Fieldbit on AR-enabled Industrial Field Service Applications

AREA: How and when did Fieldbit originate?

RAPOPORT: My partners and I came from the world of industrial automation technologies. In 2013, Google Glass came out and we started to think about how this gadget could be used in an industrial setting. We had a feeling that this technology would have a significant impact on the way we work, especially in field services for the industrial world. Initially, our idea was to create procedures on smart glasses showing users how to repair complex equipment. After interviewing many prospective customers, we realized that converting existing procedures to smart glasses and an AR format would require considerable resources from the organizations themselves. What customers really needed was a way to assure that on-site fixes are completed by technicians on the first visit in order to avoid sending experts to resolve the problem. This could save everyone – vendors and customers – a lot of money. So we decided to develop a solution using Augmented Reality and smart glasses that would help the technician solve a complex technical problem by receiving augmented instructions from an expert. This was our first product – Fieldbit Hero – an end-to-end visual collaboration platform for field services.

AREA: In just five years, Fieldbit has developed a pretty comprehensive, integrated set of solution offerings.

RAPOPORT:  After Fieldbit Hero rolled out to the market, we realized that remote assistance alone was not enough. Customers wanted to digitize the entire process of on-site service and repair. So we added Fieldbit Knowledge to capture on-the-job processes and share best working practices across the organization. Later, we also added Fieldbit Cosmic, which is used to augment real-time data from equipment and control systems or information from back office applications using Fieldbit’s SDK and APIs.

AREA: What distinguishes Fieldbit in the AR marketplace?

RAPOPORT: There are several key differentiators. First, we are focused solely on industrial field service applications. Second, we enable our users to build Augmented Reality online. This real-time capability is extremely important for field service. Our customers, like machine builders or technical service providers, don’t have hours, or even minutes, to prepare AR instructions. Their problems need to be fixed fast. This is our core strength – enabling users to immediately create AR and send it to a remote service technician or equipment operator. Third, Fieldbit allows customers to record the entire service process including all interactions and exchange of information, so they can analyze how the relevant service procedures were conducted and reuse this information. This enables Fieldbit users to capture the practical expertise of experienced technicians and share it across the organization. Capturing on-the-job knowledge is a tremendous asset for organizations looking for a way to preserve the knowledge of their aging field service workforce. Without such a solution, experienced technicians and experts would retire and their decades of accumulated knowledge would simply vanish.

AREA: In what industries have you seen the greatest traction to date?

RAPOPORT: We’re focused primarily on industries where sophisticated, complex equipment is installed, such as oil and gas exploration and production, industrial machine manufacturing and complex telecom installations. We’ve seen success, for example, in German-speaking countries with machine builders. In Germany alone there are around 6,000 industrial machine builders. We’ve also been expanding our presence in the US market, primarily in the energy sector.

AREA: Can you give us a few brief examples of Fieldbit customers and the benefits they have gained from your technology?

RAPOPORT: BP is a good example. BP’s Lower 48 division has a fully deployed Fieldbit solution being used by all of its field engineers. They operate in the upstream oil and gas market and have some 13,000 wells in the US. We started working with BP over two years ago. During that time, they’ve dramatically shortened the problem resolution cycle and reduced the number of travels of top-notch experts to remote sites. Using Fieldbit, BP’s experts guide field technicians to resolve the problem on the first visit. These factors have enabled BP to increase production.

We also work closely with equipment manufacturers. For example, Emerson Electric uses Fieldbit to support not only their engineers and technicians, but also their customers. When an equipment operator has a question, an Emerson subject matter expert in a support center can send the operator a link by text message or email and invite him or her to open a Fieldbit interactive session. The expert then guides the operator using Augmented Reality tools until the problem is resolved, without the need to dispatch an Emerson engineer to a remote site. With Fieldbit, many technical issues and even complex problems can be resolved remotely.

AREA: Tell us about your recent product announcement.

