Augmented Reality for Production and Maintenance with NGRAIN

AREA member NGRAIN started in the enterprise training market and today is an AR solutions provider for a range of companies and industries.

We recently interviewed Barry Po, NGRAIN’s Senior Director of Product and Business Development, to discover the latest developments about NGRAIN’s offerings for industrial Augmented Reality.

What is your company’s mission and focus in the market?

NGRAIN has been working with customers to prepare and publish training programs and other types of information in rich and engaging ways for over 15 years. We develop solutions using both Augmented Reality and VR to meet the needs of our customers in aerospace and defense, energy and utilities, oil and gas and manufacturing and healthcare.

In each of these industries there are specialists who work with physical objects—whether to deploy, operate or to maintain and service these machines—and who need the right information in the right place at the right time. That’s what Augmented Reality brings: the ability to access information that would otherwise not be readily available or easy to understand, and equipping these people with knowledge they need to make better decisions. As a result, training time is shortened and they can perform tasks quickly and correctly every time it’s required.

A field technician’s work is often more complex than outsiders understand. When preparing and executing some tasks, there is a staggering number of details. Many human errors happen when working with heavy assets, such as maintaining or operating heavy equipment like a vehicle or a complex assembly. The value of Augmented Reality in those situations is to reduce errors, as well as cut down on missteps and omissions of technicians in the field. The technology makes it more practical for someone to do a complex job and ensures that they don’t forget anything along the way.

Another major benefit is that a comparatively less experienced person can use the information without having to spend time in the classroom before becoming productive.

What products and technologies does NGRAIN offer?

We offer a full suite of solutions so that the customer can reach the results they seek quickly. Our AR software development kit allows customers to build custom applications with AR. NGRAIN Producer Pro is what people who want to author their own AR applications with a GUI use. It doesn’t require programming experience. It allows authors to create or import their 3D content and to link it to metadata, as well as display it on Windows, iOS and Android mobile devices. Lastly, NGRAIN also provides customized Augmented Reality solutions tailored to customers’ specific needs.

Are there some use cases that, in your experience, are particularly well-suited for AR?

One major use case that NGRAIN addresses is maintenance training. Our AR-enabled solutions help someone in the field learn on the job rather than just in the classroom. It helps them figure out what they need to do, as well as what’s needed for their work and to get feedback. Having it all on a mobile device such as smart glasses makes it easily accessible.

Another major use case is visual inspection and damage assessment. Our solutions for battle damage assessment and repair are deployed in the field by Lockheed Martin, which has been an NGRAIN customer for eight years. US Air Force technicians use our technology to assess and organize repairs for F-22 and F-35 aircraft. This maximizes the amount of time the aircraft spend in flight and reduces maintenance costs and time spent in the hangar.

Which measurements or metrics for assessing AR’s impact do you prefer?

From an AR perspective, our customers are in the process of defining business cases and metrics, so measurements such as ROI have yet to be defined in a standardized way.

If we take a broader perspective that includes Mixed and Virtual Reality however, we can make a few generalizations about KPIs. Based on NGRAIN’s experience deploying 3D applications for maintenance training, we find the technology can double knowledge retention, which, in turn, brings a variety of benefits. For example, technicians become less prone to missing steps or mixing up the sequence. This increased efficiency also enables them to focus more on the job as a whole and ensure it’s well executed.

A third interesting metric is a statistic measuring how often a job is completed correctly the first time it’s performed. When we deploy the technology, we find customers are able to execute the job correctly nine times out of ten. In the oil and gas industry, for example, correct first-time job execution only occurs 30-40% of the time, so the technology’s impact can be significant.

What is your approach to introducing customers to AR?

We look at the customer’s problems first, focusing on their business environment and organization. It’s important to understand a customer’s pain points in achieving their goals, and one way we do this is by spending time at their sites and observing their operations firsthand.

Recently we spent time with an oil and gas customer’s technicians in the field that was maintaining drilling equipment. We learned that much of the knowledge needed to correctly do jobs isn’t actually documented, but nevertheless is subsequently required by less-experienced people. Our aim, with our 3D guidance solutions, is to provide this kind of tribal knowledge as a virtual mentor might.

What are the typical customer organization’s approaches with respect to new technology introduction?

Everyone agrees that technology is a valuable part of any organization, but we often find differences of opinion in the degree of intensity that new technologies should be introduced. For example, many people who would benefit from AR really don’t care about the technology itself but are looking for the efficiency gains it provides.

In our view, introducing new technologies is less about imposing an approach on the customer or the end user. We make them a part of the process of discovering what works best for them. This ensures that everyone’s perspective is taken into account in the process, rather than the process being solely about the vision of a person or small group of people at the top.

A successful deployment of AR technology takes effort and is unique to each customer and group. Discovering the right approach for a particular customer is greatly helped by working with stakeholders at all levels.

