From training factory workers to shopping in the grocery store, virtual and augmented reality technologies are taking huge leaps forward.
Accenture Interactive, which has offices in Irving, and its partners, Avanade, and Fjord Design and Innovation, showed off their cutting-edge VR and AR applications at the Accenture Tech Vision Lounge experience June 1 at Tech Wildcatters in downtown Dallas.
Much of the technology is done in partnership with Microsoft and its hardware.
THE DIGITAL BRICK AND MORTAR STORE
Gesture-based technology first developed for video games could make its way into grocery stores and the electronics aisle, giving shoppers instant access to reviews or a product’s origin.
Accenture has partnered with Avanade to create a digital augmented grocery store where shoppers gesture over a product and automatically see information about it on screens.
The technology debuted last year at a Coop Italia grocery store in Milan, Italy to positive reviews. The store is similar in to Whole Foods.
The idea is that today’s shoppers are used to having access to a wealth of information when shopping online. This brings that experience to the stores.
Motion sensors similar to the ones used in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect know when a customer has gestured over a bin containing apples or oranges. Flat screens above the shelves give information on the product.
Mike Marketos, chief technical and information officer at Avanade, a partner of Accenture, said this allows brick and mortar stores to compete with e-commerce.
“It’s great for the in-store experience,” Marketos said. “There’s a trend across all of retail where we’re seeing that merge.”
The same technology could be used in any retail environment, even helping customers with directions in-store using a Pokemon Go type AR experience.
The hardware is expensive, but the price comes down if bought in bulk, Marketos said. The software also has to be constantly updated.
DON’T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
Following paper directions to put something together, whether it’s LEGOS or an IKEA desk, is so 20th century.
BrickClick takes users step-by-step through the assembly process using AR that shows which piece to put where. Users wear Microsoft Hololens goggles, which superimposes digital arrows and a graphic of the next step in the assembly.
Fjord Design and Innovation, a division of Accenture, developed the software as a test for much bigger things. Yes, consumers could someday use it to assemble furniture, but more importantly it could be a training tool for new employees on an assembly line, said Theo Christensen, 3D developer and VR specialist at Fjord.
Imagine an AR simulation to build an entire engine, for example.
“It means you don’t have to take an experienced engineer off the line to do hands-on training.”
“We’re trying to make this as intuitive as possible,” Christensen said. “It means you don’t have to take an experienced engineer off the line to do hands-on training.”
He envisions a world where a program such as BrickClick does the training.
Like anything else, the price of the Hololens goggles needs to come down before this can be adopted by the masses. The goggles are essentially a self-contained laptop that fit on your head and cost about $3,000, Christensen said.
VR TRAINING SCENARIOS
VR can also create simulations of nuclear power plants and other potentially dangerous work environments for training purposes.
Accenture developed a game called Meltdown where the user is immersed inside the control room of a failing nuclear plant. There are buttons, levers, and valves that can all be interacted with.
Everything has to be done just right or the plant has a meltdown.
Joshua Opel, a VR and AR specialist at Accenture, said this scenario could be adapted to real-life control rooms so companies could train employees.
It shows where people are proficient or need additional training.
Photos by Chase Mardis.