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Achieving AR scale with Unity

Graham Melley
Graham Melley
POSTED June 1st, 2020

When Scope AR started in 2011, we focused on advanced standalone projects that used augmented reality technology on industrial use cases. Each project was more impressive than the last, and across many organizations we realized the real-world value of the combination of AR subject matter expertise and developer skills. Over the years since, we’ve witnessed our customer’ positive return on investment on a significant number of applications, and here are three takeaways from our experience:

  1. Augmented Reality actually works.

To us there is no question that with the right ingredients, the results can be impressive. We’ve seen significant results from customers whose users are on handheld devices only (like smartphones and tablets) and even bigger results from specialized users on hands-free/wearable devices. The right fit for this technology is generally not the first one that comes to mind for new explorers, but with some practical experience it doesn’t take long to start seeing optimal use cases.

  1. Unity is a great platform for custom development.

Unity is an amazing platform for developing customized augmented reality applications. With access to Unity developers, it is possible to create really interesting proof of concepts or dedicated applications. It may take some time to dial in the details, but Unity offers the building blocks to demo what can be done. Not only did we evolve from this approach ourselves, but we see it play out again and again with our customers. 

  1. It’s very difficult to scale custom development.

This is the big one. No matter how effective your POC, the real numbers are unlocked at scale with significant user count, manufactured product lines and maintenance procedures. If you haven’t solved for scale then you’re only left with a great demo… or a great partial solution.

Unity is powerful, but for a specialized skill set. Our solution was to make it more accessible with all of the same power. WorkLink a radical extension of Unity which allows the drag and drop creation of instruction flows, detailed procedure animations and video and imagery. It was all made in Unity and demanded no code, no scripting and no steep learning curve from its users.

When we deployed this to customers facing the scaling problem, it worked. In fact it worked so well to remove the developer skill set requirement from the AR instruction loop, that one prospect at the time said:

”We love what you’re doing. We are very interested in developing something with you… but we can’t show it to you”.

An interesting challenge. As it turns out, we were already thinking this way, and Scope AR had begun to transition from a service organization to software as a service (SaaS). With this new architecture, we could remove one of the least efficient phases of the scaling process: knowledge transfer. Even with our most experienced authors, there was a need to educate them from a cold start. All the tribal knowledge that resided in the subject matter experts at our client organizations had to be imported to ensure clear accurate instruction. Unfortunately, and there’s nowhere to hide ignorance of process in augmented reality; how things work (and when they are broken) is immediately clear when viewing in AR.

So, we gave WorkLink Create, the Unity-based authoring extension, directly to the SMEs.

With that, WorkLink Create opened the door to a whole new method of knowledge development… and by democratizing authorship to a few days instead of months or years, we managed to change the rules of the game. We saw a surge in customer-generated AR content and consumption. An amendment to our above observations:

  1. Augmented Reality still works (better every day)
  2. Unity can be a great platform for non-developers
  3. And it’s not that hard to scale!

We are proud to formalize our partnership with Unity, enabling our joint clients to scale their vision of a more effective, more remote workforce.   Please see our Unity partner page.