RAPOPORT: In December, we launched Fieldbit 5.0, a major new release. There are two key highlights in this release. First, we introduced new AR capabilities in our iOS application that combine image recognition with SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) algorithms. This improves the AR user experience, making it more stable, vivid, and accurate. Second, we completely redesigned our mobile user interface. It’s very intuitive, so now mobile users can begin using the Fieldbit application immediately without any training.

 AREA: What do you see as the greatest barriers to AR adoption?

RAPOPORT: We believe that smart glasses will eventually be the most useful smart device in field services. Using smart glasses, technical personnel can work hands-free, access information and get instructions from a domain expert. However, smart glasses are still cumbersome to wear and operate. In addition, optical limitations such as narrow field of view have not yet been resolved. That said, we are seeing significant progress in this area. I believe that when smart glasses become easier to use, with better optical functionality, we will see a leap forward in AR adoption.

AREA: What do you hope to gain by being a member of the AREA?

RAPOPORT: We look forward to participating in committees and exchanging views, knowledge and experiences with other AR providers and equipment manufacturers. We hope to learn from AR customers and other members about changing requirements. And we’re already taking advantage of AREA resources, such as reports and market studies.

ExxonMobil Becomes the AREA’s 50th Member

“Joining the AREA means we can collaborate with fellow technology leaders to further explore immersive technology,” said Adam Wariner, architecture and technology manager, ExxonMobil. “ExxonMobil has been expanding its world-class technology leadership through applications in augmented reality and other emerging technologies, and we are excited about the opportunities to revolutionize the way we work.”

In addition to ExxonMobil, new Contributing Members include Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, and Vuzix. The AREA has also welcomed seven organizations to its ranks of Startup members: Apprentice, Augumenta, HART Influencers, LogistiVIEW, Sarcos Robotics, ThirdEye Gen, and Threesixty Reality

“With each new member that joins, the AREA becomes a more diverse, resourceful, and valued organization,” said Mark Sage, AREA Executive Director. “Our activities and resources will be greatly enhanced by the expertise and insights of these forward-thinking enterprises. The AREA is focused on helping to reduce the barriers to AR adoption and helping to accelerate the enterprise AR ecosystem.”

The AREA’s membership benefits include access to high-quality, vendor-neutral content and participation in various programs to help reduce the adoption of AR within organizations, a research framework to address key challenges shared by all members, discounts for fee-based events, and more. Sponsor members have a direct role in shaping the rapidly expanding AR industry and demonstrate their companies’ leadership and commitment to improving workplace performance.

Sarcos’ Brad Kell on AR in Robotics

AREA: Sarcos has been a pioneer in robotics for 25 years now, most recently with its Guardian XO exoskeleton. How does AR fit into the picture?

KELL: While Sarcos has been building robots a long time, the Guardian XO under development will be our first exoskeleton product with an intelligent user interface. We need to understand how people are going to interact with the XO, for example, how information is presented to the user, how that information is used, and how to make things easier for the user so they can focus on the task at hand. We see AR fulfilling many of these requirements and being an important part of the product.

AREA: What kinds of user requirements are you expecting to see in the future?

KELL: We see a number of possibilities as more exoskeletons and similar systems come into use, particularly regarding access, presentation, and use of information, hands-free operation, and awareness of and interaction with the surrounding environment – for example, things like hazard avoidance and semi-automated user guidance.

AREA: It sounds as if somebody at Sarcos was looking at what the capabilities of the exoskeleton would be, how complex the future of this product would be, and decided that traditional forms of user interface were not going to be sufficient.

KELL: We could make an exoskeleton that is functional today using a traditional interface, but we are looking towards the future along with our customers. They are looking for a good user experience and better ways to control new technology that also integrates with AR systems they are already evaluating for other applications. Given the nature of our product, hands free operation is particularly important and is a critical driver to make sure we are meeting our customer’s needs.

AREA: Is AR being considered exclusively for the exoskeleton or will it be used in other Sarcos products?

