Author: Edward Caulfield
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Last week AMPLEXOR and RE‘FLEKT held a workshop in Zürich to showcase their Augmented Reality capabilities. RE‘FLEKT provided the tooling to create the Augmented Reality experiences and AMPLEXOR the consulting expertise to drive a successful AR project. It was an intimate event, held in a cozy little bar at the top of the Prime Tower in Zürich. As it turned out, view of the city from the bar was by itself a great motivation to show up.
The event started with the obligatory company introduction and project examples, as Jannik Hol from RE‘FLEKT guided participants through AR and VR’s use cases for business, showcasing the most well-known examples of their applications, such as the Leybold Smart Repair Assistant. He also presented an interesting preview of new developments to be released in the coming months.
For me, however, the most valuable presentation was given by Julia Hoffgaard, Technical Documentation Consultant at AMPLEXOR, as she focused on the needs of the content’s distinct end users as well as the how to integrate AR in areas such as service, maintenance, and technical documentation.The reason why I enjoyed Ms. Hoffgaard’s presentation is that she got into concrete topics and brought out aspects of AR that are normally overlooked. While it is widely recognized that AR can provide an excellent ROI for Field Service Support, she also highlighted the less obvious, but the equally valuable, aspect of actually being able to analyse how the content is being used. That is, life cycle management of the product documentation can be significantly improved.
Traditional product documentation is usually a black hole. The experts write what they think is appropriate, usually getting feedback from Field Service and others who would normally use the material, and then release the document into the wild. If you are lucky, every couple of years the documentation gets a review and some fresh content. Very seldom will a company expend the resources to find out how well the material met the needs of the readers because this is an expensive and time consuming process with a dubious return on investment. More often companies rely upon spontaneous user input. The problem is that even the most unhappy users rarely take the time and energy to provide the desired feedback.
AR gives us the ability to determine, real-time, what is working and what isn’t. If the average Field Engineer needs to run through a procedure 12 times before he / she can use it, you’ll see this immediately. If procedures are never used, you’ll see this as well. Sessions can be recorded and immediate feedback buttons can also be implemented, so that comments and suggestions can be captured while they are still fresh in the minds of the participants. Based upon utilisation rates and immediate feedback, you have a much greater chance of making your information all that much more valuable, kicking your ROI even higher.
Ms. Hoffgaard also detailed key factors required for successfully implementing augmented and virtual reality projects based on product information, technical documentation and existing 3D data, including various use cases for marketing & sales, e-commerce, maintenance and troubleshooting.
The demonstrations at the end of the presentations, using Microsoft HoloLens, AR apps for tablets and smartphones, and VR experiences on the Samsung Gear, gave everybody a chance for as much hands-on time as desired, so you would walk away with a concrete, not just theoretical, understanding of how well things worked.
One thing that I liked the most about AMPLEXOR is their approach to democratising Augmented Reality. While most consultants I have worked with try to lock you into their services, AMPLEXOR will enable customers to create Augmented Reality experiences on their own. Clearly, the first project should be accompanied by AMPLEXOR, but after that the customer can be taught how to use the applications and work independently. I understand the AMPLEXOR has taken some heat from other vendors in the market for doing this, but it is good to see that they have enough confidence in their value add that they ensure their customers’ options remain open.
Overall, this was a very useful workshop that I can suggest to any organization trying to better understand the real-world aspects of implementing Augmented Reality. As they say in German – Gut gelungen!