By Salman Yusuf
Salman Yusuf, head of UAE-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm Takeleap, says augmented reality can transform companies, but only if they can transform themselves
Technology’s rapid advance is about to unleash the fourth industrial revolution and a new age of innovation awaits, one where optimisation will drive exciting developments and industrial efficiency.
This year we will see great achievements in the cyber-physical worlds, as operational tasks and machinery reach new levels of efficiency thanks to augmented reality (AR). By 2020 the global AR market is predicted to reach $90 billion, according to forecasts from the International Data Corporation (IDC).
There will be challenges facing its adoption (as there will be with other game-changing Industry 4.0 advancements) and steps are being taken to acknowledge and minimise these challenges.
But, importantly, unlike the three previous industrial revolutions, Industry 4.0 will not require the replacement of legacy machinery and assets. Instead, with AR, businesses will be able to reduce downtime, fully optimise machinery, and increase employee productivity by 25 to 40 percent.
An increase in productivity will result in the reduction of overall employee count at businesses, but it will also cut down on costs and increase efficiency across all the stages of industrial production.
For instance, with the help of cyber-physical technologies, organisations that need field operators will be able to provide them with the tools for real-time data to analyse the performance of their industrial equipment.
Among the first government authorities to implement this game-changing technology across the region was the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) here in the UAE. This was via the Daqri Smart Helmet, the software for which was developed by Takeleap. Head-mounted devices equipped with sensors produce digitalised information that overlays any equipment being surveyed and highlights any errors or malfunctions that need to be addressed.
The advanced technology now at DEWA’s disposal allows its operators to remotely connect with field experts, see what they can see through their head-mounted AR devices and consult on any identified errors. With a record of past incidents readily available, operators can conduct predictive analysis, recommend suggestions and increase the efficiency of the process through which faults are addressed by up to 40 percent – all from the comfort of their desks. This also allows their engineers to service more clients in one day as they don’t have to spend valuable time traveling all over Dubai.
The same forecast from IDC about the global market for AR also predicts that the Middle East and Africa market for augmented and virtual reality will grow to $6bn by 2020. And while it’s no surprise that the UAE is, once again, at the forefront in implementing advanced solutions for its industrial sector, augmented reality is still not as widely adopted in the rest of the Middle East as it is in the developed world.
The major challenges hindering AR’s adoption are both human and operational. Business owners and decision makers need to see an immediate value before committing to implement the technology and disturbing their already well-established processes.
It is no secret that many business leaders would be more comfortable operating as they have always done, despite aspiring to goals that require an increase efficiency and productivity.
This is why the lack of training in the use of augmented reality software and equipment needs to be addressed immediately. Recent research by Accenture shows that while 93 percent of CXOs know that AR and other advanced technologies will rapidly change their industries, only 20 percent of them believe their companies are prepared for what will be a sudden industry disruption.
Additionally, the perceived role that hardware and software play in the decision-making process also affects the adoption of AR. Advanced hardware requires advanced software to run. But because ever-improving devices are constantly cropping up, decision makers find themselves worrying about committing to a piece of technology out of fear that it will soon become obsolete.
Choosing the right platform will be an ongoing challenge. At the moment, Daqri helmets only work on the Linux operating system. And only 10 percent of companies worldwide use Linux.
Operationally, what the industry really needs is one all-encompassing software solution instead of a new operating system for each new kind of hardware. At Takeleap, we are hard at work to create just such a universally applicable software solution, capable of running on Android, iOS and Windows, and which can be customised to operate any hardware on which a solution must be built.
However, it is imperative for decision makers to educate themselves about the tidal wave of technologies that Industry 4.0 will bring. They need to have first-hand experience with handling AR devices and software to be able to understand how the technology operates and what it can improve.
This education needs to go beyond the written word – reading about the benefits of technology comes a distant second to experiencing the value in its implementation.
Takeleap helps furniture giant test ways to make fitting out the apartment easier
The challenge: Ikea might have standard tools and sizes, but apartments and houses come in all shapes and sizes. Picking the right furniture to fit a room is a major challenge – and a major reason for time-consuming returns.
The task: Allow shoppers to visualise their living spaces and pick furniture to match the size and fit of each room using virtual reality.
The solution: Ikea partnered with Takeleap to create an augmented reality virtual shopping experience called Ikea Popup. Shoppers don VR headsets and walk into rooms built to scale, “placing” furniture pieces virtually using joysticks armed with lasers. The experience even allows for photo-realistic colours and textures, so shoppers can also get a holistic feel of what their rooms will resemble.
The proof: The pop-ups are available at Ikea outlets in five cities in Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco, and there are plans to bring it to more cities across the region.
The results: Furniture shopping is a time-consuming process and Ikea says shoppers can now decide what they want to buy in 20 minutes. Footfall at Ikea across the outlets deployed with the pop-ups has increased by an average of 19 percent.
How could it be better: Ikea’s model rooms are pre-designed so rooms with awkward corners still don’t have an easy fix. Also, the pop-ups are not a permanent Ikea store fixture but available for shoppers to try for a limited time only.