PTC Gets Real With Augmented Reality
Digital Thread News
Digital Thread Resources
November 4, 2015
PTC continues to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to completing its transformation from a leader in the CAD and PLM space to delivering a soup-to-nuts Internet of Things (IoT) development platform.
In its latest move, PTC signed a definitive agreement to buy the Vuforia augmented reality business for $65 million, including its developer ecosystem, from Qualcomm Connected Experiences Inc., which is a subsidiary of the mobile giant Qualcomm. As it exists today, Vuforia is a mobile vision platform that currently has traction in the consumer world, helping to bring advertisements, toys and household items like furniture to life in the digital world on a smartphone or tablet.
PTC’s vision for Vuforia is to bridge the digital and physical worlds, a reality that PTC execs say is increasingly blurring as today’s products meld both digital and physical components. “If you look at what’s going in manufacturing companies today, the BOM (bill of materials) and product is very different than it’s historically been, and there’s a lot more decisions about what lives in a digital form or what lives in a physical form,” explained Rob Gremley, PTC’s group president of its technology platform group. “This whole mixed reality of the digital and physical living together has been a big theme of what we’re doing.”
With the Vuforia augmented reality technology, engineering organizations can gain access to digital information that exists about a product—in particular, the sensor data that depicts what’s happening with a product in the field—along side the physical product. This capability, bolstered with PTC’s IoT and analytics platforms, unlocks new possibilities for designing products, monitoring and controlling products and facilitating service in the field.
By integrating Vuforia into the ThingWorx IoT platform, PTC plans to facilitate a mixed-reality model that blends the physical and digital worlds. It can be used as a foundation to enable new applications and ways of working for both service and product design. Today, interaction with either the physical product or digital representation of that product is separate, but PTC aims to bring its technology portfolio to bear to deliver a mixed reality experience for interacting with those same representations, said PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann, in a webcast that highlighted PTC’s plans for the acquisition.
“When you put augmented reality together with the other critical technologies we’ve acquired, it represents a new platform for the new reality of physical/digital convergence,” he said, adding that PTC has invested over $600 million in the last 24 months to bring that vision to life, through both acquisition and organic development.
Beyond the Vuforia computer vision technology, PTC sees opportunity in the company’s global developer ecosystem, currently the source for 20,000 augmented reality apps, representing about 76% of that market, Heppelmann said. “Vuforia is a gem that needs to be unlocked and exposed to a broader audience and that’s something PTC is in a position to do,” he explained.
PTC is currently in the process of closing the Vuforia acquisition, which it expects to complete this quarter. The company is also working on a handful of new products that will leverage the augmented reality technology and be released in the January time frame.
For a look at how Vuforia works in an array of consumer applications, check out this video.
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About the Author
Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].Follow DE