Enterprise Conference Focuses on Wearables

Wearables are leading the next industrial revolution as enterprises leverage their data and systems and employees work with the physical world in new ways. From sensors in clothing to smart watches and glasses, wearables will connect the modern workforce with data and with one another. Wearables are also becoming a component in the emerging constellation of tools for accessing the Industrial Internet of Things.

One class of wearable devices—namely smart glasses—are also essential to delivering Augmented Reality experiences that promise efficient, hands-free work, without having to switch attention to a paper manual or hold a mobile device. Smart glasses are evolving rapidly so business cases and implementation practices must advance as well.

New forums are offering answers that help executives and representatives of companies put wearables to use and to grasp their full potential. AREA member BrainXchange will organize and present the Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit East, a conference on wearables in enterprise and industrial settings, in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 16 and 17.

Putting Enterprise Wearable Practitioners First

Many events provide vendors the opportunity to present their wares to customers. There’s a lot of value in this, but it’s not the complete picture.

Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit East focuses on real world case studies. By sharing the experiences of pilot projects and production implementations, participants have the opportunity to compare experiences about this new wave of technology and formulate best practices.

This isn’t to say that vendors of wearable products and technologies are not welcome. On the contrary, they need to understand customer frustrations as well as achievements. Indeed, the team at BrainXchange relies, in part, on the vendors of wearable technologies to open the doors to customers who may not feel comfortable in the limelight.

Diversity Fuels Investments

With only pockets of successful wearable deployments in any one industry, any industry-specific solutions can’t be justified. The many industry-specific conditions and opportunities will influence the pace of adoption of wearables within one vertical. However, a healthy multi-industry dialog can create a larger market pull that could be sufficiently big to fuel new investments.

Attendees from diverse industries such as oil and gas, healthcare, utilities, shipping and others will attend EWTS East to discuss and gain insights on the data and lessons learned on the ground and in the trenches.

From the presentations and panels on the stage and the private sidebar conversations that begin in the context of networking functions, patterns will emerge. AREA members will be sharing their insights and opinions.

AREA-Moderated Group Discussion

AREA Executive Director Christine Perey will moderate the second-day group discussion on “Cultural and Organizational Considerations” of wearables, which will discuss business challenges of wearables faced by enterprises, including:

  • Privacy and ethics
  • Workplace culture and behavioral changes
  • Costs and ROI
  • Prospects of standardization and regulation
  • Safety concerns of wearables by industry

The panelists and audience will gain new perspectives about the rise of wearable computing and how it will promote new human-world interactions and connect us more intimately with the surrounding environment.

Are you going to attend the EWTS East event in mid-June? Join the AREA and promote your participation in this special event in Atlanta.

Data Visualization with 3D Studio Blomberg

AREA member 3D Studio Blomberg (3DS) excels at visualization of data and especially at enterprise solutions for Augmented Reality. The AREA asked Pontus Blomberg, founder and CEO of 3DS, about his company’s history and projects in the space.

Q. Where do you have the greatest number of projects or customers?

Our customers are mainly in heavy industry, and include both large and mid-sized companies. We are also targeting the educational and consumer sectors for our AR solutions.

Q. How did 3DS become popular as a supplier to the industries you just identified?

Since the company’s founding we’ve led the way to digital transformation through advanced content delivery systems to promote process efficiency, expert knowledge and overall quality.

In 2006 we recognized the potential of AR to boost productivity in industrial workplaces and introduced the technology to Wartsila, a major Finnish power equipment supplier in 2008. At that time we evaluated ALVAR, Vuforia, and Metaio to survey their functionality from a visualization standpoint and assess their capabilities in handling 3D scenes and animations. In 2012 we delivered a proof of concept to Wartsila, and in 2013 we joined a Finnish national R&D program to study the potential of AR in knowledge sharing solutions for field service personnel.

3DS Wartsila

This study showed that research and practical industry applications were not in sync, and many players were concerned with achieving efficiency through dynamic AR content and data integration. We entered an AR solutions provider partnership with Metaio in 2014 but realized the platform focused on technology functionality rather than on system utilization and process implementation, which is our focus today. We are currently studying the potential of Osterhaut Design Group’s R-7 smart glasses and continue to perform proof of concept projects with emphasis on process analysis, system development and AR in production use.

Q. What are the most common metrics used to assess task performance or project success?

We recommend that customer metrics be in line with their quality management system for effective reference and comparison. Broadly speaking, examples of common metrics include:

  • Improvements in product and service quality
  • Effectiveness
  • Safety and risk reduction

Taking simple definitions of effectiveness (“doing the right thing”) and efficiency (“doing the thing right”), we believe it’s possible to work efficiently but it doesn’t contribute to productivity until we’re able to efficiently do the right things at the right time.

Q. What is your approach to AR introduction at customer sites?

As AR is new to most organizations, we recommend detailed analysis of the customer’s business strategy. In order to achieve digital transformation in line with the AR solution, the project needs to be aligned with the business strategy all the way to the board room. We also recommend demos and proof of concept projects to help organizations gain knowledge and understanding.

