Prototype Design and Development Using Augmented Reality

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What is augmented reality?

As mentioned in the previous article, augmented reality (AR) enables a new information-delivery paradigm and a deep sensory experience, which will have a profound impact on how data is structured, managed, and delivered. By superimposing digital information directly on real people or objects, or environments, AR allows the processing of the physical and digital simultaneously, eliminating the need to mentally bridge the two. AR will transform how we learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world. This article will focus on that transformation for prototype design and development.

How does AR help design prototypes?

Computer aided design (CAD) systems as visualization tools play a vital role for designers in product design process. However, these systems become insufficient to achieve 3D interaction with virtual models. AR presents many advantages for the prototype design process as a new technology. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Bringing products to life – AR allows the user to pull the idea out of the screen and drop it into the real world at full scale. You can then walk around it, or walk within it, and get a far better feel for form, proportion and relationship to the environment.
  • Visualisation in context –to be able to move the design out of the screen is one thing; it’s another to see it within the actual context of use. Here we see tangible benefits in helping to assess concept alternatives insitu.
  • Collaboration across geographies – virtual collaboration tools have been around for years, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. AR offers another means to sharing in real time and in context.
  • Efficiencies in prototype development – AR design can streamline development, especially when paired with other prototyping methods e.g. 3D printing allowing for rapid prototyping and design review.

How does AR help demonstrate prototypes?

There is much focus in the literature on the customer in AR and marketing strategies for AR, however there are obviously other stakeholders for a firm. The literature provides that AR-based service augmentation may prove particularly relevant in contexts where the nature of the offering requires firms to use detailed verbal information. This provides opportunities for other stakeholders to extract value along with the firm.

For internal stakeholders AR offers the ability to assess products or certain components or operational functions during the design and development phase of a product. This provides immediate feedback to the design and engineering teams at the critical phase and before design lock for prototype manufacturing runs. For external stakeholders AR offers ability to demonstrate products to an unlimited number of stakeholders before seeking feedback from a customer constrained set. This has significant benefits to the organisation in terms of increasing the efficacy of the design and development phase and reducing its cost (see below).

One of the key features which allows the effective demonstration of prototypes is the use of annotations in AR for detailed explanation of features, specifications, modifications and operations. Annotations are a powerful way to give users more information about the world around them. This provides context for the information, often making it more engaging and easier to understand.

How does AR save prototype costs?

The use of AR in the design, development and testing of prototypes also has a positive effect on the ‘bottom line’ for firms. The first is slightly more challenging to manage, but nonetheless manifests in streamlining the design process allowing for reduction in design hours required to reach locked design for prototype manufacture. The second is much easier and relates to external stakeholders who are able to assess the prototype via AR without the need for expensive physical prototypes. A prototype manufacturing run is a costly endeavour both in terms of the tooling required and the prototypes themselves. AR allows a limitless number of stakeholders to view the prototype via the sharing of a simple URL.

How do I deploy AR for prototypes?

Before embarking on AR implementation in the design, development and testing of prototypes firms need to consider the benefits and costs and implement a distinct set of strategies and tactics. Typically firms who are successful implement AR strategies over time starting with external stakeholder objectives then internal then the design and engineering team. If AR applications are developed in parallel with a firms’ requirements over time, they can integrate and use them in design process more efficiently.

Emersiv AR is a digital marketing agency at the forefront of AR providing strategic, creative and implementation assistance to retail, commercial and industrial clients seeking to integrate AR into their business and generate value. If you would like to speak to us about how AR can change your business, get in touch today.