Academic support for AR educational needs – an AREA survey


A key component of the AREA’s goal is to help accelerate the growth of a comprehensive AR ecosystem. Our Educate initiative advances this goal by seeking to further engage with academic institutions to provide feedback on how they can help equip the graduates of tomorrow with the AR skills needed to positively contribute to the workforce.

Earlier in 2020, the AREA, together with our academic members, conducted a survey to capture industrial perspectives on both educational needs for future graduates, as well as an assessment of the current state. In this editorial blog, we’d like to share the main findings of the survey results.


The survey highlighted several key results:

  1. There is a high level of agreement, across multiple industries, that AR is either in mainstream use now or will be in the next few years
  2. Industry views educating students in AR as important,
  3. The business aspects of AR, rather than deep technical knowledge, are deemed to be of higher importance.
  4. Recent graduates are typically under-skilled in AR.
  5. Industry is willing to engage with academia to help address these challenges.

Survey respondents

The survey attracted 43 respondents, with a good mix between those providing AR solutions and services (58% of respondents) and those using them (42% of respondents). Perhaps more importantly, we captured perspectives from a wide range of industries, as shown in Figure 1, with the highest levels of response from the automotive, industrial equipment and power and energy industrial sectors.

Figure 1 Primary industrial sector of survey respondents

AR adoption now and in the future

When asked “When do you see AR becoming mainstream in your business?”, 20% of our survey respondents stated that AR is already mainstream in their business. Another 60% of respondents believe that AR will become mainstream within 1-2 years, with the remaining 20% suggesting a longer timescale of 3 to 5 years, as shown in Figure 2. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no respondents chose “never.”

Figure 2 Perspectives of when AR will become mainstream

Where should academia focus on educating students?

Our next question, perhaps the most significant of the survey, requested views on where academia should focus on educating the graduates of tomorrow. Respondents were asked to rate each of the following graduate attributes from 1 (least important) to 10 (most important):

  • Deep technical familiarity with the underpinnings and principles of AR software or hardware
  • A strong theoretical foundation of how AR technologies can benefit industry and society
  • Practical experience developing (coding, authoring) AR applications
  • Practical experience and understanding how to apply AR technology to “real-world” business challenges
  • Familiarity with using AR as a tool in business settings and use cases
  • An understanding of the business aspects of AR (costs and cost savings, ROI, safety, security, privacy)
  • Awareness of global and industry trends in the adoption and usage of AR
  • Experience with the human factors, ergonomics or user interface design of AR solutions

The distilled answers to this question are shown in Figure 3. We order the answers by the number of respondents that suggested a value of between 8 and 10 (inclusive) for each educational need.

The responses clearly show that the “business-oriented” aspects of AR are believed to be more important than the underlying technologies and ergonomics. 75% of all respondents ranked the business aspects with scores of 8 to 10. In particular, 100% of respondents scored the educational need “Practical experience and understanding how to apply AR technology to ‘real-world’ business challenges” with a score of 8 to 10.

Perhaps this reflects an industrial requirement that graduates better understand how to apply AR technologies rather than the ability to build such technologies.

As such, it is clear that the results of our survey highlight a need for academia to equip the graduates of tomorrow with the skills addressing how to apply AR to business challenges and how to quantify and qualify business value, cost and other practical considerations.

Figure 3 Where should academia focus?

The importance of AR in university curricula

When asked “…how important do you believe it is, that academic institutions should include AR in their curricula?”, the answers were as shown in Figure 4.

61.5% of respondents answered, “Very important.” Interestingly, 92% of respondents deemed academic support for AR as either “Very” or “Quite” important.

Figure 4 The importance of AR in university curricula

If these answers reflect a sentiment shared across industries, then there is a clear message to academic institutions to include aspects of AR in various university courses of study.

AR skill levels of recent graduates

We then asked respondents to rate their impressions of the AR skills and experience of recent graduates. The results are shown in Figure 5. Of these results, 42.4% of respondents believed that the skills and experience were either adequate, good or excellent. More worryingly, 45.5% of respondents were of the opinion that the AR skill levels were either poor or non-existent.

The question did not dig into how the skills were acquired (e.g., by way of new-hire training) but nevertheless, the answers clearly represent a set of mixed opinions of how well-equipped recently graduated staff are to embrace and apply AR within the workplace.