Q. How is data prepared for your customer projects?

It’s all a question of knowledge and experience gained through project implementation. Initially data has to be prepared manually, but at later stages of the project we’re better able to develop ways of handling new types of content in existing enterprise content systems.

Q. Do you get involved in the design of content that goes into pilot projects?

Yes, this is where our long experience and advantage really shines. Our expertise in visualization, combined with the customer’s industrial product and process expertise, play a significant role in achieving digital transformation through AR solutions. But no large-scale transformations can occur before new knowledge and tools are in place that allow for productivity and dynamic content.

Q. Do you study project risks with the customer or project leader?

There have been no major studies until now but naturally new technologies bring risks with them. Imagine driving your car with GPS assistance in heavy traffic and suddenly you can’t get a signal.

Q. Do you know if your customers perform user studies prior to and following use of the proposed system?

Yes, the fact that we start to see significant achievements in implementing AR solutions drives these kinds of studies. We’ve also had the chance to work together with partners in bigger collaborative research projects.

Q. What are the attitudes of those in the workplace where AR projects are successfully introduced?

Employees at the customer site are very positive and even surprised. We often encounter statements similar to, “Wow! I’ve seen this on YouTube and the Internet. It’s incredible to see that it really works.”

Q. Describe the technologies at play. What types of components do you offer?

Through our key partner network we offer the entire pipeline of smart glasses, mobile solutions, UIs, server-client databases and content development.

We use worldclass tracking technologies today but expect that Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technologies will gain ground. We realize this type of technology isn’t applicable in unique or dynamic situations at larger scales, although we’ve performed several demos and proof of concept projects with SLAM and the results are promising.

At the moment we see marker-based (or with code/ID) and geo-tracking as the most stable and flexible ways to acquire user context. We’ve built upon these technologies in our products and platforms.

At the same time we realize significant investment is needed in the modification of existing customer processes and new competences. To be successful, we aim to help our customers drive this change through systematic long-term cooperation.

Q. What must customers provide in terms of system components?

For rapid familiarization with the technology we recommend providing data to achieve a real look and feel. We recommend not overdoing it with complex UIs and information flows. Developing proof of concept projects with small, incremental steps for easy evaluation and quick changes is important to identify precisely the drivers of an AR introduction.

Q. With whom do you partner most often?

We partner with technology providers (hardware, software and tracking technologies), and we also see content providers as strategic because of their long-term customer relationships. To get all these complex systems to work together with business process changes is a team effort. It will take a few years. We aim to use what’s already been applied in an enterprise because we want to leverage the significant investments that have already been made in IT and visualization.

Q. What are the environmental conditions where customer projects are being conducted?

We’ve experienced both laboratory and real environmental conditions, especially in terms of lighting, vibrations and sound. Many of our customers use ruggedized solutions for their projects, which means unique and custom solutions for harsh, dynamic environments.

Q. What are your other offerings?

In terms of training, 3DS also provides competence development in combination with process development. For data, we use the customer’s cloud and offer commercial cloud solutions.

Q. What are the greatest challenges you currently face in AR introduction projects?

Customers often don’t have sufficient insight into the possibilities that emerging visualization technologies and content can provide. Therefore a clear understanding of customer expectations, goals and their business is needed. Customers also need a certain amount of trust that their expectations will be met.

Many times the only way forward is to agree on a proof of concept or demo that shows the technology, content, functionality, added value and supplier capabilities.

From the customer point of view, there are also uncertainties about the new types of content that will be needed to enrich the current PLM process to allow for visualization on a large scale. How will this information be connected and utilized together with the new visual content? We offer expertise in these questions and they need to be processed in very close cooperation with the customer as they touch the very core of their business.

Q. What are the future plans or next steps for your company?

We’ll continue to systematically monitor and build our international client base and partner network and develop state-of-the-art products and services.

Connecting Experts and the Field with XMReality

AREA members have a great deal of experience with implementing enterprise AR projects. We sat down with Niklas Rengfors, VP of Sales at XMReality, to learn how his company’s solutions and approach to AR introduction are helping to improve field service organizations with advanced remote assistance technologies.

What types of companies are using your solutions today?

We have the privilege to work with companies like Tetra Pak, Wärtsilä, Bombardier and Bosch Rexroth who have large, geographically dispersed field service organizations. Service professionals are called upon to perform routine service but sometimes they encounter situations that they don’t expect. Our systems can also be used to help those in two factories or two service centers visualize conditions and support one another using a live video enhanced with Augmented Reality.


What are the reasons these customers have chosen to work with XMReality as a supplier?

One important factor is that we focus on industrial users, mainly asset-heavy companies with a worldwide support commitment and provide all the hardware, software and services they need to deploy for remote assistance. Since our standard solution is truly “plug and play,” they can quickly begin to get experience and results. Then we collaborate with our customers in order to provide additional Augmented Reality functionality.