KELL: When we talk about long-term strategy, we recognize that it is very important. We’ve already discussed wider use of AR internally and with our customers and we’ve started to evaluate select existing technologies as a first step. We have several products that could really benefit from AR technologies. With our Guardian S product we expect to enable enhanced inspections through the use of AR.

AREA: What aspects of AR are you exploring right now?

KELL: A user in an exoskeleton is not necessarily going to have hands available to push buttons. They want to tell the system what to do, and the system should give them audio and visual feedback. They may want to visualize digital three-dimensional models and documentation. We can see the potential AR can bring to our integrated strategy. It’s a matter of us selecting an appropriate technology and seeing how it fits into our product delivery schedule.

AREA: Can you give us a sense of the next near-term milestone in the Sarcos AR strategy?

KELL: Our targeted commercial design release for the delivery of the XO is late 2019. Until then, we must work through technology selection, and make sure it is compatible with what our customers want and expect or will allow. Once we decide what to do, select AR technology could be integrated with our existing systems and tested to make sure that it meets specifications.

AREA: What do you hope to gain through your membership in the AREA?

KELL: We’ve already been exposed to some new technologies and met some other AREA members. Our goals are to get a better understanding of what’s out there, meet potential partners, and have an opportunity to evaluate ideas and technologies to see how they might address our customers’ needs. The other thing that’s very interesting is access to early adopters. There’s nothing better than working with people to get insight on something they have already tried.

Mozilla Takes Aim at the AR Browser

Mozilla is the not-for-profit behind the popular web browser, Firefox. The company works to ensure it stays open by building products, technologies and programs that put people in control of their online lives. In April of this year, Mozilla officially announced Firefox Reality, a browser designed specifically for VR and AR headsets. Firefox Reality currently runs in developer mode on Google’s Daydream and Samsung’s and Ocular’s Gear VR, with more devices on the way. We spoke recently with Lars Bergstrom, Director of Engineering, Mixed Reality at Mozilla Research, to learn more about Mozilla’s plans.

AREA: Tell us about how Mozilla decided to get into augmented reality.

Bergstrom: As a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, Mozilla believes in protecting the user online. We want everyone to be able to get online, use information on the Internet and have it delivered to them in a safe and private manner. We had been experimenting with VR and AR headsets for a while and saw a couple of years ago that the technology was finally getting to a point where it’s ready for wide scale adoption in enterprises and very soon, consumers. And so, in order to get to a place where we could ensure that the web was safe, private and relevant for consumers, we knew that we needed to start investing in building browsers and web-based technologies for these VR and AR headsets so that, by the time people were ready to buy them, the web was already there.

AREA: What’s different about Firefox for AR compared to other headset-enabled browsers?

Bergstrom: The biggest thing we’re trying to do is to partner and build a really great immersive experience for each headset, customized for the hardware. Each one has its own sweet spot, field of view, and ergonomics. What gestures does it support? How long can people use it and be comfortable? We’ve tried to work with each of the headsets, either with the manufacturers directly or ourselves, to figure out how to build a browser that’s customized to work well on that hardware, is comfortable, and offers something that users want to be in all the time. So, one of the biggest things that distinguishes us is that we’re working directly with the hardware vendors.

AREA: What are some of the fine points of browser design when you’re talking about the augmented reality environment?

Bergstrom: The web as a platform didn’t do a lot with computer vision. The camera is only available to the browser through generic media APIs, but when we transition to augmented reality, everyone using these devices expects to have access to the specialized hardware APIs available on those devices. They expect to have some sort of object recognition, they expect to be able to find QR codes, and they expect reasoning about the environment, whether that’s object detection or surface detection. So one of the big things that we’ve had to do in the browser was work with the hardware vendors and other people to determine how we were going to expose this information, up to web pages and do it in a safe way? How are we going to ask users for privacy? Because right now, if you build a Unity app, you just get access to all of these APIs and then there’s some assumption of trust. You install the application and it doesn’t really prompt you again. However, with the web, we’re talking about potentially untrusted content; you go to some website that’s selling a poster and they ask you if you want to put the poster on the wall. We need to be very careful for the user. How are we asking them for permission to display that in the real world and how much information is actually being transmitted back to that website? Because the expectation of trust is very different.

