Manufacturers are instilling augmented intelligence into production processes. Augmented intelligence applies new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and virtual reality to human work processes to enhance the capabilities of workers. It supplements their abilities with additional knowledge and technology tools, which effectively raises their skill level and improves production output.

AI is a key component of augmented intelligence applications. By 2020, Gartner analysts predict AI will add 2.3 million jobs and eliminate 1.8 million positions, with net jobs added growing to 2 million by 2025.[1] A recent Infosys Ltd. survey of global information technology leaders and senior corporate executives found initial applications of AI are demonstrating verifiable improvements in productivity and performance.[2]

Manufacturing is among the first sectors to experience this new level of technological transformation. While factory floors have long incorporated robots to perform a wide range of production tasks, augmented intelligence is viewed as the next step in the evolution of manufacturing.

Augmented intelligence improves worker performance, increases speed, ensures quality, reduces errors and can enable processes beyond human capabilities. Augmented intelligence applications range from handheld devices for machinery commands to virtual environments used in product testing.[3]

Here are some other specific examples of how augmented intelligence is being applied to manufacturing processes:[4]

  • Smart glasses displaying assembly instructions, technical drawings and video demonstrations help workers master complex assembly processes quickly.
  • Smart helmets support automated production processes by providing workers with visual and audio information once held only by supervisors in the control room. The helmets enable workers to move freely and carry their enhanced capabilities anywhere on the factory floor.
  • Augmented reality is technology that superimposes the real world with images, video and information to enhance or supplement the person’s experience.[5] Augmented intelligence combining augmented reality with computer-generated holographic images is being used for machinery maintenance. Workers use a 3-D model of the equipment to complete maintenance inspections, enabling them to safely and virtually check actual conditions against maintenance targets in a controlled environment.
  • Telepresence tools similar to Skype enable companies to provide expert technical support remotely. Senior technical experts can view problems simultaneously with the on-site technician and provide expert advice to resolve the problems.
  • Augmented reality can be used to provide just-in-time technical training and guidance to supplement factory workers’ job-specific knowledge and experience.
  • Quality assurance inspectors are taking photographs of specific parts and assemblies in the manufacturing process and using augmented reality overlays to compare them against manufacturers’ quality standards and spotlight discrepancies.

[1] “Gartner Says By 2020, Artificial Intelligence Will Create More Jobs Than It Eliminates,” press release issued by Gartner, Inc., Dec. 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3837763

[2] “AI-powered Tools Cutting Tasks, Not Jobs: Survey,” by Angus Loten, The Wall Street Journal, CIO Journal blog, Jan. 23, 2018. Available at: https://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2018/01/23/ai-powered-tools-cutting-tasks-not-jobs-survey/

[3] “What Can Augmented Reality Do For Manufacturing?” by Ian Wright, Engineering.com blog, May 11, 2017. Available at: https://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/14904/What-Can-Augmented-Reality-Do-for-Manufacturing.aspx

[4] “What Can Augmented Reality Do For Manufacturing?” by Ian Wright, Engineering.com blog, May 11, 2017. Available at: https://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/14904/What-Can-Augmented-Reality-Do-for-Manufacturing.aspx

[5] Definition of augmented reality found at McMillan Dictionary online, available at: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/buzzword/entries/augmented-reality.html

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