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Seeking good industrial use cases for virtual or augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become the cool must-haves for industrial technology vendor keynotes. I have lost count of the times we’ve watched someone on stage as they swoosh and swoop through jet engines, nuclear reactors, sunken wrecks, and the like. We ooh and we ah, and then we wonder if these marvels will ever deliver real — tangible — value to the people whose job it is to actually build and maintain the jet engines and the nuclear reactors.

Too often, the keynote razzmatazz is possibly overdone. Too often, engineers on the frontline are quick to complain that the technology doesn’t actually help them do their job. It may look pretty, but it slows them down, it frustrates them, and it commits them to depressingly frequent trips to the nearest charging station.

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Attendees wear Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headsets during the Intel Corp. press event at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Intel, trying to convert its dominance of computers into a stake in the growing market for chips used in cars, is offering automakers new products aimed at making its technology crucial to the effort to develop self-driving vehicles. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

I am starting work on a report we’ll publish later this year in which I want to identify the use cases where this technology demonstrably delivers value today: real value, in terms of time or money saved, or in terms of letting operators do things they really want to do but previously couldn’t. I want to see where the tools make a real and lasting difference. Training is one use case where there’s some value. Remote assistance is another. Then the good case studies with tangible value start to dry up.

If you have real case studies, I’d love to see them. If you have customers willing to go on the record about the benefits they’re realizing, I’d love to speak with them. The focus of the document will — as always with me — be industrial sectors like manufacturing, oil and gas, transportation, logistics, utilities, etc.

(This post originally appeared on the Forrester Research blog, which can be viewed here).

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