How has the employee performance in the workplace where you’ve introduced Augmented Reality been impacted?

We always work with a customer to put a business case together before we know the size of the deployment and the investment required. Working with service organizations, they monitor a lot of metrics. For example, they know precisely how much time they spend travelling, how much of the service they provide is under warranty, etc.
The most popular KPIs are

  • First time fix ratio
  • Travel costs
  • Manhours to complete a task
  • Uptime on the asset/machine

What is your company’s recommended approach to AR introduction? Are there steps or a model/method you follow?  

It is very important to have a plan and to follow the plan when new technology is being introduced. We have developed our own methodology. XMWork is a project planning framework we provide for both proof of concepts and also roll-outs, on which we collaborate with the customer.

Do you get involved in the design of the content that will be used in the introduction project/pilots?

Yes, that’s part of our full turnkey service. It is important to align the customer expectation with the technical possibilities and sometimes the customer does not have the skills or tools in-house to make the changes that are required.

How is data prepared for your customer projects?

Once the customer identifies the data they want to use, in meetings and sometimes in workshops, they provide it to us. Our engineers will then modify and enhance it for use in remote assistance using our technology. Sometimes this involves breaking the information down into smaller parts. Sometimes we need to prepare an animation or illustration. It depends on the project and the data we are provided.

What is the profile of a typical user who performs the selected tasks using your product? Are they highly trained professionals?

The users of our systems are technicians and field engineers, so-called “blue collar workers.” There’s little training required for our solution so users don’t need special certification for that.

Do you study project risks with the customer or project leader?

Yes, it is important that customers share and decide the risk level that is acceptable. We see in some cases where smart glasses are worn and might require extra precautions. For example, the person using the glasses needs to detect potential danger such as forklifts in the vicinity. Also some technicians need to climb into machines so they must see where they put their feet. These are questions that typically emerge which we are evaluating project risks.

Do your customers perform user studies prior to and following the use of the XMReality system?

Absolutely! Customers prepare a business case to get funding prior to the project but then they must update these calculations once they have more experience with the technology and use cases. It is very important for us and the customer to study acceptance rates and we frequently help the customer in this study or in creating the business case.

What are the attitudes of those in the workplace where AR projects are successfully introduced?

It depends a lot on the personality and age of the user. Younger people tend to adopt new technology more quickly. Others are a bit more conservative when asked to use new technology. When the user sees the efficiency increase, though, even the more skeptical ones are eager to adopt this type of technology.


Considering the three ingredients of enterprise AR (hardware, software and content), what are the components of the system(s) you offer?

Core in our offering is the software. Customers are able to use their own devices but we also offer our own hardware, hands-free displays that we call “video goggles” and also tablets. For some, hands-free operations is of big importance, for some not. We can also provide accessories such as tool belts in order to improve accessibility of all the tools and technologies technicians require.

What are the greatest challenges you face in current introduction projects?

At this time, it’s quite a challenge to find and secure the right project sponsors. Then we have to support them to obtain project funding and a qualified project manager. We collaborate and consult a great deal to make sure everyone is comfortable with the project scope and that the solutions we offer will meet or exceed the expectation of the project.

What are the future plans/next steps for your company?

We are continually developing our Remote Guidance solution and also expanding the type of Augmented Reality projects we can do. Part of this requires our establishing partnerships with manufacturers of smart glasses so that the customer’s requirements are satisfied. We are always interested in meeting new potential partners and working with them to bring more complete solutions to our customers.

Efficiency Climbs Where Augmented Reality Meets Building Information Management

At Talent Swarm we envisage that by using pre-existing platforms and standards for technical communication, our customers will reach new and higher levels of efficiency. Our vision relies on video calling to make highly qualified remote experts available on demand, and the data from Building Information Management (BIM) systems will enhance those live video communications using Augmented Reality.

Converging Worlds

There have been significant improvements in video calling and data sharing platforms and protocols since their introduction two decades ago. The technologies have expanded in terms of features and ability to support large groups simultaneously. Using H.264 and custom extensions, a platform or “communal space” permits people to interact seamlessly with remote presence tools.  The technology for these real time, parallel digital and physical worlds is already commonplace in online video gaming. 

But there are many differences between what gamers do at their consoles and enterprise employees do on job sites. As our professional workforce increasingly uses high-performance mobile devices and networks, these differences will decline. Protocols and platforms will connect a global, professionally certified talent pool to collaborate with their peers on-site. 

Enterprises also have the ability to log communications and activities in the physical world in a completely accurate, parallel digital world.

Growth with Lower Risk

We believe that introducing next generation Collaborative Work Environments (CWE) will empower managers in many large industries, such as engineering, construction, aviation and defense. They will begin tapping the significant infrastructure now available to address the needs of technical personnel, as well as scientific research and e-commerce challenges. When companies in these industries put the latest technologies to work for their projects, risks will decline.

