Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a new app that he hopes will change the workplace and the internet.
Horizon Workrooms, Facebook’s new virtual meeting app, allows colleagues to meet remotely with virtual reality (VR) headsets and avatars. Unlike traditional video conferencing platforms like Zoom, which usually have stacked boxes with viewers’ faces, Horizon Workrooms places users’ avatars around a table.
The system appears odd at first glance, but it may indicate what’s to eventually come for the common workspace. So, what does this mean for manufacturing?
What’s the Difference Between VR and AR?
First, let’s clarify the difference between virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Virtual reality takes users into a virtual setting, while augmented reality augments the users’ current setting. For example, when users put on an Oculus headset to play a game, they’re using VR to see a different setting from the one they’re standing in (e.g., they’re standing in a battlefield instead of their living room). Conversely, when they use their phone to play “Pokémon GO,” they’re using AR to interact with characters in their actual living room.
How Will VR and AR Impact Manufacturing?
Manufacturers have already started using VR and AR. In 2016 Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens, a VR device that offers full-scale, holographic models (Ford and NASA are already using it), and Lockheed Martin has used VR and AR to test manufacturing processes.
This tech isn’t limited to large companies. Even small manufacturers can benefit from VR and AR through:
1. More efficient plant builds and remodels
When manufacturers build or remodel a plant, they must accommodate for shutdowns and unexpected delays in planning and construction. With VR and AR, manufacturers can virtually build and test their production lines and new setups. They can examine ergonomics, safety, costs, and other factors to find issues before construction begins.
2. Better collaboration
With VR and AR, manufacturers can collaborate with stakeholders virtually and give them access to full-scale product models. When customers and other team members see the actual products rather than 2D models or datasheets, they gain a better understanding of products and can offer suggestions prior to physical assembly.
3. Lower costs
Finding and solving problems during or after assembly costs time and money, but when stakeholders see products virtually, they quickly and easily find and solve problems, preventing future costly maintenance and rebuild issues.
Whether systems like Horizon Workrooms will change workspaces and manufacturing remains up for debate, but we know that early VR and AR tech has already made its mark on the industry. As this technology becomes more immersive, manufacturing stakeholders will have a better and better understanding of their products and more easily improve them, impacting even those outside of manufacturing who use the industry’s products.
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