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Illustration of interaction between MR users in different physical locations.

Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality. Mixed Reality.

How they shape the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

The different stages of the Industrial Revolution 

Technological advancements over the years have powered the different stages of the industrial revolution. The 1st industrial revolution saw the usage of steam power that increased productivity and the 2nd industrial revolution employed electricity for faster production at lower cost. 

The industry 4.0 concept and stages of development

The 3rd industrial revolution introduced the concept of automation to reduce human workload and the current industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 urges the digitization of all industrial processes that allows global access to industrial resources. 

Industry 4.0 

The concept of digitization of all processes is what the 4th industrial revolution is all about. All stages of an industrial process, including design, production and maintenance can be performed virtually.  

You can even sit at home and access the controls to a machine on a touch screen. It is the era of performing tasks virtually. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality are the areas of technology that can be utilized to digitize industrial processes. 

What is Virtual Reality (VR)? 

Virtual Reality is an artificial environment that contains simulated objects. A person wearing a VR headset will be able to see themselves in an artificial world, move around in it and interact with the virtual objects.  

Illustration of person experiencing Virtual Reality.

This environment may or may not be similar to a real-world scenario, but definitely does not include any physical objects. Examples of virtual reality are simulation games – virtual golf, car simulation, or industrial training.  

Employees obtaining industrial training.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)? 

Augmented Reality overlays virtual elements onto real-world elements. AR gives us the privilege of experiencing virtual elements while moving around in the actual physical environment. 

An engineer using AR to learn about the parts of an industrial machine.

The popular game, Pokémon Go is a great example of Augmented Reality. In industries, AR is used to monitor the working of industrial machines, perform technical support and provide training to new employees.  

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?  

As the name suggests, Mixed Reality is a combination of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Taking the best of the two worlds (real and virtual), mixed reality allows co-existence and interaction between physical and virtual objects.  

A technician may use virtual elements to interact with physical machines using MR

Presently mixed reality is evolving slowly in comparison with VR and AR, but in the future, many more industries will include this technology.  

Illustration of interaction between MR users in different physical locations.

An example of a Mixed Reality platform is the Microsoft Mesh which allows people in different physical locations to collaborate and share holographic experiences on many kinds of devices. Users can actually experience being in the same place as someone who is hundreds of kilometres away. This technology uses AI motion models to represent the user’s movements accurately and spatial maps to create digital images of the environment.  

So, what exactly are the differences between AR, VR and MR? 

Virtual Reality is not related to the real physical environment in any manner. All the elements are simulated, and the user can interact with these elements in the simulated environment.  

Augmented Reality is created on real-world objects by overlaying them with virtual elements. The user has control over their movement in the physical environment and can interact with the overlaid virtual elements as they navigate themselves in the area. 

Analyzing industrial setup using VR.

Mixed Reality enables the user to combine the real and virtual elements and get an enhanced interactive experience. In MR, the interaction between virtual and real objects is possible, unlike VR and AR. The aircraft manufacturer, Airbus uses mixed reality to train their employees and speed up production. 

Controlling the movements of an industrial machine using MR.

Conclusion 

In industries, VR, AR and MR are included to enable intelligent manufacturing techniques and smart working environments. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are already being employed in various major organizations like ABB, Siemens and Honeywell. These technologies help implement installation and maintenance checks of industrial machines and conduct employee training with ease. Mixed reality is yet to find its place in many industrial environments because of limitations with regard to generating 3D models and the user’s location and devices they use. However, in the coming years, it can be anticipated that VR, AR and MR will be a huge part of the everyday workflow in several industries. 

Illustrating difference between VR, MR and AR.

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