I have seen the future, and it’s written in Chalk (PTC’s Vuforia Chalk, that is!)

I just had to take time out from my live blogging of PTC’s LiveWorx ’18 to focus on one of the topics Jim Heppelmann mentioned in passing in his keynote: the new variation on the company’s Vuforia AR app: Chalk.

Significant in its own right, I suspect Chalk will have an additional, critical impact: democratizing AR.

It is an app aimed at, and accessible to, both corporate audiences AND the general public.  Downloadable for both iPhone & iPads & Android devices, I suspect that it will quickly become popular both to support remote repair staff for companies and just plain folks who are trying, for example to help a family member far away to deal with a car or plumbing repair. Not to mention the fact (mandatory disclaimer: while I work part-time for Apple, I’m not privy to any corporate internal strategy) that the spiffy new $329 6th-generation iPad really facilitates AR, and Chalk was developed in conjunction with the Apple ARKit technology so it should really become popular.

Chalk has two components:

  • real-time video and voice sharing of the same view
  • Chalk Marks, simple handswipes that allow one of the participants to highlight the part that is the subject of the question.  The “Marks” appear to be anchored to the subjects they’re “drawn” on.

Real-world uses vary from a remote super-expert helping a field technician to identify and deal with a rare problem to your millennial helping Mom master her personal technology. I saw an amazing demo this morning with one mechanic in Germany (ok, he was actually 2′ away…) directing the mechanic working on a Mercedes how to add coolant.  As the press release announcing the app said:

“Today, remote assistance can be frustrating and cumbersome. People struggle for words to describe things that are unfamiliar, whether it be a new appliance or the back of a cable box. And when the problem can’t be described clearly, it becomes almost impossible for someone else to solve. Vuforia Chalk provides a simple and intuitive solution where people can now use Chalk Marks to get a common understanding of a problem, and the steps required to solve it.”

I’ve written before that I suspected many companies got into e-commerce in the 9o’s because a CEO’s kids got him to order a book from Amazon during the holidays & he came back raving about this new device.  I can’t help thinking that this will be just the kind of low-cost (heck, in this case, no-cost) introduction to AR And the IoT that will break down some companies’ skepticism, pay off with immediate bottom line benefits in cost savings and efficiency in service operations, and get them interested in most expensive AR such as PTC’s digital twins and predictive maintenance.  Or, as ABI analyst Eric Abbruzzes said:

“Mainstream augmented reality is at the beginning of a strong positive inflection point, and Vuforia Chalk is a great example of how AR can transition from enterprise-only to use in everyday life,” said Eric Abbruzzese, ABI Research. “We see Vuforia Chalk as a fundamentally disruptive form of remote communication that will be well received across multiple sectors and for multiple use cases.”

Now to get my granddaughter to download the app so we can collaborate on the 3D-printer that I got her for her 12th- birthday!

Previewing “The Future Is Smart”: 1) Collective Blindness and the IoT

This is the first of an occasional series of posts preceding the August 1st publication of The Future Is Smart. The book will introduce the Internet of Things to business audiences and help them create affordable, profitable strategies to revolutionize their products, services, and even their very way of doing business through the IoT.  Each post will excerpt part of the book, giving you enough detail to be informative, but not — LOL — complete enough that you’ll be able to skip buying the book itself!

The critical point the book makes about revising your products and services to capitalize on the IoT is that it’s not enough to simply install sensors and beef up your data analysis: equally important are fundamental attitudinal shifts to break free from the limits of past technology and realize the IoT’s full capability.

A critical component is what I call “Collective Blindness,” a way of describing how limited we were in understanding how products actually ran in the era when we had almost no data about their operations, let alone real-time data that we (or other machines, through M2M controls) could act on instantly to create feedback loops and improve operating precision and facilitate upgrades.

Let me know what you think (after an horrific hack, I’ve decided to scrap comments on the blog — if I think it’s merited, I’ll feature your feedback in future posts)!


Technologist Jeffrey Conklin has written of “wicked problems” that are so complex they aren’t even known or detailed until solutions to them are found.

