Transforming Manufacturing with Augmented Reality

Home mobility industry gets a helping hand

From home based robotic helpers to AI assistants, domestic technology is bombarding the consumer market. Flashy gadgets aside, some of the most important home tech is hindered by industry restrictions. When ordering a vital stair lift, for example, the customer has to pick a product which must then be customised to suit both the buyer and the house. Coupled with manufacturing and installation, this can be a lengthy and complicated process. On top of this, it’s notoriously difficult to get home installations right because they are personal to an individual and house. In response to some of these issues, German manufacturing and engineering company Thyssenkrupp have begun to use Augmented Reality visualisation from Microsoft HoloLens. This represents yet another application of AR in industry, but how will it change home mobility systems and manufacturing as a whole?

HoloLens as a production tool
As life expectancy improves, it’s becoming all the more important to deliver quality home mobility solutions. Prior to adopting HoloLens, Thyssenkrupp used a legacy system of 20 year old labels, cameras and manual data entry. Through Microsoft’s AR solution, the company can visualise, configure, price and quote a stair lift in real time. Sales teams can measure staircases on their first visit and then send the measurements to the manufacturing team via Microsoft Azure. The platform allows manufacturing teams to consider and approve the design almost instantly. The manufacturing team knows exactly what they’re working with, and the customer avoids a tiresome sales process. This reduces the overall delivery time and improves the company’s understanding of what the client expects. This isn’t the first time that HoloLens (and virtual/augmented reality) has been used as a healthcare aid, however this application focuses on delivering a personal, physical product as opposed to an experience. In future, the service could be used for other systems like electronic chairs and beds. Product visualisation in home mobility is undoubtedly going to impact the industry itself, but how, and what other sectors may be affected?

How will AR visualisation disrupt industry?
Using HoloLens to improve the process of selecting and completing a home mobility purchase is positively disruptive on a number of levels. First of all, it’s contributing to the digitalisation of the mobility industry itself. Through digital, companies themselves will be able to provide an improved service which will in turn lead to better customer satisfaction. In theory, there will be fewer call outs for modifications because buyers will know exactly what they are ordering prior to delivery. Creating personal home mobility systems using HoloLens could help to ease the growing strain on medical and care facilities because people will be able to live more comfortably in their own homes. Mass customisation also represents a key trend in manufacturing enabled by other disruptive technologies like 3D printing. The customer’s ability to view a system before it’s physically created is another step away from the production line mentality which characterised manufacturing in the last century. What’s more, virtual and augmented reality gives them a chance to see that this happens. Of course, this system isn’t perfect, and not every product will look exactly like the visualisation. However, enabling customers, manufacturers and engineers to refer to a visual blueprint could seriously improve the quality of the system and the efficiency of the process.

Although it seems like a niche application, using Microsoft HoloLens as a tool in home mobility sales is helping to respond to a serious demographic issue as life expectancy increases exponentially. In an industrial sense, altering the way manufacturers think about product design and delivery. It’s also changing the expectations of consumers themselves, who want to be able to visualise their order before it’s actually in place. AR clearly has incredible potential as a business tool, and will encourage digital disruption in all aspects of the production process, from the initial quote to the final installation. By massively enhancing business efficiency and customer satisfaction – at the same time as offering a solution to the demand for domestic care – Microsoft is proving that it really is the leader in mixed reality technology.

Could your business apply Augmented Reality to product design and creation? Will Microsoft HoloLens transform the home mobility industry? Which other sectors could benefit from Augmented Reality visualisation? Share your thoughts and opinions.