April 1, 2020 – Computer software and services provider, PTC, has announced this week that it is offering its ‘Vuforia Chalk’ remote assistance augmented reality platform for free to businesses, as part of its effort to help companies amidst the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Vuforia Chalk leverages augmented reality to facilitate collaboration between offsite and on-site employees for the continued operation, maintenance, and repair of products and services in the field.
COVID-19 has forced workers worldwide to work from home as a result of World Health Organization and individual governmental guidelines that recommend people maintain social distance from fellow employees. However, for many workers, including those working in the tech industry, performing certain tasks at home can be difficult or requires a special set up. People are now having to learn how to solve these problems through telecommunication and remote collaboration.
Adapting to a new way of working remotely can be challenging, particularly for industrial companies, many of which have globally-distributed employee populations, supply chains, and customer bases. According to PTC, the challenge can be especially acute when special expertise is needed to carry out specific on-site tasks—such as operating or repairing complex machinery, or building and maintaining emergency structures such as temporary field hospitals.
In these instances, maintenance staff must still go to work, but in response to government directives businesses and organizations have to limit the number of people who work onsite at any one time. In addition, support systems and manufacturing lines are under an increased demand to produce larger quantities of emergency supplies. Experts are available, but there are not enough to be everywhere needed.
PTC states that the solution is simple: put an expert on the phone with a staff member in the field. Furthermore, adding augmented reality to the equation can help, as it allows remote experts to see what on-the-spot field workers are seeing, and then advise them on how to best perform a task.
Remote Assistance with Augmented Reality (RAAR) systems enable technicians and experts to work together while physically separated, allowing them to solve problems faster and more effectively, and ensuring knowledge transfer and collaboration continue in order to keep processes running. Such systems make it possible to provide expert assistance without travel, reduce machine downtime, as well as meet current recommended social distancing measures.
PTC developed its own Vuforia Chalk RAAR system in 2017. The platform enables communication through a combination of PTC’s Vuforia AR Platform and Apple’s ARKit technology. It allows people in different locations to share a live view of the same environment, and draw simple annotations that the company refers to as ‘Chalk Marks’. Chalk Marks appear anchored to objects and surfaces in the environment, as if drawn on the objects and surfaces themselves.
In addition to the markup and location data processed through Chalk, voice communication also goes on simultaneously, and all of the activities can have the video and audio recorded and therefore re-used as training material for subsequent workers. Thus, a RAAR has a multiplier factor to it—write once, read many.
Until June 30th, and longer if the current health crisis dictates, PTC has stated that it will be offering Chalk for free, with no obligations. PTC hopes this will help companies continue to deliver critical expertise to remote service technicians and customers. Interested parties can get a free copy of it here.
Video credit: PTC/YouTube