What place for virtual and augmented reality in factory 4.0?

Aeronautics, automotive, defense, health … rare are the sectors that are escaping this profound change that factory 4.0 represents today. Among the technologies that are reshaping the world of industry: virtual reality and augmented reality. By immersing operators and machines in a digital environment, they allow the production chain to gain in performance and become even more collaborative.

Virtual reality applications


Behind virtual reality and augmented reality, uses that are based on the same principle: virtually modify the environment in which a user finds himself to offer him immersive or enriched content. The experience offered by these two technologies is however very different.

Virtual reality is an immersive simulation of real or imaginary environments that relies on visual and auditory stimulation. It is mainly used with headphones. Augmented reality, on the other hand, allows virtual content to be superimposed on the real world using digital tools such as a smartphone or connected glasses. A good example is the RealWear HMT-1 Remote Support AR Smartglass supported by Realwear remote app. The smartglass provides hands free operation and high quality video and audio features, suitable if used in extreme or remote work locations. 

These tools are gradually gaining ground in industrial mechanisms. Their promise: the establishment of a virtualized environment on an industrial scale which would make it possible to gain in performance and agility. Focus on the benefits of these immersive technologies in the smart industry, and more particularly in the health sector.

Optimizing the design phases

The automotive industry was the first to use virtual and augmented reality. Some car manufacturers such as Ford, for example, have created real immersion laboratories. Equipped with helmets, designers and engineers can examine all the angles of their cars to different degrees and thus obtain more reliable, more precise and better results. For them, this technique reduces the gaps between what is designed and what is achieved and also offers the possibility of optimizing time to market.

In the healthcare industry, virtual reality and augmented reality also have a very big role to play. Products and manufacturing processes are becoming more and more complex for operators. Virtual assistance can thus become very useful to guarantee optimal control of production development.

Better performance in production processes

In the factory, an optimized workstation is in essence a guarantee of performance for operators and therefore of competitiveness for the company. Thanks to virtual reality, it becomes possible to completely rethink its ergonomics in order to make it more efficient. For example, equipped with a virtual reality headset, the user performs the assembly gestures of the parts. The Augmented Reality Support Software analyzes his posture in real time and detects bad positions or overly complicated gestures. The results will allow an ergonomist to modify the location of the tool to improve the fluidity of gestures. Any operator equipped with augmented reality glasses will be able to be informed on the type of actions to be carried out.

In other words, augmented reality and virtual reality are two inseparable things in factory 4.0.

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