Any new technology application will meet justified skepticism, and virtual/augmented reality is certainly no exception. Aerospace giant Boeing has concluded a study that strongly indicates significant cost savings of augmented reality in complex factory floor environments.
Paul Davies, of Boeing’s Research & Technology Group, told the Augmented World Expo that his company put together a 50-step assembly task for students at Iowa State University. Students were assigned to build the device using either a printed sheet of paper at a station; a tablet with the same PDF that they could carry back and forth to the parts bins and assembly line; or a touch tablet using instructions in a lighted camera view and animation overlaid on real world, showing which parts to pick up and where to put them.
Students using the paper PDF made an average of 8 mistakes the first time through and 4 on a retry; those with the PDF on a tablet made an average of 1 mistake each time through. But the students using the touch tablet made an average of 0.5 mistakes the first time and none at all on retries.
The first time through, the task took the desktop students much longer, although subsequent tries evened the difference out.
Boeing’s Davies acknowledged that the test was not perfect: a tablet is not an AR goggle. But the efficiency gained by speeding the manufacturing process and cutting back on errors — and the need to rework — bodes well for the spectacularly complex factory requirements of aircraft and spacecraft, he said.