What if there had been a wicked problem, a universal human malady that we’ll call “Collective Blindness,” whose symptoms were that we humans simply could not see much of what was happening in the material world? We could only see the surface of these things, while their interiors and actual operations were impenetrable to us. For millennia we just came up with coping mechanisms to work around the problem of not being able to peer inside things, which we accepted as reality.

Collective Blindness was a stupendous obstacle to full realization of a whole range of human and business activities. But, of course, we couldn’t quantify the problem’s impact because we weren’t even aware that it existed.

In fact, Collective Blindness has been a reality, because vast areas of our daily reality have been unknowable and we have accepted those limits as a condition of reality.

For example, in a business context:

  • We couldn’t tell when a key piece of machinery was going to fail due to metal fatigue.
  • We couldn’t tell how efficiently an assembly line was operating, or how to fully optimize its performance by having changes in one machine trigger adjustments in the next one.
  • We couldn’t tell whether or when a delivery truck would be stuck in traffic, or for how long.
  • We couldn’t tell exactly when we’d need a parts resupply shipment from a supplier. (Let’s be honest: What we’ve called “just-in-time” in the past was hopelessly inexact compared to what we’ll be able to do in the future.) Nor would the supplier know exactly when to do a new production run in order to be ready.
  • We couldn’t tell how customers actually used our products once they were in the field, or help those customers adjust operations to make them more efficient.

That’s all changing now.

The wicked problem of Collective Blindness is ending, because the Internet of Things solves it, giving us real-time information about what’s happening inside things.

The Internet of Things will affect and improve every aspect of business, because it will allow us to eliminate all of those blind spots resulting from Collective Blindness, achieve efficiency, and derive insights that were impossible before.

Cisco, which focuses not only on the IoT’s enabling technologies but also on the management issues it will address, understands the Collective Blindness concept. It refers to previously opaque and unconnected things as “dark assets,” and says that, “The challenge is to know which dark assets (unconnected things) to light up (connect) and then capture, analyze, and use the data generated to improve efficiency while working smarter.”

Vuforia “sees” inside Caterpillar device

PTC has created the most literal cure for Collective Blindness: Vuforia, an AR system that lets an operator or repair person wearing an AR headset or using a tablet to go from looking at the exterior of a Caterpillar front-end loader to “seeing” an exploded view of the system that shows each part and how they connect as well as monitoring the realtime performance data of each component, gathered by sensors on the machinery. That insight can also be shared, in real-time, by others who need it.


You may quibble with my choice of the “Collective Blindness” metaphor for the obstacles we and businesses in general, faced before the IoT, but I do think we need some sweeping description of exactly how limited we used to be because the acceptance of those limits, and our inability to “see” how things really did restrict our ability to fine-tone products and their operation — and even now may keep us from re-examining everything now that we have gained this ability. Let me know your thoughts on this — and I hope you’ll stay tuned for more excerpts from The Future Is Smart in coming months.

 

Game-changer! AR Enables IoT merging of physical and digital

Several months ago I wrote about an analogy to the world of business prior to the Internet of Things,  in which a metaphorical illness called “Collective Blindness” affected every human for all time, so that we were unable to peer inside things. We just accepted that as an inevitable limitation, creating all sorts of work-arounds to try to be able to cope in the absence of real-time information about things of all sorts.

I then said that the Internet of Things would allow us to end Collective Blindness, getting — and sharing — the real-time data we’d need to make better decisions and work more precisely.

Now I’ve seen the tool that allows us to end that Collective Blindness: PTC’s Augmented Reality (AR), tool, Vuforia.

At last week’s PTC Liveworx conference, there was a mind-blowing demo of Vuforia by Terri Lewis, director of solutions and tech at Caterpillar, as it applied to the company’s XQ Gen Set, a portable power generator for job sites and special events.  As PTC CEO James Heppelmann reiterated several times, the software is creating

a single new reality that’s physical and digital at the same time….. and democratizing AR.”
(my emphasis)

Used as a sales tool, Vuforia Studio Enterprise lets the customer look inside the product, as contrasted with a static brochure.  That’s neat, but what’s really incredible is how it lets maintenance people peer inside the device, and do so in a way (as Heppelmann said, “humans prefer to use sight an sound simultaneously”) that is much more effective in terms of zeroing in not only on what’s wrong, but also these specifics (such as replacement part numbers, etc.) to quickly repair them.  Incidentally Heppelmann and Harvard Prof. and biz guru Michael Porter are collaborating on another article, this one on how to apply AR in a business setting (turns out that Porter is a member of the PTC board, and in the past few years he’s been using it as a lab to evaluate business use of the IoT).

