Forbes: Tim Bajarin – June 14, 2019

I happen to be very navigationally challenged. For years, as I traveled around the world, I used a paper map to get me to the next meeting or location I was going to, and I would often still get lost. This trait was so prominent that my family and friends nicknamed me “Wrongway Bajarin.”

Due to my work in the UK with various publications, which started in 1984, I learned that London cab drivers were the least navigationally challenged cabbies in the world. For them to get their license to drive the famous Black Cabs, they had to memorize the entire map of London and its surroundings so they could get people to their locations the fastest way possible. In one of my first trips to London, I asked a Black Cab driver how long it took him to memorize the London street maps, and he said that it took him about a year before he could pass his license test.

Fast forward 35 years later and thanks to digital maps, GPS and various navigation tools, I could drive a London cab today and be just as much as an expert about London streets as those Black Cab drivers are today.

While the GPS and maps example illustrates how technology can help us become expert navigators, at least in cars, the introduction of AR tools will soon make it possible for many to become, if not an expert, at least more capable of doing things that we have no training or experience within many areas.
A good example of AR adding an untrained skill to your capabilities would be to use an AR app to help put together complicated furniture, assemble barbecues, electric bikes and a plethora of things we might buy that needs assembly.

Many makers of products are developing AR apps that can overlay on a product you buy from them and show you how to assemble that piece of furniture in a visual step-by-step process.  It is not a video of how to do it. An AR app overlays the assembly process on top of the actual product you are putting together and walking you through each step in an on-demand process.

I recently attended the Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, CA, and met with the President of Scope AR, David Nedohin. They had a sign in their booth that said “Anyone Can Be An Expert,” so I asked him what this meant.

It turns out that using AR integrated into various mixed reality glasses, their software platform can help companies make “experts” of non-experts which would help them identify equipment problems and if possible, even repair them on site using an AR program that overlays the repair steps on top of the actual equipment that needs to be fixed.

Mr. Nedohin told me that for many of Scope AR’s clients, if a piece of equipment in a factory goes down, typically an expert who may know how to fix it is somewhere far away. In the past, most companies dealt with this by flying an expert to the location of the problem to fix it onsite. With Scope AR, businesses can give the average non-expert employee on-demand knowledge with intuitive AR instructions. The company’s AR knowledge platform, WorkLink, gives companies precisely this kind of augmented reality support.

Another example of how Scope AR’s software works are how they are assisting Lockheed Martin engineers building NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a vehicle designed to travel to Mars.

“In the old way of doing things, an engineer may start with a 3,000-page binder full of instructions for how to build a specific aspect of the spacecraft. A technician searches the binder to find the correct fastener and memorizing the torque setting, before actually going in to tighten the fastener. Today that process is relatively cumbersome, slow, and could be subject to errors”, Nedohin explained to me.

“Using their Scope AR software, the workflow is designed with hands-free information viewed through a Microsoft HoloLens headset.  Using three-dimensional views with AR step-by-step instructions, the engineer can see what they need to do, what the torque setting is, and where the fastener goes.”

When Apple showed off new AR apps at their recent World Wide Developers Conference, they showed its use in a gaming app. When they originally introduced AR Kit, their software tools for creating AR apps, they also emphasized its use in gaming. While AR in games will be a big market, the most significant demand for AR now is coming from businesses who want to use it for internal and external training as well as for field service projects. This translates into the vision that Mr. Nedohin of Scope AR is proposing, that “everyone can be an expert.” I understand that, to some degree, this is marketing hyperbole. On the other hand, his vision is on target as AR and VR and mixed reality software and glasses can help one become proficient in a lot of areas where years of training used to be needed to repair sophisticated machinery, assemble equipment and even learn to operate them virtually.

AR and VR is still a nascent market, but after walking the exhibit halls of AWE, I can see that the tools and devices that support its use, especially in business applications, is moving at a rapid pace. A vision of making people experts in areas where they have had no training before is no longer a far fetched dream. This is why the business market, primarily vertically driven ones, will be where AR glasses will take off first before it ever gets broad acceptance in the consumer market outside of gaming.

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