What is Projection or Spatial Augmented Reality?

Projection Augmented Reality, sometimes also referred to as “spatial Augmented Reality,” is a method of delivering digital information to users within a stationary context. Target objects and users can move around in the environment, but the zone in which AR experiences take place is limited to the fields of view of both the fixed projector and supporting camera for tracking.

The first example of projection Augmented Reality was called the “Digital Desk.” In November 1991, within months of their contemporaries at Boeing, Tom Caudell and David Mizell, coining the term “Augmented Reality,” William Newman and Pierre Wellner, then researchers at University of Cambridge and Xerox EuroPARC, published a paper in the UIST 1991 conference proceedings called the DigitalDesk Calculator: Tangible Manipulation on a desktop display.

In this 8 minute video, Pierre Wellner explains the concept and demonstrates the working prototype of the first system.

How it Works

Projection Augmented Reality features one or more optical devices (projectors) that project a beam of light onto a specially designed work surface and in some cases directly on the parts on which a user is working. This provides immediate guidance for tasks and reduces the need to interrupt workflows to consult information elsewhere.

Workspaces for projection Augmented Reality also feature any of a variety of stationary cameras. Cameras are positioned to track objects with or without fiducials. Control of the workspace environment, such as lighting, reduce the computational complexity of the tracking algorithms.

Once configured, the projection Augmented Reality system can provide user instructions or assistance in a variety of media. For example, digital information can be:

  • Text, for example, cycle time count down
  • Images, for example, blueprints or simple directional arrows
  • Animations
  • Videos

Some systems also provide assistance by way of task-synchronized audio.

Benefits of Projection Augmented Reality

Projection Augmented Reality can offer the following benefits:

  • Reduces or eliminates the need for computer monitors and screens, as the instructions appear directly in the task space.
  • Reduces users’ cognitive load when following work instructions due to the fact that there is no need for “attention switching” between work instructions and the task at hand.
  • Integrates into manual workflows by promoting a “no faults forward” policy to ensure and confirm correct execution of the preceding step.
  • Provides feedback on completed tasks for process improvement, traceability and unique digital IDs for build cycles.

Use Cases

Projection Augmented Reality can optimize performance of some types of production and logistics tasks when the work can be performed at a station (rather than the user going to the workplace or moving around in a larger space).

Tasks that can benefit from projection Augmented Reality include:

  • Assembly
  • Disassembly
  • Inspection
  • Part knitting
  • Sequencing
  • Maintenance
  • Tool changeovers
  • Gauging
  • Welding
  • Wire harness routing
  • Glue bead replacement
  • Logistics (shipping and receiving)
  • Inspection
  • Training
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