underway to choose from the following proposed
topics:

  • AR and
    5G for Enterprise
  • Web-based
    AR for the Enterprise
  • Size and
    Growth of Enterprise AR Market
  • Minimum
    Viable AR Glasses Requirements
  • AR Cloud
    in the Enterprise
  • Security
    Identity and Authentication Management for Shared Wearable AR Displays

The products of all AREA-directed research projects – including
reports, use cases, and case studies – are offered exclusively to AREA members
as one of the benefits of membership in the organization. The AREA also makes
one deliverable from the research available for free to the greater enterprise
AR ecosystem.

If you would like to see your company have the opportunity to help
guide AR research initiatives – and benefit from the results of that research –
please consider becoming a member of the AREA. You can find more information here.




Highlights of 2018 at The AREA

Of the coming year, Mark Sage, Executive Director said:

“As we head into 2019 and we look forward to continued growth in the ecosystem. More enterprises are researching, developing pilots and /or moving towards commercialising AR technology and gaining great ROI.  Thank you to all our members, partners and associates for being a part of this exciting journey and development during 2018.  I look forward to working with you to see what the new year will bring for AR in the enterprise.”

We would like to wish all our followers, readers, associates, colleagues, staff, leaders and members a very Happy New Year.




AREA Completes Safety and Human Factors Research Project

The AREA Research Committee recently distributed to members two deliverables produced as part of the organization’s third research project, Assessing Safety and Human Factors of AR in the Workplace. This groundbreaking, member-exclusive research project produced the first framework for assessing and managing safety and human factors risks when introducing AR in the workplace. In addition to a tool to support decision-making, members also received an in-depth report of findings based on primary research.

Through the knowledge of its members and detailed interviews and research conducted with the wider enterprise AR ecosystem, the AREA’s reusable framework will promote a consistent approach to assessing safety and human factors of AR solutions.

This research was undertaken by AREA member Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and managed by AREA sponsor member Christine Perey of PEREY Research and Consulting.

“For the first time, AREA members have a framework that will enable them to consider important requirements from the perspectives of key project roles and at each stage of the AR project,” said Perey. “The framework and supporting report are invaluable tools, built on the experience and knowledge gained by members and the larger community through many AR projects.”

“Through a combination of desk research and interviews with experts in the enterprise AR field, we captured rich and comprehensive insights into best practices and potential issues to overcome in these previously under-researched areas,” noted Amina Naqvi of the MTC, the author of the framework and research paper.

“This is another great example of the value the AREA brings to its members and the wider enterprise AR ecosystem,” said Mark Sage, Executive Director of the AREA. “By working together and learning from our fellow members, we’ve been able to produce research results that bring real benefits, and help to reduce the barriers to adoption for AR projects.”

The AREA has prepared a free Executive Summary of the Best Practice Report and a case study for non-members, “Assessing AR for Safety and Usability in Manufacturing” to help companies in the AR ecosystem to adopt or design safer and more usable wearable AR solutions.

If you’d like access to these resources please follow the links below hereto download them.




AREA Launches Research into AR Manufacturing Barriers

Hot on the heels of delivering its third research project, the AREA has launched a new project, defined and voted for by the AREA members, targeting barriers to AR adoption in manufacturing.

While many manufacturers have implemented AR trials, proofs of concept, and tests, relatively few have rolled out fully industrialized solutions throughout their organizations. The goal of the fourth AREA research project is to identify issues and possible strategies to overcome these barriers.

This is the first AREA research project that focuses on a single industry in which there are many use cases that can improve performance, productivity and safety, and reduce risks and downtime. The project will have both quantitative and qualitative components and the deliverables will include an AREA member-exclusive report and a framework for identification of common barriers and the best mitigation strategies. In addition, there will be a case study illustrating the use of the framework that will be published for the AR community.

Dr. Philipp Rauschnabel of the xReality Lab at Universität der Bundeswehr in Munich and his team will be leading this research. Enterprises interested in providing input to the project may complete this form or send an email to research@thearea.org.




VR/AR Summit at TechXLR8 Asia: An AREA Recap

On September 18 to 20, I had the opportunity to attend the VR/AR Summit at the TechXLR8 event at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. Produced in collaboration with the XR Alliance and the VR AR Association, the VR/AR Summit spanned the value chain of solutions driving enterprise adoption of AR and VR across Asia.

For me, the highlights of the AR/VR Summit were the presentations by early adopters of AR and VR. We heard talks on implementations in Healthcare, Education, Entertainment, and Retail/eCommerce. Presenters included representatives from: Japanese telco KDDI; the National Institute of Education; Deloitte; the Singapore Radiological Society; payment provider Wirecard; and a few small Enterprise AR providers.

These speakers shared their expertise, use cases, and useful tips for a successful AR/VR implementation. The overall tone was guarded optimism. While they generally agreed that AR/VR offers great promise, many presenters stressed the need to carefully calibrate customers’ expectations in the near term.

I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce participants to the AREA – who we are and how we are working with our members and the ecosystem to advance the successful implementation of enterprise AR. It was a promising first step in developing the AREA ecosystem in Singapore and Asia-Pacific.