The challenge is a familiar one: a technician, engineer or field worker needs the help of an expert, because he or she is unable to resolve a problem alone – be it the installation of equipment, its repair or its maintenance.
– The same sort of needs can be found in many areas, says Mikko Luukkonen from Softability Studio, which specialises in AR solutions. – There are many different applications and uses in, for example, industry, maintenance work, construction and real estate, and the insurance sector.
How does augmented reality support maintenance or installation?
Luukkonen gives examples of the need for remote support and the use of augmented reality:
– For example, there is a limit to the knowledge and skills of a technician or maintenance engineer and not all the product or instruction manuals for all the equipment are always to hand. It might just take too long to find the right instruction or it may not even be there. The equipment may also be new, so that the skills and knowledge required can only be found with the manufacturer, says Luukkonen.
Modern technology fortunately makes it possible to use live video for remote support and advice, and the field worker can be in real-time video contact with an expert somewhere else and transmit a video image of what he or she can see there and then.
– The employee will have a smart phone or smart glasses with him or her in the field, to be in contact with, say, an expert in another part of the world. The expert uses a portal designed for providing remote advice, enabling him or her to view via live video the precise situation in the field and discuss a solution with the employee in question. The expert can give advice and sketch instructions directly on the video image.
If an expert is able to provide advice and visual work instructions directly with the aid of augmented reality, the person in the field can perform the task more quickly and effectively.
– The instruction may be something like: ‘Begin here, then do this and remember to watch out for that’ or ‘Unscrew these components and add component X from the toolbox to point Y in the equipment.’ The markings and instructions are visible on the screen of the mobile device or within the field of vision of the smart glasses, and the worker can browse the instructions and go back to them again later.
The instructions are typically markings made with annotation tools on the image, but it is also easy to send written instructions, documents (instructions and manuals, say), images and 3D models.
In the near future, a 3D CAD model of an object to be installed or maintained may also be automatically located on top of a physical device with the help of augmented reality , a solution known as object tracking. A 3D animation of the object allows work instructions to be displayed very easily in a comprehensible format, as a hologram-type image. The instructions hover freely, regardless of the angle from which the object is being viewed.
An intelligent expert portal has central role in remote support
A major competition factor in remote work supervision is the intelligent expert portal, which can automatically send a problem to the right expert to resolve.
– If maintenance tasks, requiring knowledge of a certain device, have been done earlier with VIESTI remote support solution, the expert portal can match a case with the right expert using service request metadata, explains Luukkonen. – At the same time, historical data and analytics accrue from the advice processes, meaning new maintenance processes and service requests can be more precisely managed in the future.
Technically speaking, the background to the expert portal is the open source WEB Real-Time Communications (RTC) library, which enables browsers and mobile applications to engage with real-time communication. Augmented reality realisations also make use of the Vuforia machine vision software library, which enables sketching onto a live video image and object tracking using a 3D CAD modela.
– If necessary, the solution is customised and integrated specifically for the customer, who then receives a custom-made system, says Luukkonen.
In the end he wants a clean break from communications service providers:
– The VIESTI remote support solution is not only an application for transmitting video images: it also delivers an intelligent expert portal and enables the use of augmented reality in the provision of remote advice.
More info about VIESTI Remote Support Solution
Mikko Luukkonen, Softability Group Oy, mikko.luukkonen(at)softability.fi
The article was originally published in Finnish in itewiki blog media based on and interveiw with Softability’s Mikko Luukkonen.