Lockheed martin is using augmented reality. Source: Shutterstock

Lockheed martin is using augmented reality. Source: Shutterstock

How augmented reality helps Lockheed Martin improve engineering

BUSINESSES are beginning to tap into augmented reality (AR) as a commercial solution to boost productivity and operational effectiveness.

It’s not just games and entertainment anymore, the technology brings real value to organizations — in training rooms and on the field.

Recently, in an interview, Lockheed Martin Augmented and Mixed Reality Principal Investigator Shelley Peterson revealed that the organization uses AR to quite an extent.

Peterson explained that the building of space crafts requires the company’s engineering teams to interpret a lot of data. “And that interpretation takes time. When you can place data spatially, there’s just a significant advantage. It removes so much of the interpretation.”

The company’s technicians along and quality engineers use AR on a daily basis, provide feedback on what AR can be used for, and sometimes creating their own AR content for internal use.

Lockheed Martin, Peterson explained, uses a lot of fasteners when building space crafts. AR helps the team with position alignment, ensuring that objects are placed within half-an-inch of where they need to be (fault tolerance) — and the technology seems to be boosting efficiency and productivity.

The Augmented and Mixed Reality Principal Investigator said that the average saving on touch labor in the case of fasteners alone was approximately US$38 each. Given that the company buys 2 million fasteners a year, it’s easy to put that saving, and the value of AR in perspective.

Once built, AR also makes quality checks seamless and effortless.

“When the quality department is looking to verify component placement in assembly, AR is a very quick and easy way to do that and also when they verify the work instruction in advance, it’s much quicker to do that through AR than to try to verify from traditional methods.”

Obviously, that’s just a very high-level view of what the company is doing with AR, but it’s interesting to see that the technology is making an impact in core engineering and operational workflows already.

Simplicity is the charm of augmented reality

Like Peterson mentioned briefly, the team at Lockheed Martin is capable of creating its own AR content when required — and that’s what’s so attractive about this technology.

It doesn’t really need any new equipment, gadgets, or hardware. Operationally speaking, having Goggles make it easy but in most cases, just an app on a phone or mobile device is sufficient.

Many businesses still shy away from exploring AR because they believe that the technology is relatively new, is mostly just hype, and that there’s not enough talent available in the market to create and maintain AR applications.

To be honest, that’s a challenge that will remain, but on the bright side, since AR projects aren’t usually mission-critical, organizations can easily outsource these to agencies or freelance professionals who can bring in their expertise and deliver excellent support.

According to recent forecast from IDC, worldwide spending on AR and virtual reality (VR) will reach US$160 billion in 2023, up significantly from the US$16.8 billion expected this year.

While VR is expected to take a larger share of the pie, it doesn’t specifically indicate that the technology will make a bigger impact on businesses in the near-term: from all accounts, AR seems to be winning the popularity contest for now — and making an impact on companies such as Lockheed Martin, Apple, Snapchat, and many others.