Stock management using Augmented Reality to improve productivity and reduce costs

A project to be tested soon in the industrial sector.

The ARWare Project is under investigation and will be tested at the Portuguese company MATCeramica, leading several technological teams to improve this innovative methodology that integrates a Head-Mounted Display with a mobile device for the purposes of real-time Augmented Reality in stock management.

AR BEATS VR

Augmented reality (AR) is a system that enhances the real world by superimposing computer-generated information on top of it. AR can be thought of as a variation of Virtual Reality (VR) – a technology that provides almost real and/or believable experiences in a synthetic or virtual way. (Springer Dictionary). Through the addition of graphics, sounds, haptic feedback, or even smell to the natural world as it exists, AR can combine real life with a super-imposed image or animation using the camera on a mobile device or AR headset. As part of the wider Extended Reality (XR) industry, the global AR market size is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, says Thomas Alsop (Statista, 2021).

This technology (AR) has reached the common user through different means, becoming widely adopted especially for advertisement, commercial purposes, and gaming. The strength of AR surpasses VR especially due to its ease of use. Most of the population has a smartphone, allowing them to use Augmented Reality in different situations, without having to buy special technology. Hence, when the target audience is the common user, this technology has been widely exploited. We have examples in advertising, tourism, architecture, product sales, among other things. In opposition to this trend, interestingly, this growing AR industry, in the games industry, hasn’t prevailed over the VR one, according to information from the “GDC – State of the Game Industry 2021”, which may be due to the greater immersion in games with VR, being the Óculos Quest the most explored platform in the market today and the preferred one for the next years in entertainment.

AR GROWING IN THE INDUSTRY SECTOR

In the industry of manufactory sector, real-time remote assistance, as well as instructions and feedback to employees, is expected to be a major application of immersive technologies within the next two years according to 75 percent of XR industry experts who responded to the 2020 survey. Also Management of inventory will have 33 percent. (Statista).

The industry needs these technologies to help improve and simplify some of their tasks and workflow. New processes should be adopted to make tasks simpler. Using Augmented Reality in conjunction with other technologies, it is possible to develop innovative solutions that aim to alleviate the difficulty of certain processes in the industry, or to reduce the time of their execution – tells us the Augmented Reality team at the Polytechnic of Leiria that is part of the ARWare project – Bruno Madeira, Pedro Alves, Tiago Silva, Anabela Marto, Nuno Rodrigues e Alexandrino Gonçalves – no artigo científico Integrating a Head-Mounted Display with a mobile device for real-time Augmented Reality purposes (Best Poster Award, VISIGRAPP 2021*).

SOLUTIONS THAT REDUCES TIME AND COSTS

As examples made by Portuguese tech enterprises, NextReality in “EDP Produção” uses Augmented and Mixed Reality solutions, allowing a remote expert to directly connect with the Microsoft Hololens worn by the on-site technician. Through this, the remote expert can follow and offer step-by-step guidance to the local technician, providing support in real time through vocal recommendation or visual indications, overlapped onto the on-site tech.

Among other advantages, this solution reduces the time and costs expenditure for providing tech support to their energy-producing equipment and facilities. Simultaneously, this technology allows improved learning, with greater access to relevant information and on the job training for remote location technicians. Also “IBOU” by Darwin & Warhol, a tool for the industrial market where training is provided in real time directly through the AR glasses, placing all the information it needs for the performance of the function in the environment, since IBOU places virtual elements overlapping the real elements step by step according to the manual, maintenance of each equipment as well as supporting videos and PDF documents. This solution has the main advantage in providing faster maintenance of industrial equipments, reducing time and costs.

ARWARE PROJECT

The ARWare project aims to develop software for companies to improve their organization, management, and the efficiency of logistics and picking operations in warehouses. It is being developed by multiple teams and involving various technologies. These are distributed in smaller pieces of software/applications that will integrate with the overall solution, such as: Route Planning software, ERP (to manage all the data and information of the enterprise), Approximate Location software, Indoor Fine Location Application, and AR Application. All these components communicate with each other using an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) from Microsoft Azure with the use of Topics (Publish/Subscribe) and also Services (Request/Response) or in the case of the communication between the AR and Indoor Fine Location Applications, with the use of UDP Sockets.

ADAPTIVE SIGNAGE FOR STOCK MANAGEMENT

The use of Augmented Reality without requiring much or no physical interaction by workers or causing many distractions, thus giving relevant information to the work to be performed without interfering with the quality of it. It will focus, more precisely, on integrating the Head-Mounted Display Moverio BT-35E with a mobile device and in describing the needed configurations for preparing this device to show information to warehouse operators. The main idea is helping the warehouse operator to have AR visual information, receiving directions to locate an item. It can be used for order picking and also for order delivery inside the warehouse. The main advantages are improve productivity, and save costs reducing human resources.

Alexandrino Gonçalves informs that the next steps of this project will be warehouse testing in MATCeramica – an enterprise that produces utilitarian ceramics in earthenware and stoneware.

Besides MATCeramica, the project is promoted by Incentea, associated with CODI – Comércio de Design Industrial, Associação C.C.G. / ZGDV – Centro de Computação Gráfica and Instituto Politécnico de Leiria. Co-financed by the ERDF – European Regional Development Fund under the Operational Program for Competitiveness and Internationalization – COMPETE 2020 of Portugal 2020 through ANI – National Innovation Agency.