How Is Industrial Augmented Reality Taking Form?

Industrial augmented reality (AR) takes several forms. The holy grail—and eventually prevalent format—is headworn AR, where visualization software is installed on AR glasses such as Microsoft’s HoloLens. Nearer-term deployments also include smartphone- or tablet-based AR.

Beyond AR’s vessels, there are also varied functions. For example, remote assistance (a.k.a. “see what I see”) lets subject-matter experts remotely view (via camera) and guide front-line workers. The latter can occur through voice instructions or spatially accurate line-of-site annotations.

Conversely, preauthored AR involves programmed animation sequences that overlay machine parts with line-of-sight instructions for maintenance or assembly. Sequences are usually activated through user inputs and visual markers. The latter also helps to spatially anchor graphics.

Lastly, somewhere in between these two methods is the growing practice of recording AR sessions. This helps to capture best practices, train new users, or inform future scenarios. It can also help retain institutional knowledge at a time when job turnover is high.

Industrial AR Benefits

Advantages for these and other AR formats are varied, meaning broad applicability to functions such as maintenance and assembly. Advantages map to microbenefits such as unit economics of production, as well as macrobenefits, such as organizational evolution. Here are a few examples.


Time to Task Completion—Line-of-sight overlays can speed productivity by up to 90% by replacing the process of mental mapping (cognitive translation of 2D instructions to 3D space).

Machine Uptime—When machines break, vendors fly experts to a job site. That creates machine downtime, which has a large opportunity cost. Remote assistance eliminates the need for travel.

Error Reduction—Just as line-of-site AR instructions speed up productivity, they can lessen costly mistakes. By reducing human error from mental mapping, AR can have real bottom-line impact.


Morale—AR’s liberation from mental mapping can reduce strain, which leads to more comfortable work. Reducing errors can also improve workplace safety, performance, and self-esteem.

Longevity—The most experienced workers often do the most strenuous work (think field maintenance). Remote assistance positions them as remote experts, thus increasing their longevity.

Institutional Knowledge—By increasing longevity, organizations collectively retain knowledge. Recorded AR sessions meanwhile can capture that knowledge to train new workers.

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