AREA: It sounds as if you’re trying to be very responsible about safety and privacy.

Bergstrom: We have to. We are a nonprofit and we’re mission-driven so that is our measure of success – getting people to safely and privately use the Internet on these devices.

AREA: You announced Firefox Reality in April. What’s the roadmap and what milestones can we look forward to?

Bergstrom: We’re focusing on the standalone device experience right now. We think mobile phone AR is really great, as is mobile phone VR, for getting developers experimenting with the hardware. But it’s hard to see people integrating it with their daily lives until it’s in a standalone headset. So, we’ve been focusing on all of the unique requirements there. For example, how do you load a URL when you don’t have an onscreen keyboard to fall back on? Our latest milestone is the release of versions of both the VR and AR browsers in application stores for several standalone headsets.

AREA: And after that?

Bergstrom: The big thing we’re working on is going beyond stores and actually getting it installed on devices for distribution with the headsets because that’s really where we want to be. We want to make sure that all of these headsets that ship have a good browser on them for doing web-based virtual and augmented reality.

AREA: What does Mozilla hope to get out of its membership in the AREA?

Bergstrom: One of the things that I really like about the AREA is that it brings together a lot of very experienced large organizations that have been running pilots and programs with augmented reality for many years. These are organizations we normally wouldn’t have contact with, as a nonprofit organization that’s mainly consumer focused. The AREA bridges that gap to help us connect to enterprises and industry in the way that we haven’t traditionally had. I am always surprised at how much I learn every time I talk to members of the AREA.

AREA: What kind of response have you had from the marketplace about the Firefox Reality announcement?

Bergstrom: We wanted to reach out to more hardware vendors and strongly signal to the market that we’re bringing a browser to AR and VR headsets and they should reach out to us. In our view, there’s no value in being exclusive to one device. Most of the value comes when we are on every device. Then people can build a web app and they get the experience to work across all of them. We’ve gotten a lot feedback. Immediately after we went live, a number of hardware vendors reached out to us. They’ve tried it on their devices and they’d like us to tune it for their hardware. We’ve also engaged developers to begin experimenting with it. Their feedback has been, “Okay, when are you going to have this installed on devices by default so I can ship my application?”

AREA: What’s the biggest question developers have?

Bergstrom: How is the performance relative to a native solution? In some ways, the web is not as mature a platform as Unity, in particular in terms of access to the raw graphics compute hardware. So we’re working to help developers get answers to those questions.

AREA Research Committee Issues Call for Proposals to Study AR in Manufacturing

The AREA is issuing a request for proposals for a funded research project that will develop a methodology for identification of, and strategies for, overcoming barriers to AR adoption in manufacturing environments.

Organizations with relevant expertise in the research topic may respond to the invitation on or before 12 PM Eastern Daylight Time on August 21st.

The goals of the AREA-directed research project are:

  • To document all potential barriers to AR adoption in manufacturing and develop a step-by-step methodology for their identification and subsequent implementation of strategies (proven and proposed) that can be used to overcome barriers. The AREA members will then be able to follow the methodology when working with their internal and external manufacturing management and/or operator stakeholders, or to assist their customers and partners in the deployment of AR in production environments.
  • To increase understanding of barriers and resolution strategies that can reduce the time, cost and risks for AR adoption in manufacturing.

The research project will produce:

  • An AREA-member exclusive report that describes a methodology for identification of and strategies for overcoming barriers to AR adoption in manufacturing environments.
  • A tool or framework implemented in the form of an annotated spreadsheet with instructions on how to fill in fields and with which the user organization will identify common AR adoption barriers.  Based on identified barriers, the tool will suggest strategies for AR introduction managers and stakeholders to follow for the reduction or management of AR adoption barriers.
  • A case study (suitable for public release) illustrating the use of the methodology by AR introduction managers in a fictional (or anonymized) manufacturing organization.

