Digital Reality Defined

Digital readily with crane and VR headset

How American Crane & Equipment Corporation Plans to Leverage Digital Advancement in Manufacturing

Reality: the world or state of things as they exist, opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. Ironic, because as we navigate this gift called life, we often try to push the notions of what we think the future should be upon the present. Thanks to the images portrayed in science fiction and our fast-approaching technological advancements, we find ourselves on the precipice of a landslide—a sort of digital revolution; one that will make us question our reality on Earth. The technology that stands to change life as we know it is known as virtual reality—but it does not stop there—closely related to VR, there is also mixed reality, augmented reality, and extended reality. Each has its own unique functions, capable of being configured to be used in any industry. In this article, we will learn about the different types of “reality,” how they are best suited to aid the field of manufacturing, and how ACECO plans to integrate such technologies into our best practices.

Reality is not to be confused with the physical world. Reality, in its essence, is a construct comprised of our senses and how they perceive the environment we are in. For instance, you and I may be sitting in the same room, but the shade of blue on the wall may appear to be a different hue to both of us. This is important to say because this is why digital realities have such an impression on us; they take aspects of our current environment and apply sound, feelings, and visuals that alter what we perceive. Let’s learn about the different types of reality and what sets them apart from each other.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual reality is a technology that places the user in a fully immersive environment, where the physical world is completely blocked out. This experience tends to generate a visceral emotional response since the user’s view is controlled in 360 degrees, along with their entire auditory system. This is typically done with a VR headset like the Oculus and can even be coupled with a not so inexpensive omni-directional treadmill which the user straps into, allowing them to move freely across their virtual world, without interfering with the physical—avoiding hazards like that brand-new flatscreen or the sharp corner of your coffee table.

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?

Mixed reality makes it possible to superimpose a digital element over a real-world environment, while also allowing the two to interact with each other. Digital and physical realities become one, therefore MR experiences receive input from their environment and can alter themselves accordingly. This becomes capable with devices like the HoloLens or even an app on your phone.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

AR is similar to MR in the way that it allows digital elements to be superimposed over real-world elements, but it differs slightly because the digital elements do not have the ability to interact with the physical elements of its environment. This technology is already revolutionizing industries like gaming, education, manufacturing, and healthcare. Imagine you are a nurse having trouble locating a patient’s vein; with AR technology like that pioneered by Accuvien, an image of the patient’s veins can be superimposed onto their arm to make for a seamless injection.

What is Extended Reality (XR)?

Extended or cross-reality technology groups every sort of digital reality mentioned above. It creates a master experience using aspects from each, placing the user in a completely immersive experience. A lot of XR technology is still in its beta stage, but as hardware and software improve, as well as methods of applying such technologies, we will find ourselves navigating environments akin to the book and movie Ready Player One. An environment where our voice carries into the digital world, a place where we can feel our digital environment, and where the very lines of our reality become blurred.

To take full advantage of this reality-bending technology, American Crane & Equipment Corporation has teamed up with Youtopian, a leading provider of tailored AR and XR solutions for business innovation. Co-CEOs Dr. DP Prakash and Lisa Sibilia created the company to help accelerate humanity to its full potential and change how we live, learn, and work; constantly pushing innovation. ACECO has the pleasure of working closely with the Youtopian team, on-site in our Innovation Lab. With Youtopian’s guidance and expertise, we are co-creating custom innovations, such as an loT AI AR solution to support SMBs predicting equipment failure before it happens at 10x lower complexity. Together we are designing comprehensive solutions to redefine the industry through the meaningful use of emerging technology. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa to better grasp what their company does, and see what the future holds for this newly immerging technology:

 

Q: Can you describe more about Youtopian and what your mission is moving forward?

Youtopian is an innovation company that simplifies complexities by enabling and building custom emerging technology solutions to support organizations around the world to actualize their full potential. We bridge enterprise and education to change lives.

Q: What digital reality applications are best suited for manufacturing, and why?

Great question. Hybrid technology solutions that continuously evolve and allow diverse stakeholders to be more efficient, productive, fulfilled, and inspired. A suite of digital tools, such as, virtual reality, augmented reality, assisted reality, and mixed reality alongside reality-driven experiences represent the highest value.

Q: Which form of digital reality do you think is most accessible right now?

I would argue none. Technology takes time to learn and drive meaningful impact on an organization. It requires going the extra mile and finding trusted partners to see around the corner and generate recurring business results.

Q: What are your dreams for the future of this technology?

I am one to dream BIG! Imagine a world where innovation accessibility and training meet you where you are. Technology becomes a bridge that allows organizational roles to be reimagined. The dream is to be equipped with cross-field intelligence at a speed that in the past took a lifetime and is now at our fingertips.

 

As you see, this technology is not just suited for sci-fi dreamers and tech junkies; it can enhance our waking world, allowing innovative solutions to travel faster across the digital (and physical) landscape, and shortening the bridge to accessibility. In manufacturing, it has the power to make our processes and cranes more intuitive, while feeding analytics back to the IoT (internet of things), sharing knowledge with each person and machine connected to it. Operational efficiency will increase, wasting no time with simulated hands-on experience, making upskilling and training a breeze. We’ll even be able to compare product variations in real-time, in different simulated environments (yes, a crane stress test, minus the stress on the mind). Quality assurance will never be overlooked when a service member will be able to check on a crane in real-time, without being on location.

For a moment, let’s imagine a scenario: An off-site service specialist gets a call; a crane that he helped to install keeps skewing as it travels along the runway. He throws on his VR and is transported to a live view of the crane. After reading through the live data, he finds that only one of its bridge motors is running. After recognizing the issue, he knows what needs to be done, so he walks the on-site technician through the process of fixing it—highlighting parts and sharing images of the proper tools to use—that superimposed on the crane with the help of MR glasses that the on-site technician is wearing. The future sure does look bright with the many rising forms of digital reality. No industry will remain untouched, and the possibilities are endless.

The only question is, how will you leverage the digital realm to enhance the productivity of your business?

 



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