Though we spend ample time examining consumer-based AR endpoints, greater near-term impact is seen in the enterprise. This takes many forms including brands that use AR to promote products in greater dimension, and industrial enterprises that streamline operations.
These industrial endpoints include visual support in areas like assembly and maintenance. The idea is that AR’s line-of-sight orientation can guide front-line workers. Compared to the “mental mapping” they must do with 2D instructions, visual support makes them more effective.
This effectiveness results from AR-guided speed, accuracy, and safety. These micro efficiencies add up to worthwhile bottom-line impact when deployed at scale. Macro benefits include lessening job strain and closing the “skills gap,” which can preserve institutional knowledge.
But how is this materializing today and who’s realizing enterprise AR benefits? Our research arm ARtillery Intelligence tackled these questions in its report: Enterprise AR: Best Practices & Case Studies, Vol 2. We’ve excerpted it below, featuring Nox Innovations’ AR deployment.
Positioning and Planning
Our enterprise AR case studies so far have included aerospace, healthcare, and warehousing. But another field that’s aligned with AR’s spatial positioning and planning capabilities is architecture and engineering. This is where Nox Innovations has deployed AR.
Specifically, Nox has applied AR to building information modeling (BIM). This involves large-scale construction projects that use computer modeling before the physical construction process. It allows architects and engineers to anticipate issues virtually (less expensive).
Adding AR to this traditional workflow involves software from VisualLive and Microsoft Hololens. This takes the benefits of BIM modeling a step further by letting on-site engineers overlay models directly on their corresponding real-world positions. This gives them additional perspective.
Moreover, the benefits span engineering and construction phases. By visualizing BIM models in their real-world locations, AR can assist architectural work in earlier phases; and construction in later phases. The alignment between the two can reduce deviation in BIM models.
For example, on-site foremen in construction phases can better envision and execute what architects and engineers planned. Put another way, AR can bridge the gap between engineering and construction. That gap is typically where expensive issues or human error can occur.
“People are shocked because you’re able to see the content that you created right there in real time, in the space that it’s going to be installed,” said Nox Innovations’ project engineer Alexandria Monnin.
Much of the above was put into play in the construction of Microsoft data centers. Here, all the above stakes are elevated because of complex designs such as electrical, mechanical, and piping. Microsoft’s Azure Spatial Anchors were also used for positional accuracy of BIM models.
As background for those unfamiliar, Azure Spatial Anchors is Microsoft’s spatial computing product that enables persistent anchored digital components. In other words, digital content can be affixed to physical structures, where they will stay and appear persistently across user sessions.
Using this software, engineers can lock down digital models to a specific physical point. That is then used as a persistent digital reference for subsequent construction and assembly work. The digital model stays in place, which is a key function in engineering and planning.
By doing all the above, Nox achieved a 21 percent increase in productivity and a 14 percent reduction in fabrication errors in the field. These metrics, again, represent solutions to traditionally expensive problems. And when applied at scale, they can have meaningful bottom-line impact.
“Construction rework is expensive,” said Monnin. “With the HoloLens and VisualLive, we’re able to avoid rework because you’re able to go out there on site, verify the model, and then during installation, we can catch up front that something isn’t going to work.”