Most IT groups in large-scale engineering and construction companies now have an exhaustive register of 3D models that describe every part of a project. These are developed individually and used from initial design through construction. But these have yet to be put to their full use. One reason is that they are costly to produce, and companies are not able to re-use models created by third parties. There are no codes or systems that help the companies’ IT departments determine origins of models or if the proposed model is accurate. The risks of relying on uncertified models, then learning that there is a shortcoming or the model is not available when needed, are too great.

Another barrier to our vision is that risk-averse industries and enterprises are slow in evaluating and adopting new hardware. Meanwhile, hardware evolves rapidly. In recent years, video conferencing has matured in parallel with faster processors and runs on many mobile platforms. Specialized glasses (such as ODG´s R-7s, Atheer Air and, soon, Microsoft’s HoloLens), helmets (DAQRI´s Smart Helmet), real time point-cloud scanners (such as those provided by Leica or Dot Products) or even tablets and cell phones can capture the physical world to generate “virtual environments.”

With enterprise-ready versions of these tools coupled with existing standards adopted for use in specific industries, the digital and physical worlds can be linked, with data flowing bi-directionally in real time. For example, a control room operator can see a local operator as an avatar in the digital world. By viewing the video streaming from a camera mounted on the local operator’s glasses, the remote operator can provide remote guidance in real time. 

Standards are Important Building Blocks

At Talent Swarm, we have undertaken a detailed analysis of the standards in the construction industry and explored how to leverage and extend these standards to build a large-scale, cloud-based repository for building design, construction and operation.

We’ve concluded that Building Information Management (BIM) standards are reaching a level of maturity that makes them well suited for developing a parallel digital world as we suggest. Such a repository of 3D models of standard parts and components will permit an industry, and eventually many disparate industries, to reduce significant barriers to efficiency. Engineers will not need to spend days or weeks developing the models they need to describe a buttress or other standard components.

Partnerships are Essential

The project we have in mind is large and we are looking for qualified partners in the engineering, construction and oil and gas industries, and with government agencies, to begin developing initial repositories of 3D models of the physical world.

By structuring these repositories during the design phase, and maintaining and adding to this information in real time from on-site cameras, we will be able to refine and prove CWE concepts and get closer to delivering on the promise.

Gradually, throughout the assembly and construction phases we will build a database that tracks the real world from cradle to grave. Analyzing these databases of objects and traces of physical world changes with Big Data tools will render improvement and maintenance insights previously impossible to extract from disjointed, incomplete records. We believe that such a collaborative project will pave the way towards self-repairing, sentient systems.

We look forward to hearing from those who are interested in testing the concepts in this post and collaborating towards the development of unprecedented Collaborative Work Environments.  

Customers Are in Focus at Augmented World Expo

By Christine Perey and Ketan Joshi

Every enterprise AR project is a tremendous learning experience. While every enterprise AR project requires a team, there’s always that shining hero without whose commitment the project would not have come into existence. These heroes of enterprise AR will be the focus of attention during a full day of sessions of the Augmented World Expo 2016 Enterprise AR track.

The in-house managers of the first enterprise AR projects at customer organizations are a special breed. They are special by virtue of their vision, their passion, their persistence and their ability to span many disciplines and stakeholders.

On the one hand they must master dialects of an emerging “Augmented Reality” language that vendors speak, from the nitty gritty details of tracking technology to the subtleties of interactions like hand gestures and voice commands. On the other, they must know when and how to manage their company’s internal IT department priorities and constraints.

And they are rarely recognized for their role in bringing Augmented Reality from science project to enterprise-ready solution.

Bringing the Best and Brightest to the AWE Stage

The AREA is hosting the AWE Enterprise AR track. June 2 will be dedicated to presentations by, and discussions with extraordinary enterprise project managers as they share their important AR project achievements.


While AREA members will bring these pioneering enterprise project managers to the AWE stage, we are sure there are many others who have gone unnoticed.

  • Are you a leader in a company that has been testing enterprise AR?
  • Did you sacrifice nights, weekends and holidays to make sure that your project stayed on course and could continue?
  • Do you feel you’ve had to reset every goal and yet have never forgotten the ultimate benefits that your company could gain from enterprise AR introduction?

We hope you will let us know if you are one of this special breed, or if you know a manager at a customer company who has such experiences to share.

A Simple Framework

During these AREA-hosted Enterprise AR track sessions, AWE delegates will learn about a variety of unique enterprise Augmented Reality pilot projects and deployments. The presentations will follow a framework that will provide practical guidance to those who will follow in their footsteps.

The case studies will cover:

  • Use cases
    • Tasks or processes prior to AR implementation and selection criteria
  • Custom or off-the-shelf tools and services used in the project
    • Selection process of project partners
  • Project time and resource requirements
  • Demonstration or a video of the solution in action
  • Project outcomes and their measurement
  • Future plans

With your support, we are looking forward to identifying and bringing together the heroes of enterprise AR projects and celebrating their achievements on June 2.

