AR Takes Center Stage at PTC 2019 LiveWorx

PTC announced new tools and alliances to boost adoption of AR to transform the industrial enterprise.

PTC announced new tools and alliances to boost adoption of AR to transform the industrial enterprise.

PTC is putting its full muscle behind augmented reality (AR) as the technology stole the show at this year’s LiveWorx and the company rolled out a number of initiatives designed to fuel its growing AR business and promote industrial enterprise adoption.

The company announced the availability of Vuforia Expert Capture, a tool that accelerates the creation of AR training content to allow industrial workers to get up to speed quickly on unfamiliar tasks without disrupting the work product of subject matter experts. In addition, PTC unveiled a collaboration with Matterport, a company best known for creating 3D views of real estate properties, to help manufacturers visualize factories and plants as part of the creation of industrial equipment digital twins. The third pillar of PTC’s AR push came through the acquisition of TWNKLS, a Netherlands-based specializing in delivering AR services and application development.

As companies enter the era of smart connected products, people, and processes, AR is no longer a novelty, but rather a serious tool for continuity to IoT-connected products and the digital thread, according to Jim Heppelmann, PTC’s president and CEO. Hepplemann said PTC’s Vuforia business has been growing at more than 80% annually for the last few years and currently represents about 7% of its overall business. Even PTC partner Rockwell Automation is seeing rising interest in AR, Hepplemann said, adding that 40% of that company’s wins now include some element of AR.

“If you can get data in a secure way with context … you can use it to visualize and optimize processes,” he said.

In addition to stepped up deployment of AR solutions for improving operational efficiency, the new Expert Capture tools can be a real game changer for training and upping workforce productivity. Through Microsoft HoloLens’ location-aware capabilities enabled by Azure Spatial anchor services, front-line workers create step-by-step instructions at the point of where they are doing work. Once completed, untrained workers can safely and effectively be guided through those same procedures at the relevant locations in the physical plant, reducing training costs and making best practices a standard for all workers, not just a select few experts.

“This flips the fundamental principles of training and support on their head,” Hepplemann said. “It’s a shift away from in-advance and just-in-case training, which is wasteful and inefficient, to in-context and just-in-time micro courses.”

In its Reality Lab, PTC showed a glimpse of where AR is heading: Using spatial AR technology to easily program machinery in industrial environments where there is a high density of technology that needs to be orchestrated and work together, according to Valentin Heun, chief scientist for the lab. Building on the Reality Editor AR platform Heun and his colleagues developed at MIT, the technology allows users to easily program robots or other industrial machinery through visual programming and AR instead of through proprietary HMI screens or complex control languages on laptops. “The desktop is not made for solving spatial problems,” Heun said. “AR allows you to use computation for spatial problems,” resulting in easier programming of machines with less errors.

Watch this video to learn more about the origins of the Reality Editor and where it’s going.


This video provides a glimpse at Expert Capture in action.

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