The research methodology should include primary research (i.e., interviews with the owners/managers of AR proof of concept projects in manufacturing industry, surveys, etc.), secondary research (i.e. review of peer-reviewed literature and web-based information) and a broad, system-level view of AR in manufacturing in order to capture organizational and environmental factors as well as suitability of AR for specific manufacturing use cases, and technology acceptance by operators.

All proposals will be evaluated by the AREA research committee chair and research manager on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of manufacturing environments and organizations managing manufacturing, and the use of AR for the purpose of improving operational performance of manufacturing systems and organizations.
  • Clear qualifications of the proposing research organization and any partners in the domains of AR, manufacturing management and/or adjacent technologies.
  • Review of prior research reports and process management tools.
  • Feedback of references.

The AREA will provide detailed replies to submitters on or before August 27th. Unless otherwise negotiated in advance, the research project is expected to be completed and finished deliverables produced by October 31st. 

Any questions concerning this project and the AREA Research Committee, please send an email to the Research Committee.

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. Full information on the project needs and desired outcomes, including a submission form, can be found here.

AREA and AWE EU Team Up to Offer €100 Discount

Act quickly to take advantage of a great money-saving offer from AWE Europe 2018 and the AREA – €100 off the cost of access passes to the two-day must-attend event. Coming to the MOC Exhibition Centre in Munich on October 18 and 19, AWE is the world’s #1 AR and VR conference and expo and is expected to attract 100 exhibitors and 2000 attendees, including many enterprise AR leaders.

It’s a great offer, but it’s only good through Sunday, July 22, so act now. Click here to register and save €100!

Wunschsicht’s Lukas Zimmerli: Building an AR Startup in Switzerland

Founded in 2017, Wunschsicht GmbH is a Swiss-based AR solutions provider led by Lukas Zimmerli. Wunschsicht is taking a novel approach that Zimmerli hopes will open the AR market to more small companies. We spoke with Lukas Zimmerli recently to learn more.

AREA: Tell us how you became involved in Augmented Reality.

Zimmerli: After earning my diploma from ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, I went to Barcelona to work on my first Mixed Reality project. In 2007, I came back to ETH Zurich for my PhD, exploring how Virtual Reality can be used to motivate stroke and spinal cord injured patients during motor rehabilitation. In 2015, I then went to Swisscom, the biggest telecommunication company in Switzerland. As team lead for mobile apps and Augmented Reality, my team and I developed AR experiences for the larger enterprise customers of Swisscom. After two years, I decided to start my own AR company in November of 2017.

AREA: Are you focusing on particular vertical industries or niches in the business?

Zimmerli: We’re exploring all opportunities to start, especially concentrating on the German-speaking market (Switzerland, Germany, and potentially Austria). We recently released our first product called insight, which allows companies to easily create AR-enabled digital instruction manuals, enabling their employees with skills they might not have. It’s a device-independent solution that allows companies to quickly get a first impression on how AR might help them.

AREA: So the idea is to show people what the capabilities are, then work with them to tailor it to their specific needs.

Zimmerli: Right, because we believe that this approach allows small companies to quickly get a first experience of what AR could do to help them without having to invest a huge amount of money for a tailored proof of concept.

AREA: What’s the market for AR solutions like in Switzerland?

Zimmerli: There is a push in the country to get Swiss companies to adopt digital strategies and AR is definitely one part of it, although AI and IoT at the moment have a bigger audience. Many companies I have approached are however saying they are looking into AR and are open to learning about the advantages.

AREA: What do you hope to get from your membership in the AREA?

Zimmerli: As a startup, we are hoping to talk to and learn from companies that have already been in the field for a long time and vice versa to inspire them. We’re also interested in actively participating in shaping how AR is deployed in enterprises. Certainly, we also hope to find opportunities to collaborate with other companies.