AREA Members Accelerating Success with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality offers tremendous opportunity for organizations to improve workforce productivity and reduce human error through increased contextual awareness and guidance. Whether implemented on a head-mounted display, on a tablet or through a stationary system, AR can deliver and collect information for a myriad of applications including training, manufacturing, field service and warehouse logistics.

It is an exciting time to join and participate in the AR ecosystem. Many companies are jumping in. Some are making tremendous advancements in wearable technology through miniaturization. Innovation at the silicon level is lowering power consumption and processing. Others are focusing on improvements in computer vision. Mobile systems including phones, tablets, watches and glasses are becoming more interconnected and integrated, and smart fabrics present the potential for a fully integrated mobile augmented human.

Truths are Difficult to Accept

Progress is being made but significant challenges to the effective development and deployment of AR within the enterprise environment remain. And, unfortunately, the hype around AR and the initial example demonstrations (and concept videos) have created the perception that AR is ready to go and can be easily implemented and deployed.

In truth, many technical issues still need to be solved to enable successful implementation and widespread use of AR for extended periods of time. Organizational issues including culture, security and safety are other significant barriers that must be addressed. Most current AR examples are custom developed for specific, focused applications with highly controlled conditions. And, the AR tools and technology provider and developer ecosystems are still immature. The path to AR success is not obvious.

We Are Working Together

The AREA is here to address these issues among others, and to create an environment for organizations—large and small—to learn, share and accelerate the adoption of AR in the enterprise.

Within the AREA, member organizations from around the world have committed to sharing their experiences and challenges in a collegial atmosphere to solve complex technical and implementation problems. AREA members represent a unique blend of AR end users, systems integrators, content developers, and technology providers as well as not-for-profit research centers and academic organizations from multiple industries. Through a combined program of thought leadership, education and outreach, best practices development and communication, and technology and implementation research, AREA members are actively building the community and knowledge base that will ensure successful implementation of AR-enabled information technology environments across the enterprise.

Meetings Make Member Collaboration Tangible

By joining the AREA you will become part of a global AR ecosystem. Our shared vision for the potential of enterprise AR infuses our member meetings, like the one in Houston on October 22. We are learning and sharing best practices. We collaborate to define the best problem-solving research, and to support workforce development.

As President of the AREA and as a Sponsor Member, I am witnessing, firsthand, the level of knowledge sharing and exchange across member organizations. It is clear to me that the AREA is the only organization that provides this opportunity for AR technology providers, developers and customers.

If you didn’t get to our recent member meeting, then this website is the best place to learn more about enterprise Augmented Reality and the benefits of joining the AREA. I invite you to take the next step by contacting me or Christine Perey, AREA’s executive director, to discuss how you can contribute and participate.

We look forward to welcoming you and collaborating with you at a future meeting!

Carl Byers
AREA President
Chief Strategy Officer at Contextere

Augmented Reality Developer Options after Metaio

This post originally was published in French on augmented-reality.fr.

Just before summer, we launched a survey to better understand the strategies of Augmented Reality developers following Metaio’s sudden change in circumstances. This blog post presents the results of our survey and our interpretations.


AR Dev Options After Metaio 1

We launched the survey in mid-June and left it open over the summer of 2015. There was no specific respondent selection and therefore we cannot speak of any representative sample. However, with 63 responses, approximately 30 to 50% of whom were English speakers,  we decided that the dataset was sufficient to be representative.

First, we present the results of the survey. We then offer our interpretations.

Metaio Product Distribution

Options 8


Respondents were mainly users of Metaio’s SDK, and slightly more than half were users of Metaio Creator. The Continuous Visual Search (CVS) tool is used relatively little by our sample. Although it is not easy to fully know respondents’ use of Metaio tools, we can assume that the majority of respondents work in or near development because only 2 of the 63 respondents exclusively use Metaio Creator.

The Impact on Business


AR Dev Options After Metaio 2



AR Dev Options After Metaio 3

The impact of Metaio’s cessation of its offers on the developers’ business is important, even if 16% of respondents do not see the effects. While 40% of respondents said they have alternatives to Metaio products, 34% said they do not.

Open Source Solutions


AR Dev Options After Metaio 4

The use of an Open Source alternative to avoid the current situation is mixed. Although the survey was not specific about the capabilities of the offering, sixty percent of the respondents thought they would consider using an open source option, but a quarter of respondents remained uncertain.

Software Development Kits


AR Dev Options After Metaio 5

Not surprisingly, developers responded that, alone or in combination, Vuforia and Wikitude were the best alternatives to the Metaio SDK. Other proposed alternatives included ARToolkit, Catchoom and ARmedia. However, it is important to note that the third most common answer among respondents was “I don’t know.”

Metaio Creator


AR Dev Options After Metaio 6

Presently it seems that the vast majority of users have not found an alternative for Metaio Creator. Wikitude Studio is popular but Layar Creator,  though popular one or two years ago, no longer seems a viable alternative. It is surprising not to find Aurasma in the options considered by survey respondents.