Figure 5 Perceptions of AR skills of recent graduates

Industry’s willingness to engage with academic institutions

The last questions of the survey attempted to measure the level of interest expressed by industry to engage with the education process. Figure 6 illustrates an encouragingly high level of willingness to get involved with students in various ways with 70% of respondents willing to propose ideas for course curricula.

Figure 6 Ways in which industry would support student education

There are some clear indications that industry wants to engage further with academia whether it be by sponsoring postgraduate research, suggesting final year projects, or simply suggesting ideas for course curricula. Perhaps more notable from the point of view of the students, there is clearly an appetite for hiring interns with AR skills. 

Finally, when asked if they would be willing to discuss their answers further with AREA staff, 58% of respondents expressed a willingness to do so. We are grateful for their offers to engage further.


Whilst accepting that a response count of 43 is perhaps not statistically significant, the survey results obtained do highlight some key messages for the academic community:

  • The data captured by this survey is from a wide range of industries.
  • 80% of respondents believe that AR is either in mainstream use now or will be in 1 to 2 years.
  • Industry views AR education as important.
  • Academic courses should equip students with the knowledge of how to apply AR to business use cases along with other business aspects such as ROI and cost.
  • The majority of respondents believe that recent graduates are under-skilled in AR
  • Industry is willing to engage with academia to help improve this.

The message is clear: there is a need for AR in academic courses and industry is willing to engage to help make it happen.


The AREA team wishes to thank all of those who participated in this survey.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Professor Barbara Chaparro, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in the construction of this survey.

Augmented Reality in Medical & Pharma: Industry challenges in medical device manufacturing and how to tackle them with AR solutions

This editorial has been developed as part of the AREA Thought Leaders Network content, in collaboration with selected AREA members.

Corporations in the medical and pharmaceutical industry need to adhere to the highest standards of quality, with accuracy and precision being the keys to success. If organizations experience equipment errors or healthcare workers make mistakes, they not only put human life at risk but also incur significant consequences for payers, including financial and credibility loss. To reduce error rates and increase quality, businesses across the industry are turning to the latest technologies – including Augmented Reality (AR).

AR and VR technology is already being used and significantly improving processes in medical device manufacturing. This editorial discusses two major use cases in which AR solutions simplify workflows to reduce human error:

  1. Medical device assembly
  2. Production line changeover

Let’s take a closer look at exactly how AR technology can tackle key challenges in both cases, with the help of some first-hand insights from William Harding of industry leader Medtronic, recently interviewed by RE’FLEKT.

Key challenges in medical device manufacturing

Medical device manufacturing typically involves a variety of manual, semi-automatic and automatic processes which makes production particularly vulnerable to error – especially as large manufacturers need to employ the same processes across multiple facilities, often without standardization of production data. In addition, if there is a lack of training among operators it can increase the risk of mistakes made during manual tasks when medical equipment is assembled and configured.

William Harding, Distinguished Fellow at Medtronic, reveals which factors medical device manufacturers need to consider when introducing changes on the production floor:

“If I add a new process to a production line, many questions need to be addressed: How do I get the process to integrate seamlessly (e.g., communication protocols, data aggregation, and data transformation)? How do I accomplish that without using paper-based systems? The goal is to speed up efficiencies and reduce scrap while also reducing human error. When we create a new process in lean manufacturing, we need to establish the most ergonomic way for an operator to perform their tasks within a sterile environment. We also want them to complete these tasks in the most efficient way possible, while delivering a high-quality product. There are many factors to be considered.”

Prior to introducing a new manufacturing process, operators need to be trained on how to perform each step to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum error rates during production. William further explains how Medtronic originally used a cardboard replica of their manufacturing line for training purposes and what challenges came along with it:

“It used to take us two and a half weeks to build a cardboard set-up with five process stations. For one training session, we also needed at least eight to ten people off the production floor, who then weren’t engaged in manufacturing products while they were in training. It would cost us about $30,000 for one training effort with the cardboard set-up. We usually require five sessions in total to get everything right, and by the time we decide that everything is ready, we’re making changes five minutes later.”

Simplified training and operations with AR solutions

With AR technology, medical device manufacturers like Medtronic can not only manage the challenges listed above, but also benefit from significant operational improvements, as the following two use cases reveal.

