SAP shapes the future of work with Unity

by Nick Davis

With 200 million cloud users worldwide, SAP helps companies everywhere become a “best-run business.” Since 2016, the company has invested in AR, VR and XR to help its customers accelerate time to insight and enhance the way SAP data is visualized and understood.

For years, enterprise resource planning (ERP) from SAP has been conducted on computers and mobile devices. That’s changing with the SAP Extended Reality Cloud (XR Cloud), which is based on Unity’s platform and enables the development of mixed reality applications. To make it easier for Unity developers to integrate SAP data into Unity, SAP recently launched the Unity Integration Toolkit.

The XR Cloud services and its Unity plug-ins make it easier for Unity developers to integrate SAP data into their AR, VR, and XR applications. But why bring this data into mixed reality in the first place? Doesn’t a computer do the job just fine?

In most instances, yes. But SAP’s Extended Reality Venture team has identified two areas to start where AR, VR, and XR can add significant value to its customers:

  1. Business process modeling and training in VR for SAP implementation teams and SAP business users
  2. AR and XR for service, maintenance, and quality inspections of assets for field and factory operators

“With Unity and mixed reality, business data from SAP is no longer bound to a computer screen,” said Michael Spiess, Extended Reality Venture Lead at SAP. “Our customers can become best-run businesses by taking advantage of all mixed reality has to offer, from more effective training teams in virtual environments to driving operational efficiencies by augmenting digital twin information directly to physical equipment.”

Spiess shares that the technology concept of “smart assets” is key to making mixed reality valuable for SAP’s customers. These smart assets are 3D (e.g., complex CAD drawings) or 2D objects (e.g., barcode labels, documents) stored in an SAP system. The smarts come from the scripting logic contained within them, which unlock possibilities to interact with other smart assets or to retrieve and exchange data in real-time to SAP systems.

What does that look like in practice?

Check out this video where Spiess uses the XR Cloud app to visualize augmented digital twin and Internet of Things (IoT) data on an Evomixx machine.

Coming soon: SAP’s first mixed reality application

XR Cloud is just the tip of the iceberg at SAP. Its Mixed Reality Solutions team, led by Denis Schleier, formed in 2016 and is currently working on SAP’s first mixed reality application.

Schleier and his team have spent years researching and showcasing potential applications of mixed reality with SAP’s software. He believes AR will eventually become another standard way of working, much like smartphones today. His team is preparing for this future by reimagining how knowledge workers will interact with SAP software in the workplace.

Watch this video featuring Alexander Lingg, Head of SAP User Experience, and Schleier to learn more about SAP’s work with next-gen computing platforms.

As you can see in the video, the team is seeing strong interest from manufacturing customers across a wide range of use cases, from transportation management to work instructions on the shop floor.

One demo they built was an enhanced warehouse management project. It showcased autonomous freight trains, which leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate the production hall for active loading and unloading of equipment.

This planning process typically took place in a 2D spreadsheet, making it difficult to envision the end result and optimize routing. With a virtual environment using Unity and SAP S/4HANA, its intelligent ERP system, SAP can improve stakeholder understanding and ensure optimal route planning.

The team’s lighthouse application is SAP Future Office, which is integrated with SAP CoPilot, its digital voice assistant for enterprise. It enables SAP customers to use its software, such as SAP Ariba, in a shared mixed reality experience using HoloLens 2 and iPads, and create virtual roundtables for business collaboration and decision-making.

“Unity provides maximum flexibility in interactive content development and deployment,” said Schleier. “Because it supports so many platforms, we can be device-independent and build applications for Microsoft HoloLens 2, Oculus Quest, iOS devices, and more. Many of our customers have heavily invested in acquiring hundreds of these devices for their workforce, so knowing that Unity has this covered gives us one less thing to worry about.”

Nick Davis is Senior Content Marketing Manager for Automotive, Transportation & Manufacturing at Unity Technologies. A version of this article originally appeared on the Unity Blog, published here with permission. 


More from AR Insider…