Metaio Continuous Visual Search


AR Dev Options After Metaio 7

The results concerning Metaio CVS proved difficult to interpret as few people use it. Although Vuforia Cloud Recognition gained slightly more traction than other proposed alternatives, CVS users are much more divided on alternatives overall.

Open Comments from the Survey

Comments we received from respondents raise a few salient points.  In particular, Metaio’s technical expertise and advanced solutions were noted. Despite Wikitude and Vuforia having the same capabilities, there is currently no product in Metaio’s class.

We also see bitterness against Apple as well as an awareness of the potential fragility of other alternatives.

General Remarks

Today there is no obvious miracle solution to take Metaio’s place. The impact of the company’s change in circumstances on developers clearly demonstrates the overall fragility of the global Augmented Reality ecosystem. It is rather surprising to me that a third of respondents have no viable alternatives to Metaio technology. Rumors of Vuforia’s sale by Qualcomm may make the situation even more complicated in the coming months.

Paradoxically, these uncertainties do not help in the establishment of an Open Source solution. Although half of respondents believe this would be a good thing, a quarter remains uncertain. After discussions with several companies specializing in Augmented Reality, I felt a certain reluctance to support an open source system, primarily due to fear of losing an advantage in terms of technical prowess. There is much to say about this and I plan to prepare a more complete article in the coming weeks. In fact RA’pro will launch an invitation for a debate on this topic via web conference in the near future.

Returning to alternative tools, there is not a lot of surprise in seeing mention of the major market players: Vuforia, Wikitude, ARToolkit, ARmedia, Catchoom, etc. I am personally amazed at the few mentions of Layar, which seems to be a relatively major player in the AR print arena. However, it is true that the absence of a freemium model does not facilitate adoption by small businesses. The total absence of Aurasma and Total Immersion in the responses was also surprising.

As a final note, no one really knows if Metaio’s place can be taken since Apple has made no statement on the future of the product. We can however, presume that Metaio technology will be integrated in future products and will, therefore, lose the cross-platform nature that made Metaio products successful.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

Augmented Reality’s Expanding Role in the Automotive Value Chain


Use Cases for the Factory Floor

With successful conclusions of pilots and trials, Augmented Reality continues to move into areas where the overlay of virtual information promotes vehicle quality and helps employees work faster and better, but also where more experience with the technology is a prerequisite. As well, higher numbers of AR implementations put greater technical and organizational demands on projects.

One key trend is the growing number of use cases for Augmented Reality in pre- and post-production processes in the automotive industry. Vehicle design and development, and then final verification after assembly are the most popular use cases.

Lina Longhitano of Mercedes-Benz Vans leads the transformation of advanced manufacturing facilities through the Van Technology Center and has a wealth of experience with digital transformation in manufacturing and the use of Mixed and Augmented Reality in vehicle development. The center provides high-end visualization and analysis for ergonomics and buildability of vehicles.

In particular, she mentioned three Mixed Reality use cases for engineering:

  • The visualization of out-of-position and validation of flexible parts.
  • The overlay of digital crash simulation data on physical crash vehicles.
  • Digital assembly and disassembly simulations with collision testing.

Mercedes-Benz Vans uses Augmented Reality for factory floor layout and design, as well as for visually inspecting components to assess differences between virtual and physical objects.

In a similar vein, Hermann Gross of Opel is putting AR to use in pre-production processes, especially in vehicle development and component integration. Opel’s Augmented Reality-assisted systems also verify the quality of physical vehicle mockups. Gross provides a number of examples for these, such as verifying the final position of parts and optimizing cable positioning. He revealed a number of benefits of AR, including:

  • Shortening the duration of mockup builds and increasing their quality
  • Speeding up problem solving
  • Positively influencing data quality

On the other end of the production spectrum, Sebastian Rauh has in-depth knowledge about how Audi is using Augmented Reality for final assembly inspection. These range from vehicle start-up to engine parameter optimization and calibration of control units and sensor parameters. On behalf of Hochschule Heilbronn, Mr. Rauh is also working with Audi to design post-production verification workflows and equip personnel with Google Glass and the Epson Moverio BT-200 to execute tasks.

The Industrialization of Augmented Reality

Juergen Lumera of Bosch, an AREA sponsor member, is one of the first in automotive who is moving beyond simple AR prototypes and into larger deployments involving greater numbers of users, departments, processes and tools. Taking a holistic approach to the human, technological, financial and organizational aspects of incorporating AR technology across an enterprise, he outlined ways to expand projects beyond pilots. Mr. Lumera emphasized that AR adoption is a journey whose destination, as well as roadmap, has to be carefully planned in order to reduce risk and promote success.

Bosch’s Common Augmented Reality Platform (CAP) is an example of a system that integrates authoring and publishing of AR content across business units and technology silos, and can become part of a wider move towards the digital factory.

