PTC Adds Augmented Reality Support for Microsoft HoloLens
Kyle Maxey posted on April 11, 2016 |
HoloLens headset. (Images Courtesy of Microsoft)

HoloLens headset. (Images Courtesy of Microsoft)

PTC has announced that its Vuforia augmented reality (AR) suite will support Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset and that a software development kit (SDK) will be available this spring.

You might be saying to yourself, “Ummm, excellent! But what in the world is Vuforia?”

No worries. You can be forgiven for not knowing Vuforia. It’s not exactly a household name.

PTC’s Vuforia is a platform for developing computer vision functionality (i.e., AR, virtual reality [VR]). While most computer vision functions require weeks of painstakingly complex coding, Vuforia allows users to develop AR applications with a simple API. When combined with Unity, a a popular game development platform, users can quickly build applications that can run on a wide range of devices and ensure that viewers will have a rich and immersive AR experience.

In an effort to expand Vuforia’s user base (the software does have 200,000 registered developers across the world), PTC’s team used a demo at Microsoft’s Build conference to highlight how it has integrated Microsoft’s new AR headset with Vuforia, while also mentioning that it has convinced industry heavyweights that AR is a valuable tool.

Caterpillar configuration as seen through the HoloLens.

Caterpillar configuration as seen through the HoloLens.

Caterpillar is known worldwide for creating some of the toughest machines around, so when they endorse a product, people tend to listen. During PTC’s Build demo, Caterpillar explained how they’ve already started to use Vuforia and HoloLens to create interactive, life-size product configuration on the fly. Then they showed how it works.

By donning the HoloLens and interacting with a tablet, users can visualize an accurate CAD representation of the product. If components need to be added or subtracted from a machine’s configuration, users can pick options from the tablet and see a 3D visual representation of their changes instantly through the HoloLens.

“AR could help provide hands-free voice access to visual information as a customer configures a product solution or performs maintenance and repair procedures on the equipment,” said Jeff Lind, eBusiness innovation lead at Caterpillar.

Though Caterpillar has been quick to adopt PTC’s Vuforia as their AR platform, will others? It can’t be denied that AR can change the sales dynamic for heavy-machinery companies like Caterpillar, but will other industries feel the same need for AR?

My sense is that PTC’s vision for Vuforia goes well beyond product configurations and augmented catalogs. If AR catches fire across the engineering market, I can imagine Vuforia being used for simulation inspection, design reviews and possibly even design work itself. Once those application begin to take hold, well, the sky will be the limit for Vuforia and AR development platforms in general. 

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