AREA: Are you planning to participate in any of the AREA committees?

Zimmerli: We’d like to begin by participating in the research and marketing committees.

Reflections on the H1 2018 AR Event Season

The first half of 2018 was full of AR conferences – and the AREA was a big part of it all. It all kicked off in March with the workshop the AREA co-hosted with DMDII in Chicago. From there, the AR event season was off and running – and with many shows offering discounts for AREA members, it was no surprise to see many AREA members at the AR events held around the world.

As Executive Director of the AREA I’m honored to present at these events, showing the progress made by the industry and the importance of the AREA and its members. Here are my reflections on the events I’ve attended in recent months, including the initiatives the AREA trialed in early 2018.

First, my overall impression. There is a strong and growing interest in enterprise AR. Attendance and enthusiasm are on the rise and enterprises are now discussing real implementations and real benefits. That momentum was reflected at all of the following conferences I attended:

Wearable Technology Show (March, London)

This conference focused on the AR wearable space marked a first for the AREA: our first dedicated workshop focused on enterprise AR. AREA members XMReality, RealWear, and MTC, supported by AREA Researcher Michael Rygol and Welsh Water created an excellent set of experts! The workshop targeted enterprises interested in finding out more about the benefits of AR and seeking to engage with experts to get answers to their questions. The session was well received by all and served as an effective model for our participation at future events.

AR VR Innovate (May, Dublin)

The AREA has supported this event for the past three years. It brings together Ireland’s leading companies, as well as a number of innovative AR and VR companies, government agencies and investors. This year, the AREA sponsored a panel session where Amina Naqvi of AREA member MTC and Gary Smith of Welsh Water provided expert insight into the benefits of AR and how to overcome the challenges of AR implementation.

VRX Europe (May, Amsterdam)

Again the AREA sponsored a panel session delivered with AREA members. This was the first time the AREA had supported this event and it proved to be a good format with plenty of opportunities for discussion. The audience appreciated the panel session and we generated lots of interest in the AREA’s work.

AWE US 2018 (May, Santa Clara)

It’s the biggest AR event of the year and the AREA continues to support it in numerous ways. We helped to develop the work (enterprise) speaker track and provided chairs for the three days (thank you, Christine Perey and Carl Byers, for joining me).

Many AREA members spoke at the event and provided considerable insight to the attendees. It was great to hear Boeing and Lockheed Martin talk about real savings realized from their AR projects. Another common theme was that more and more AR projects are becoming “industrialized” (i.e., moving from trials and pilots to becoming part of an organization’s day-to-day tools).

As per our tradition, the AREA had the honor of kicking off the three days of enterprise speaker tracks with my presentation, “Fulfilling the Potential of AR for Enterprise.”

The AREA also hosted a breakfast briefing for members, interested enterprises and partners. It was great to hear from various board members (Beth Scicchitano, (Newport News Shipbuilding), Christine Perey, (PEREY Research & Consulting) and Marc Schuetz (PTC) about how they are benefiting from the work of the AREA.


IATA Aviation Virtual and Augmented Reality Summit (June, Geneva)

A quick turnaround (less than one day at home) saw me back on a plane to Geneva for the inaugural International Air Transport Association (IATA) VR and AR Summit. Focused on the aviation industry, this event’s attendees included many of the world’s leading airlines. I was pleased to present the work of the AREA to an engaged and enthusiastic audience.

AR & VR World (June, London)

AR & VR World is part of an event called TechXLR8, which includes other technologies (this year they included IoT, 5G, and AI). The AREA also tested a new concept called the AREA Pavilion. Six AREA members – 3D Studio Blomberg, AMRC, Crunchfish, Mira Labs, Theorem Solutions, and XMReality – shared a dedicated AREA space. This helped to reduce costs but also enabled me and other attendees to speak to multiple members and attendees. Angela Lang, who drives AREA Events and Media Partnerships, and I, will continue to develop the Pavilion concept, both for AR events and industry events.