Matthias Ziegler of Accenture presented a framework for enterprise Augmented Reality adoption by Accenture’s clients and confirms the expanding interest in use of wearables that support AR for hands-free workplace performance. Accenture is expecting 212 billion devices and autonomously driven cars by 2020, with a doubling of IP traffic between 2013 and 2016. Bulky form factors will delay adoption by consumers, but Accenture sees enormous opportunity for hands-free AR-enabled displays in the enterprise space.

Their template, based on a number of pilot projects, compiles statistics and experiences and defines business value drivers and use cases, guiding investment in potential areas where AR can increase ROI. For example, if a company can quantify the length of time spent researching work instructions in paper documentation, and attribute a given number of errors to misinterpretations of drawings or procedures, then AR might promise higher returns.

Augmented Reality and Customer Experiences

Ashutosh Tomar of Jaguar Land Rover says the company’s vision is to use AR for enhancing the driver experience in their vehicles. Today’s typical car is packed with sensors and features—one type of vehicle having over 70 onboard computers and 170 “smart features.”

Customers are no longer judging automobile features as a selling point alone, but also expect a better customer experience. How can cars automatically change settings (e.g., music station, seat and mirror adjustments, etc.) based on who’s driving? How can cars communicate with drivers via other sensory inputs such as haptics? JLR is making large investments in human factors research and in ways to increase driver safety via Augmented Reality, for example:

  • Visualization of “ghost cars” in windshields driving ahead to clearly demonstrate the safest way to make turns in a city.
  • The projection of cones in windshields for training purposes.
  • “B pillars” enhancing a driver’s line of sight and situational awareness by turning car walls “transparent” in certain situations, like when making narrow turns in cities.
  • Haptic feedback in the seat behind a driver’s shoulder to alert them of another vehicle passing in their blind spot.

Legal Implications

New features such as the projection of information and images in the driver’s windshield will require new regulatory regimes. Brian Wassom, intellectual property attorney at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, described the current regulatory environment and spoke about the principles of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Visual-Manual NHTSA Driver Distraction Guidelines for In-Vehicle Electronic Devices.”

  • Distractions in all forms, including cognitive and visual, should be recognized by designers and regulators.
  • Displays should be as near the driver’s forward line of sight as possible.
  • A number of distracting features should be avoided entirely: glare, social media interactions and text that scrolls or contains more than 30 characters.
  • Glances away from the road should last no more than 1.5 to 2 seconds.

The above principles apply to current systems (dashboard layouts with navigation and phone information), but might also be the basis of conversations about Augmented Reality safety and liability.

In his presentation, Ashutosh Tomar had also emphasized the need to minimize the amount of information displayed to drivers to reduce distraction, as a basic tenet of safety.


In addition to those already mentioned, there were interesting presentations by Volkswagen, Ubimax, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), Feynsinn, Frauenhofer Insititute and others on topics ranging from showroom use cases to the latest research on AR user experiences.

Overall it was encouraging to witness the depth of questions about Augmented Reality being asked by companies in automotive manufacturing, research, design and others, and to get the sense of its evolving acceptance in enterprise, complete with growing pains and successes.

Google Glass 2.0—Primed for the Enterprise: Foldable, Rugged and Waterproof

When it was introduced in February 2013, Google Glass 1.0 was far ahead of its time. Consumers and developers identified many issues that needed to be addressed and, although some have adopted the hardware, it was deemed unsuitable for widespread use by consumers or enterprise customers.

Over two years later, in early summer 2015, Google began showing key developers and sharing with the media that it is working on the next generation of Glass, code named “Project Aura” powered by Intel.

Google Glass Ready

The new device is geared for professional users. Employees using the information provided via the wearable display will be able to perform tasks with fewer human errors while enhancing productivity and operational efficiency.

The new “ruggedized” Google Glass hardware design is said to be easy to fold and more durable in work environments. Some options include the ability to clip the tiny display unit on the existing eyewear.

Perhaps Google Glass 2.0 is primed to grow in many industries such as oil and gas, warehousing, manufacturing, agriculture and mining.  The likely impacts depend on the use cases and company readiness for change.

The Benefits of Hands-Free Displays in Warehousing Operations

 In April 2014, DHL published a report describing how logistics operations can be improved with the assistance of hands-free wearable devices. The use cases fell into four categories:

  • Warehouse operations
  • Transportation optimization
  • Last mile delivery
  • Service and repair and other enhanced services

The evidence to support the assertion that warehouse picking can be improved, the first use case identified in the DHL study, is mounting.

Google Glass can also be used for reducing the cost of warehouse redesign as well as factory planning but studies about metrics for these use cases are not available at this time.

The Future of Google Glass

Will Google Glass 2.0 address the issues seen in the first prototype?  This remains to be seen, but with several confirmed reports on the changes and improvements Google is making with Glass 2.0, it is evident that Google is all-in on changing the future of computing through wearables and, ultimately, with Augmented Reality.

Have you tested Google Glass 2.0? Share your thoughts and feedback below.