Three Major Augmented Reality Announcements from PTC
Andrew Wheeler posted on October 12, 2017 | 4577 views

PTC made three announcements today:

  1. The Vuforia Chalk augmented reality app is now available for iOS 11. The augmented reality (AR) app gives users the ability to share a live view of a physical environment and draw annotations remotely. The annotations are called “Chalk Marks.”
  2. Vuforia 7 has three new features and capabilities: The first is called Model Targets—a new feature for attaching content to objects that have not been recognizable using existing computer vision technology. The second feature allows Vuforia 7 users to easily overlay digital content on horizontal surfaces. The third new capability is Vuforia Fusion, which was designed to address the problem of fragmentation in AR-enabling technologies that occurs with AR APIs like ARKit from Apple and ARCore from Google as well as issues with different cameras, chipsets and sensors found in the range of mobile computing devices.
  3. ThingWorx Studio AR technology has new features and capabilities. Powered by Vuforia, it will make attaching digital content to ordinary objects and surfaces easier and more robust—plus PTC is adding support for ARKit and ARCore.

Vuforia Chalk

Engineers look for practical applications of augmented reality and ways to use it in the field for training, visualization and education. Vuforia Chalk is a free AR App for iOS 11 enabled iPhones or iPads, and it is a step in the right direction for the utilitarian-minded.

ARKit made headlines when Apple announced its release in June. Though AR is still in its infancy, the massive developer community is churning out significant content. Most of it, following the smash success of Pokémon Go, is related to gaming or marketing in the media and entertainment sector.

The Vuforia Chalk app allows people to collectively view the same physical environment and make Chalk Marks, which amount to digitally overlaid annotations that appear anchored to objects and data in the collective view of the shared physical environment. If you have a distributed design team, and you’re looking at any object or surface, any team member can make annotations. (Image courtesy of PTC.)
The Vuforia Chalk app allows people to collectively view the same physical environment and make Chalk Marks, which amount to digitally overlaid annotations that appear anchored to objects and data in the collective view of the shared physical environment. If you have a distributed design team, and you’re looking at any object or surface, any team member can make annotations. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

Remote assistance can be confusing or annoying if you’re trying to figure out how to use computing devices, industrial equipment or a control panel without being able to see it. Field technicians might benefit from using Chalk Marks if they run into an issue and need to communicate with someone who has a higher level of expertise or experience.

One of the only practical use cases I’ve covered so far in AR is AMA Xpert Eye’s custom application for Osterhaut Design Group R-7 Smart Glasses, which were used for hands-free assistance by field technicians who worked for the MBTA rail line.

The iPad requires hands. The iPhone can be used with headset devices such as Google Cardboard, but using an iPhone with augmented reality headsets like Aryzon isn’t widely done right now¬≠—the augmented reality headset that would hold the iPhone would probably have to be more robust than cardboard if it were to equal the practicality of the R-7 Smart Glasses with AMA Xpert Eye’s app. Headset devices supported by the Vuforia AR platform are expected to support Vuforia Chalk, but exactly when hasn’t been specified by PTC.

If you chose to upgrade to iOS 11 and want to download the Vuforia Chalk app you must use an iPhone 6s or later.

For iPad, you must use a 5th generation iPad Pro from 2015 or later.

Vuforia 7: Ground Plane Detection, Next-Generation Object Recognition and Support for ARKit and ARCore

Imagining and understanding what services or purposes augmented reality could provide to engineers means understanding the limitations of the tools programmers use to create applications. Right now, Vuforia is the most popular platform for developing AR programs in the world.

The most current version available is Vuforia 6.5, but Vuforia 7 with support for ARKit will be available in a future Unity release (no date was specified). Vuforia Engine SDKs also are in the pipeline for Microsoft Visual Studio, XCode and Android Studio. 

Vuforia Engine powers the creation of augmented reality apps. It visually receives data from a computing device’s cameras and sensors and synthesizes it into coordinates and geometric patterns that it recognizes where digital objects can be placed in a physical real-time environment. (Image courtesy of PTC.)
Vuforia Engine powers the creation of augmented reality apps. It visually receives data from a computing device’s cameras and sensors and synthesizes it into coordinates and geometric patterns that it recognizes where digital objects can be placed in a physical real-time environment. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

Vuforia 7 Features

  1. Model Targets: A new feature, Model Targets goes beyond the limits of contemporary computer vision technology by recognizing objects via their shapes rather than two-dimensional print media. This could serve as a foundation for more practical AR content, such as building training manuals and technical service guides, because the Model Targets feature will recognize the geometrical shapes of things including industrial equipment, vehicles and machines, so developers will be able to create digital content to attach and overlay on top.
  2. Ground Plane: Vuforia 7 will include this feature called Ground Plane for digitally “placing” content on horizontal surfaces such as tables, floors, roads, subways platforms and so on. 

    This feature allows programmers to take advantage of depth sensing cameras embedded in mobile computing devices and make visualization apps that overlay a digital 3D model onto horizontal surfaces. 

  3. Vuforia Fusion: A practical question to ask engineers is: How do you design programs for a uniform AR experience on different devices that have a diverse array of sensors, cameras, chipsets and software frameworks. Say you want to make an app to measure the area of any surface—if you want to maximize the number of potential users you could have, you should design for both ARKit and ARCore. 
Vuforia Fusion helps developers by sensing the specs of a device and fusing them with Vuforia features. It senses the capabilities of the underlying device and fuses them with Vuforia features, allowing developers to rely on a single Vuforia API for an optimal AR experience.

Vuforia 7 for ARKit will be available in an upcoming (no exact date specified) Unity release. 

ThingWorx Studio Augmented Reality Improvements for Industrial and Enterprise Sectors

ThingWorx Studio allows users to create augmented reality experiences without writing code. Besides upcoming support for Apple’s ARKit and Google’s AR Core, there are several interesting improvements such as the ability to reuse existing 3D geometries and animated sequences.

The Model Targets feature coming in Vuforia 7 will give non-programmers the ability to create experiences without requiring you to “tag” an object with markers. Instead, the software will recognize objects based on matching them with the shapes of pre-existing 3D models.

The Model Targets feature coming in Vuforia 7 will give non-programmers the ability to create experiences without requiring you to “tag” an object with markers. Instead, the software will recognize objects based on matching them with the shapes of pre-existing 3D models. (Image courtesy of PTC.)
The Model Targets feature coming in Vuforia 7 will give non-programmers the ability to create experiences without requiring you to “tag” an object with markers. Instead, the software will recognize objects based on matching them with the shapes of pre-existing 3D models. (Image courtesy of PTC.)

The implication is that digital 3D content can be precisely aligned with physical data in real-time. This could be used to provide visualization-based training where users could simulate instruction steps in augmented reality before then applying them in physical reality on the physical version of the digitally overlaid 3D data.

ThingWorx experiences can be created to show off virtual product designs and perform virtual product reviews. By enabling CAD based tracking for every type of computing device, the content created in ThingWorx can be shared by ThingWorx View, which is a viewer application that can be shared across enterprise and industrial environments for any kind of computing device, whether mobile or stationary. 

The ability to make AR interactions more accessible to create could enable more customized or generalized experiences, depending on what is needed.

If you are interested in trying it, ThingWorx View is free and available for iOS, Windows and Android computing devices. 

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