All in all, it was a busy and vibrant AR event season that clearly demonstrated growing enterprise interest in AR. Thanks to all our members who participated and helped to bring the work of the AREA to an eager world!

Huawei’s Farhad Patel on Taking AR Beyond the Pilot

Requirements Committee

Since its founding 31 years ago, Huawei has grown to become the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. With $75 billion in revenue, the global giant supports R&D operations in 21 countries around the world. After Huawei recently rejoined the AREA, we had a chance to talk with Farhad Patel, Technical Communication Manager based in Plano, Texas.

AREA: What has driven Huawei’s interest in augmented reality to date?

FARHAD PATEL: I work in the Innovation and Best Practices group in Huawei’s technical communication department. We’re responsible for developing and delivering the technical information and communication that goes out to our customers in the form of user guides, technical manuals, and instructional guides. A couple of years ago, as part of our innovation objectives, Rhonda Truitt, Director of Huawei’s Innovation and Best practices in Technical Communication group decided to research and pilot AR because she thought it could be very useful for information delivery. During our research we discovered that quite a few AR experiences involved showing someone how to perform a task and that’s what technical communicators do. We knew that technical communicators were the best people to deliver AR content and saw this as hugely beneficial to our audience. The thing that really appealed to us was that equipment could be automatically identified and content could be automatically displayed without searching. Contextually, this is what a person is looking at, and this is what he or she probably needs. So, it would save our customer’s time not to have to search and locate information.

AREA: Are your customers consumers or businesses?

FARHAD PATEL: Both. Huawei develops a full range of telecommunications equipment: switches, routers, servers, software, and the cell phone itself. We sell to telecommunications providers as well as consumers.

AREA: How would you describe the state of Huawei’s internal adoption of AR today?

FARHAD PATEL: I can’t speak for the rest of Huawei but in the documentation area we have done several very small, very targeted AR projects both in the US and in China. It’s not something that we’re doing corporate-wide for documentation, and it’s not something that we’re even doing product line-wide. So, if there is a certain product, like a power converter or a server, that we want to publicize to our customers, we may turn to AR or use AR as one of the channels to show its features and what it can do. We’ve also used AR at tradeshows but only in terms of certain products. So, we have done multiple small projects, but we haven’t scaled up to include a full product line since not all content is suitable for AR delivery.

AREA: Do you have a timetable in place for more widespread deployment?

FARHAD PATEL: It’s probably not on the near horizon because AR still has significant challenges that need to be addressed. And one of them is not even related to AR but more the content itself: how do we minimize the content to fit onto the smaller screen of a tablet or smartphone? And we have long procedures, filled with images and tables. That is a challenge. Another challenge is that the tracking and recognition technology is still not where it could be. And ideally, with AR, you could work hands-free. Just put on your glasses and you’d be able to see work instructions superimposed right next to the equipment. We’re still waiting for smart glasses technology to improve before large-scale adoption. So, those are the challenges that we’re struggling with as we try to ramp up the adoption of AR.

AREA: Among those eight pilots was a field technician installation instruction application with HyperIndustry, correct?

FARHAD PATEL: Yes, we’ve done three or four pilots with Inglobe Technologies. The other company that we’ve used is 3D Studio Blomberg, an AREA member. And we have developed AR experiences internally in China. We have also used another AR company, EasyAR.

AREA: What have you learned from the AR pilots that you’ve conducted so far?

FARHAD PATEL: We’ve improved our knowledge about AR technology – what it can do, what it can’t do, its limitations, its challenges. We’ve come a long way from where we started out. We have also increased the awareness of AR technology and expertise within the company itself. Now, we have many more product lines aware of AR technology and how powerful and successful it can be, because we’ve had a few customer pilots and we’ve demonstrated AR in these pilots, and the user groups and customers have been very appreciative of this new delivery channel for information. But at the same time, we’ve also identified what we cannot do with AR. So, we’re in a wait-and-see mode to see how best to proceed to take AR enabled information corporate-wide or even product line-wide for appropriate content.