1. Enhanced AR Training for device assembly and set-up 

Training around medical device set-up and configuration is traditionally based on Operating Procedure (OP) documentation that is not user-friendly. Extensive manuals, including complicated 2D diagrams and text-based instructions, make it challenging to find the right information quickly for device operators. Consequently, onboarding is time consuming and devices may be set up incorrectly and/or not used to their full potential.

Many leaders in the medical sector, including Medtronic, are turning to AR to train employees to set up and assemble their equipment. With results that decrease human errors by 90% and improve training times by 60% (see this white paper for further info) the reasons are obvious. AR training solutions allow device operators to visualize complicated OP documentation in a simple way with the right mixture of videos, text, and images that appear directly in context with the real object. This ensures that device operators always have training content available instantly on their mobile devices, tablets, or smart glasses, thereby experiencing fewer errors during device assembly and set-up.

William from Medtronic shares how AR training guides have replaced the cardboard replica during operator training at Medtronic:

“With content creation platforms like REFLEKT ONE, we can now create AR applications that allow operators to learn a new process by walking through engaging training guides on a tablet instead of using our cardboard model.”

2. Lean production line changeovers with AR-based procedures

When switching the production line from one product to the next, every minute of changeover time comes at the cost of missed revenue as production is down while teams rearrange, set-up, and configure the equipment for the next production cycle. Lean manufacturing strategies can help solve the dilemma to shorten downtime and increase the final output.

AR guidance during changeover procedures results in 40% fewer errors and a 25% faster changeover speed (see this white paper for further info). The interactive guides show operators the ideal state of the task at hand in AR next to the actual state. This way operators can always see what needs to be done as they are working. As augmented instructions guide operators through each step, the risk of error is ultimately reduced for all manual stages of the changeover.

This digitalized process is faster and more reliable as William confirms from his own experience creating AR solutions at Medtronic:

“Recently I created a solution to train operators on a manufacturing process for our Linq II battery bond (an implantable 2 lead EKG data recorder for patients). I made the content available to them online, where they could walk through it themselves and learn how to perform the process using gestures in AR. It’s a very fast and effective way of training because it saves resources and is so close to the real manufacturing environment.”

Outlook: The future of XR technology in the medical sector

These two use cases are great examples of how AR technology is already making a measurable difference in tackling key challenges in training and operations within medical device manufacturing. For the future, William forecasts a growing adoption of AR and ultimately Mixed Reality solutions at Medtronic as well as across the industry:

“Through the use of this technology in the future, I know that Medtronic will be able to more quickly understand the needs of patients, healthcare professionals, and payer’s needs, such that the lifecycles of innovation are reduced in addressing those needs. That same point can be made within the medical device manufacturing industry, specifically as it relates to product and process transfers as well as in the training of the individuals responsible for completing the assembly of those devices. However, it is my belief that AR and eventually MR technology will make the use of VR less important because users will prefer the more relatable MR environments.”

AREA Member Augmentir Offers Free Remote Assist Tool During Pandemic

As organizations everywhere cope with the travel restrictions and work-from-home policies put in place to combat COVID-19, AREA member Augmentir is stepping up to help ensure business continuance and support employee health and safety.  

Augmentir has announced it is offering free use of its Remote Assist tool for the remainder of 2020. Augmentir’s Remote Assist tool provides a remote collaboration and support solution that can be adopted in less than 60 minutes, so that workers, technicians, and customers can get the support they need to do their jobs without compromising health, safety, or productivity.  

To learn more about Augmentir’s Remote Assist tool and how to get started for free, please visit the Augmentir blog page. 

IEEE Article Highlights the AREA’s IoT/AI/AR Convergence Research Project

Many experts believe that the convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Augmented Reality (AR) will have a lasting, positive impact on process-driven industries, such as manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, and energy. Key benefits will include improvements in efficiency and reduced downtime.

To explore the opportunities and challenges of convergence, the AREA conducted a member-funded research project on the subject. Now, the IEEE has published an article on the AREA research authored by AREA Executive Director Mark Sage and Saverio Romeo, Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck College who conducted the research project about these emerging technologies and their impact on innovation and policy.

The article discusses potential benefits of convergence, a proposed architecture, and the key barriers to its implementation. Read the article here and learn more by watching an AREA webinar on the subject here.