Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that we're exposed to much more than we realize.
During Sunday NFL broadcasts, those useful graphics that show the first-down and scrimmage lines are examples of AR. Go to a Lego store and hold any box up to the camera of their magical point-of-sale display, and your child will see that toy assemble itself in 3D right on the box's surface. And there are many marketing and game AR apps available for the iPhone.
With the latest release of eDrawings for the iPad and iPhone (available in the iTunes app store), AR is now available for mechanical design. Why would anyone want or need this technology? The biggest benefit for design teams is that they can visually experience their product designs in a real-world context. Just point your iPad's camera at a special marker on the table, and a full-scale representation of the design appears. Place real physical objects next to the virtual model, and see what its true size is. You can even spin and slide the model on the table to visualize it any way you would like.
We added AR to eDrawings because people often misperceive the size of a design when they only see it on a computer screen. Teams can look at a design in CAD for months, but when the first physical part arrives, some team members (many times important ones) are always surprised at its actual size. That's because whether you're designing a wristwatch or a motorcycle, the CAD model is always the same size on your computer screen. Bringing the CAD model into the real world provides context, which then makes everything clear.
In addition, salespeople (or anyone for that matter) can load entire product lines onto their iPads. When they visit a customer, they can place the exact product the customer is considering, right in front of them on the table. It provides perfect clarity.
— Rick Chin has been with SolidWorks since 1995, when its first product, SolidWorks 95, was released. In his current role as Director of Product Innovation, he is involved in customer research to uncover new product opportunities, software prototyping, and releasing new SolidWorks products.
People will see these augmented reality objects through a small tablet or phone screen, can it truly show the size properly? Perhaps when virtual reality glasses like Google Glass or Oculus Rift will have to become more mainstream to deliver the true shape and size of a virtual object in 3D space.
You don't need a 100" flat-screen television to have a show in full-scale life size, right? Well, maybe you do have one, but it's not needed. Immersing oneself in what a display shows doesn't mean it must be full scale.
Thanks for the feedback. It is true that the tablet does not provide an immersive experience, but it does give an accurate sense of scale since the model you see on the screen is sized correctly relative to the background scene. Having this context is invaluable at early stages of the design.
Our first prototype of AR did actually use AR glasses. It was very cool to get the stereo view, but we found that the glasses didn't provide the immersive experience we expected. The camera and screen performance was not yet good enough, and the screen didn't cover most of your field of view. We later turned to the iPad because the both the camera and screen where much better. It also did not setup a false expectation for immersion. I hope you find this extra info about the project useful.
Thanks again for the feedback! I hope you get the opportunity to try it out.
Rick, Excellent article and video. There's no question about whether seeing things from a different perspective spurs the creative process and the refinement of ideas. Augmented reality for mechanical design makes sense, especially with new tools that make it possible becoming readily available and easily used. Thanks.
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