AREA: How are you hoping to benefit from your membership in the AREA?

FARHAD PATEL: The main thing we want to get from the AREA is knowledge. We’re hoping to be able to share what we have learned. And I hope that other AREA members will reciprocate and tell us what they have learned. I would hope to learn more about their best practices, their challenges, what works for them, what doesn’t work for them. For example, if an AREA member has figured out how to minimize the content so that it can be visible on smaller screens, I’m hoping that they share that information.

Networking is another benefit. You know, we learned about 3D Studio Blomberg from the AREA, so getting in touch with other like-minded people to work with their technology. And of course, the best practices, white papers, and webinars that the AREA puts out. For example, recently the AREA developed an ROI calculator. Useful information like that will go a long way in validating our membership fees to the AREA.

AREA: What AREA activities do you expect to participate in?

FARHAD PATEL: The Research Committee is of great value and we try to participate in AREA programs and activities as much as possible.

3 Things You Need to Know About the New Atheer/Toshiba AR Partnership


Last week, AREA member Atheer announced a new partnership with Toshiba -pairing Atheer’s AiR Enterprise solution with Toshiba’s new dynaEdge smart glasses. We checked in with Atheer’s Director of Marketing Communications, Geof Wheelwright, to get the story behind the story.

AREA: What was it about the Toshiba dynaEdge smart glasses that made Atheer want to pursue this partnership?

Wheelwright: We know from talking with customers that no one type of smart glasses will meet all the diverse needs of a given enterprise. It is inevitable that the average organization’s AR ecosystem will consist of a variety of smart glasses, devices and OS platforms. Atheer’s strategy is to be ubiquitous across this diversity of customer needs. So when Toshiba approached us last summer about being their software partner for a new range of smart glasses, we jumped at the opportunity to partner with them.  Toshiba is, of course, one of the world’s mobile computing leaders and its entry into the Enterprise Augmented Reality market is a pivotal moment in validating the potential and promise of the technology. Toshiba’s vast experience in working with enterprise customers on mobile solutions – and its keen understanding of their needs – makes it a great partner in delivering our flagship AiR™ Enterprise solution to Windows 10 users on new Toshiba’s dynaEdge™ AR Smart Glasses. Together, we believe that we can bring a much stronger awareness of what AR solutions can achieve in industrial enterprise roles such as field service, dealer service, manufacturing and repair operations, assembly line management, technician and expert training, warehouse picking, asset inspection and repair as well as remote visualization and support.


AREA: What does the pairing of AiR Enterprise and DynaEdge smart glasses bring to the enterprise AR market that it didn’t have before?

Wheelwright: There’s a new set of capabilities represented in both the Toshiba dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses – and Atheer’s implementation of AiR Enterprise on them. To begin with, these are the first AR smart glasses designed for Windows 10. Then you have the fact that Toshiba’s innovative dynaEdge Mobile Mini PC – a fully functioning Windows 10 PC in a tiny form factor – is part of the solution and ensures that users have access to all their standard Windows enterprise applications while using the dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses. When you add AiR Enterprise to the mix, you get a fully-featured, Windows-based enterprise-grade AR solution that provides touchless, gesture-based interaction, remote subject matter calling, contextual documentation, barcode scanning and step-by-step task flows.

AREA: What are the plans for this partnership beyond this announcement?

Wheelwright: This announcement is just the first step of our partnership. The next step is that Toshiba and Atheer are taking this combined solution to a number of Early Access Partners (EAPs) that represent some of Toshiba’s most strategic industrial customers.  These and other customer engagements will guide how we continue to work closely together to drive even greater integration with relevant, Windows-based infrastructure and key enterprise applications. As we see how customers use the solution, we will get – and be able to apply – essential insights into the specific needs of enterprise users who want a Windows 10-based AR solution to our development roadmap.