Numerous technologies that help achieve sustainability goals and emissions reduction have been sought after by industry 4.0 enterprises and manufacturers. These include automation tech, sensor technology, IoT and wireless connectivity tools, among others.
As a result, entire industries and manufacturers can now generate, collect, track and analyze massive amounts of data that serve as the foundation for AI initiatives thanks to these technological tools. Today’s businesses and leaders are now able to effectively use data and technologies to advance their digital transformation efforts while also supporting their corporate and sustainability initiatives.
Tools for Sustainability
As a result of this use, manufacturers are implementing technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to create enhanced product designs, optimize production planning and logistics, conduct predictive maintenance, improve quality and process controls, use agile robots, improve energy efficiency and minimize waste in their operations. These technologies have proven to help further an organization’s digital transformation strategies through greater efficiency and reduction of costs.
AI can receive and process a wide range of information thanks to a combination of sophisticated sensory devices and computer vision. In comparison to the time required for human analysis, this enormous amount of data can be analyzed much more quickly. An improved outcome is produced by enhancing the data with machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP). Therefore, AI is playing a more significant role in sustainable manufacturing.
How AR and VR Play An Important Role
For it’s part, AR/VR technology is also adding even more power to the sustainable business practices mission. Let’s first explain the differences between AR and VR technology.
Augmented reality (AR) refers to a technology used by manufacturers or enterprise businesses that adds virtual elements to the real world. These virtual elements can appear in the form of text, images, 3D models or animations, for example. They are usually displayed via a smartphone or special AR glasses. AR can be used for various purposes, such as marketing, design/engineering, education, navigation or training.
Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, refers to a technology that creates a virtual world that enterprise users can enter with the help of VR glasses. In a VR environment the user can interact, manipulate objects and even perform physical movements. This allows users to interact with the virtual world. VR can be used for various purposes, such as design, simulations, training or customer site visits.
Manufacturers that leverage AR/VR quickly realize they are helping the planet by meeting consumer demand for sustainable practices, practicing responsible consumption and production, reducing waste in early product design and redesign stages, promoting and teaching recycling practices and supporting brand transparency. As a specific set of examples, aerospace and military organizations that utilize AR/VR training in replace of real-world training reduce jet emissions in the air. Virtual design and engineering reduces waste on the production floor of physical products. And virtualized customer site visits also reduces emissions from transportation of physical in-person meetings.
Sustainable practices in the creation, distribution and sale of brands’ products are becoming more and more in demand. By purchasing particular products, consumers are voicing their opinions. Even if it costs more, they are choosing to support environmentally conscious, sustainable brands over less environmentally friendly ones.
Multiple sustainable solutions are further provided by virtualized technologies. Live AR events are one such remedy, as they eliminate the need for extraneous travel, excessive printing and other waste associated with real-world live events. However, connected enterprise experiences are a new trend that many manufacturers are also excited about. Here, builders and contractors may scan a special QR code, which triggers blueprints or a digital design of a house or commercial facility where they can see a close rendition of the finished product in a virtual environment, reducing waste and emissions that would have otherwise been produced in a physical environment.
3D and AI Drive Higher Levels of Sustainability
One of the key requirements for AR/VR applications is to precisely overlay on an object its model or the digital twin. This helps in providing work instructions for assembly and training, and to catch any errors or defects in manufacturing. The user can also track the object(s) and adjust the rendering as the work progresses, solidifying the sustainable business practice.
Most on-device object tracking systems use 2D image and/or marker-based tracking. This severely limits overlay accuracy in 3D because 2D tracking cannot estimate depth with high accuracy, and consequently the scale and the pose. This means even though users can get what looks like a good match when looking from one angle and/or position, the overlay loses alignment as the user moves around in six degrees of freedom (6DOF). Also, the object detection, identification and its scale and orientation estimation — called object registration — is achieved, in most cases, computationally or by using simple computer vision methods with standard training libraries. Examples include: Google MediaPipe, VisionLib.
This works well for regular and/or smaller and simpler objects such as hands, faces, cups, tables, chairs, wheels and regular geometry structures, etc. However, for large, complex objects in enterprise use cases, labeled training data (more so in 3D) is not readily available. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to use the 2D image-based tracking to align, overlay and persistently track the object and fuse the rendered model with it in 3D. By utilizing AR/VR in 3D and in conjunction with AI, users can realize a proper outcome and ensure that their virtualized process has led to a more sustainable business practice.
With these technologies in use, manufacturers and business leaders can know that their investments in AI, mixed reality solutions and tools such as IoT, among others, will help them arrive closer to their corporate sustainability goals in the years to come.