Imagine this: The year is 2035.
You’re on your way to your first day of work at Future Sleep, a mattress manufacturer that uses high-tech equipment to help make the job easier. After your self-driving car parks itself, you ride your hoverboard to the entrance and facial recognition technology confirms your identity and allows you to enter the building. Then you head to your locker to grab your augmented reality glasses.
You may have no experience making mattresses, but that’s okay because your special glasses connect to an app on your phone that can show you everything you need to know—from which step is next in the process to what the next tool or piece you’ll need looks like. The headset can also tell you how to assemble the product and if there are any defects in it and where it needs to go.
That may sound far off, but that’s where manufacturing is heading over the next 5-7 years according to Dijam Panigrahi, co-founder and COO of technology company Gridraster.
Founded in 2015, the whole Gridraster team has a background of building out next-generation products—working about five to seven years ahead of what’s on the market today.
Panigrahi says the need for augmented reality and virtual reality started about seven years ago when conversations about 5G also began to happen. 5G is all about better bandwidth and lower latency, and it’s projected to work 50 times faster than 4G, which many of us have on our smartphones today.
But 5G is coming, and many think AR and VR will be key drivers of the technology.
“With 5G happening, we saw the Oculus Rift DK1, the first real VR headset, which blew our minds,” Panigrahi says. “But we realized the problem with those devices is they’re heavy and expensive— costing almost $3,000-$4,000 before people can have those immersive experiences.”
With that insight, GridRaster set out to take the immersive experience that’s confined to Oculus and bring it to a low-end device, like a mobile phone.
“We knew that at some point that we’d be able to bring the Cloud to act as a co-processor to this device,” he explains. “What you can enable then is putting all of the heavy computer stuff on the cloud and actually stream these immersive experiences on a mobile device. Then you can provide them at scale to the masses at a lower cost.”
And this technology will be especially useful when it comes to manufacturers addressing worker shortages.
Panigrahi says worker shortage in many industries, in general, has been building for a while, but it was magnified by the pandemic. And now, AR and VR can help fill that gap by training people faster in an on-the-job environment and improving the employee’s skill set immensely.
“As an example, if we give this technology to someone with less than a year of experience, they can perform at the level of someone with 5-6 years of experience,” he says. “Just because the AR glasses contextually helps them with all processes.”
If someone doesn’t have a skillset and you want to train them to do something, the glasses can show what needs to be done and go through the overlaying construction. “You just have to follow the directions, which builds a skillset and helps employees complete work almost 40% faster,” Panigrahi says.
“That’s huge in terms of bridging the skill gap because you’re able to be productive with fewer people,” he continues. “It can also train someone who has no experience. Any technology used by a manufacturer either makes things cheaper, faster, or better—but you have to sacrifice somewhere. But suddenly you have tech that can do all three.”
It’s still going to take another five to seven years for 5G to be available everywhere, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s no time at all. That means manufacturers need to start preparing now and think about how they will use it.