Another example of Vuforia’s work in maintenance demonstrated at the conference was by Flowserve, the world’s largest flow control company. Vuforia helps them manage devices in real-time (the person at the pump can see what is actually happening), cutting the number of repair trips from three to one, because they are able to diagnose the problem at the beginning, and bring the replacement parts with them. Then they can do do real-time simulations to see if the problem has been solved. The company believes they saved $2 billion in excess repart costs in 2015 alone.

 Vuforia Studio AR lets users set up augmented reality simulations in minutes without writing code, and can also be used in product design review.

I had a chance to try the XQ Gen Set visualization with an AR headset myself, and it was as powerful as promised.

I must admit the first time I tried on an AR headset — and almost jumped on one of the other users because I was jumping back to avoid falling several hundred feet off a sharp cliff into the ocean — I was amazed by the realism, but didn’t really think much about its serious business uses.  PTC’s Vuforia Studio AR made me a believer: it’s helping us cure Collective Blindness, and AR will be yet another tool to bring about unprecedented precision and efficiency in every aspect of manufacturing and product maintenance!

Liveblogging #IoT @ #Liveworx 2016

1st up is Jim Heppelmann, PTC CEO and co-author w/ Michael Porter of the great 2-part HBR series on IoT strategy & tactics.

But 1st, few words from David Pogue, the great consumer tech writer: imagine his surprise when he sees his kids at home in CT have cranked the Nest 2 66 degrees. So he turns it up, LOL.

Heppelmann:

  • part of a fundamental transformation
  • one of biggest game-changing technologies of our time
  • things evolving from being simple physical products to complex systems, systems of systems
  • “single new reality that’s physical and digital at the same time”
  • example of rapid change: Augmented Reality & Virtuality combined with IoT: Terri Lewis, director of solutions & tech at Caterpiller — XQ Gen Set — rental power for job sites & sport events — “asset utilization” big deal for rentals & for the customers — can operate from a remote device (iPad in this case). PTC’s new product is Vuforia Studio Enterprise — “democratizing AR.” When used as a sales tool, lets customer look inside the product, vs. a static brochure.
  • humans prefer to use sight and sound simultaneously: he & Porter are working on another article on adding AR to business setting.
  • analytics: analytics is the new refinery for data, which is the new oil.  Announcing Thingworx Analytics. Example: Flowserve, an industrial products company.World’s largest flow control company. Helps to do real-time management of the device. It now takes only 1 repair trip to fix assembly rather than 3 before, because they know the actual problem at beginning. Do real-time simulations to see if it was solved.  Augmented Reality allows the person right at the pump, to see what is actually happening — that wasn’t possible before. Radically reduces time & money necessary to get it back online — reducing what was a $2 billion loss in 2015 alone.
  • New announcement: HPE industrial, hardened server to run such a system.
  • Engineering products: working with a group of local STEM kids in a robotics competition, FIRST Robotics. Use AR as part of the design review process, using Google Cardboard & Agile Engineering process. Team demo’s it.
  • He thinks they are THE company for digital/physical convergence.

Michael Campbell, Vuforia Studio AR:

  • augmented reality without writing code
  • reduces the CAD data set by 150x to optimize it, but protects all the visual richness
  • use in design review
  • can create compelling AR in a few minutes! Woo!
  • can actually put the digital info on the physical product itself.  Creo Illustrate for tech illustrators: step-by-step illustrations (wow, would that be great for product assembly and repair uses!). Intuitive interface, drag-n-drop.

 

http://www.stephensonstrategies.com/">Stephenson blogs on Internet of Things Internet of Things strategy, breakthroughs and management