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After decades of experimental use, the enormous progress made in digital technology over the last five years has made it possible to create a favourable environment for the widespread use of virtual and augmented reality technology in the professional sectors. Today, these technologies represent a new asset to support decision-making processes, product design, staff training, plant maintenance and work health and safety.
Reply has anticipated the market, intercepting all the potential solutions emerging from the most innovative technological trends and acquiring tools, laboratories, dedicated infrastructure and expertise in the virtual and augmented reality realm, with the aim to develop innovative services capable of offering high added value, with sustainable costs/benefits for the companies involved.
Reply's offer of virtual reality services ranges from digital entertainment to professional applications. In fact, Forge Reply uses the entire range of currently available VR and AR technologies to develop projects designed to support enterprise core processes. Transverse apps have been produced over the last five years on several hardware visualisation platforms, from large-format, immersive systems such as the multi-wall CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment), to portable stereoscopic projection systems, holographic projection systems, 3D TVs, tablets and smartphones, up to the new generation immersive Visors.
VR and AR technologies allow the product to be viewed during the design stages, in real scale and based on natural interaction, even before a physical prototype is produced.
Virtual reality facilitates active learning through learning by doing, which is more effective for the user compared to conventional tools.
Thanks to the new methods of augmented reality-enabled support in the field, technical assistance processes can be streamlined, with benefits including a reduction in intervention time, as well as logistics and travel costs.
VR and AR technologies allow the product to be viewed during the design stages, in real scale and based on natural interaction, even before a physical prototype is produced. This means that the planning stages can be optimised and the object-related problems (ergonomics, interferences, accessibility) anticipated, thus reducing the impact on product development costs. Immersive technologies also make it possible to evaluate alternative scenarios and to expand the range of product configurations that can be taken into consideration, to an exponential degree.
Industrial machinery and automated production systems are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and complex. Such a range of technologies requires adequate preparation: operating these systems necessitates specialist training courses, which in many cases can only be conducted on the actual system, in a wide range of situations that cannot be reproduced simultaneously (consider, for example, maintenance operations performed while the system is in shutdown), and at a high cost. By using virtual reality however, a person can be immersed in a simulated environment and given the optimum preparation through the specific creation of any operational scenario, in any place (thanks to mobile devices) and in complete safety. Advanced communication technologies also enable the development of cooperative scenarios, allowing several users to contribute to the completion of the operational tasks in the virtual world, as well as remote training scenarios.
Virtual reality facilitates active learning through learning by doing, which is more effective for the user compared to conventional tools. In addition, being an analytical tool, the virtual reality system allows any defects in the monitored training or operational processes to be corrected.
One of the companies that collaborated with Forge Reply for the application of virtual reality within the business for training purposes is ABB, a worldwide leader in energy and automation technologies. Reply has developed a web-based virtual reality software for ABB, in which all the information is analytically collected to examine the person's potential qualification in relation to the use of the technologies required by the role. The VR system leaves a numerical trail of everything implemented in the training session, providing benefits in terms of training as well as research and development: the software detects the difficulties shared by a large number of individuals, providing a report that shows the R&D department which changes to make in order to improve the tool's usability.
Technical assistance in the field is a critical factor for carrying out operations involving the installation, maintenance, fine-tuning or repair of machines and systems in an industrial environment. In fact, these operations often require companies to send highly qualified staff to support local technicians, with a considerable waste of resources in terms of time and cost. Thanks to the use of the latest augmented reality technologies, these processes can be radically streamlined: the use of specific mobile devices or holographic visors allows users in the field to superimpose digital information (infographics, images, videos, 3D models, diagrams, manuals, operating parameters) onto the real context, corresponding to the areas concerned. This means that, upon arriving in the area requiring intervention, the technicians can autonomously and in real time consult in an augmented reality environment all the basic technical information needed to perform the planned activities. If the complexity of the operations requires the intervention of a specialist, the local technician can request support by means of a remote assistance session in augmented reality. In this case, a user who is connected via the internet is able to follow the operator in the field first hand and guide the intervention by voice and with information given in augmented reality. All the operations can also be documented and archived through videos and images captured in real time during the intervention sessions.