Could this game-changing failed tech make a comeback?


Johannesburg – For many years pioneers in the tech space pushed for the mainstream usage of augmented and virtual reality but missed the mark.

Despite this, the innovation could make a comeback in a big way – this time in the manufacturing industry.

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According to experts and surveys into manufacturing factories, much like other industries, digital transformation was catalysed by the lockdown brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ronald Ravel, South Africa B2B director at laptop manufacturer Dynabook, said the future manufacturing businesses could expect to see efficiency gains over the next five years.

“With assisted/augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies making inroads into the market, manufacturers are finding ways of incorporating it into their everyday practices,” Ravel said.

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Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies have been widely implemented across various industries. They have been used to enhance user experiences through products like Google Glass, which overlays digital content through smart glasses.

Dubbed as an innovation designed to bridge the gap between physical and digital crossover, AR and used in some forms today, such as Google AR measure, which uses the technology to measure size and distance through a smartphone camera.

Meanwhile, VR has been widely used in gaming and other rich media content like videos and virtual tours.

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Both technologies failed to see a strong uptake, being introduced in around 2013, at a time when mobile data was still quite expensive.

Despite this, the twinned decrease in the cost of data and wider access to technology – make AR and VR more of a possibility than ever before.

Ravel added that the ongoing digital transformation of the manufacturing and logistics industries were using increasingly sophisticated technologies such as AR and VR in a bid to improve processes.

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“Enterprise smart glasses adoption is not only predicted to grow in the coming years, but that growth will accelerate as spending starts to transition away from mobile augmented reality and towards head-worn, hands-free, augmented reality,” he said.

“Smart glasses equipped with a ‘See-What-I-See’ functionality can allow an onsite technician or engineer who needs to make a safety or time-critical decision to connect with a wider pool of remote experts and receive valuable support and guidance to complete a task. Additional capabilities from AR smart glasses can be accessed wherever and whenever needed, without disrupting the mechanic’s workflow,” he added.

Through its capabilities, AR and VR have the potential to streamline remote support, training and real-time collaboration, much like in the medical field where doctors can remotely tend to their patients.

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Silicon Valley-based tech company EchoPixel is one example of how the medical field implements the technology. Its software platform, True 3D, aids medical professionals in remotely viewing, interpreting, and dissecting virtual reality images of patient-specific anatomy.

While the road to mainstream AR and VR usage seems positive, the technology’s uptake has been dismal in the past.

In 2016, during the Samsung S7 series launch, the South Korean phone-maker and Meta CEO Mark Zukerberg showcased Virtual Reality goggles, expected to bolster the technology’s use when paired with the Samsung smartphone.

The goggles were never really marketed well with the smartphone. The goggles became an expensive phone holder with two magnifying lenses in a plastic headset.

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