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PTC ready to create augmented reality 'magic' in the enterprise

One of the main themes that came out of Thursday’s PTC live-stream event is that “service is the killer app” — and augmented reality will help that app flourish.

“While the Internet of Things and machine learning have been transforming the way we operate and service things,” PTC President and CEO Jim Heppelmann said, “a new technology has arrived on the scene that will allow us to transform the way we interact and experience those things. That technology is augmented reality.”

In the hour-long event, viewers and attendees heard about and saw demonstrations of augmented reality in real-life use cases.

“Augmented reality — frequently referred to as AR — is a way of superimposing digital information in the form of computer graphics onto a live view of the physical world,” Heppelmann said. “In other words, it converges and melds together the digital and physical worlds into a single, unified visual experience.”

“We need applications to deliver value — the type of applications that generate and then augment dynamic digital content onto the physical world. The type of content you get, for example, when you blend 3D digital product descriptions with connectivity and analytics. In other words, when 3D CAD meets IoT and AR, magic happens.”

Large brands including Pepsi, Band-Aid and Kentucky Fried Chicken are already using AR platform Vuforia, which was acquired last November by Needham, Mass.-based PTC, to change the way things work.

For example, Vuforia has helped Mattel transform toys and gaming, allowed the Guinness Book of World Records to drive new types of interaction, and let Bumble Bee change how marketers brand products.

However, as much as consumer AR applications abound and are seemingly limitless, it’s time for AR to make a bigger impact, this time on the enterprise.

“While augmented reality is already transforming the way we play, it’s about to completely disrupt the way we work,” Heppelmann said.

Now companies including Hyundai, John Deere and Caterpillar are using AR to revolutionize business processes and provide services to their clients and users.

In a number of demonstrations, viewers saw firsthand how augmented reality helps make up for lack of technician experience and creates a diagnostic platform for motorcycles; helps reduce medical equipment downtime by using augmented controls to help service systems; and helps industrial equipment service providers by offering real-time support and diagnostics — no need to waste precious time flipping through a manual.

At the event, PTC also announced two new features being added to the Vuforia platform: support for Windows 10 devices (it already supports Android and iOS), as well as VuMark, a universal solution that helps developers create a “unique AR experience on any object.” One of VuMark’s touted features was how its identifier not only overcomes the limitations of bar codes, but also replaces the unsightly bar code or QR code with a customizable icon.

Vuforia’s two new features are set to be publicly available this spring.