Food manufacturers know all too well that downtime can often have an effect on your bottom line — a decrease in throughput combined with production staff waiting around costs money.
In this typical scenario we will use a cobot (collaborative robot) for the purpose of this example.

You’re in full production racking a large order of pastries that needs to be shipped within a few hours, suddenly a piece of equipment on your production line goes down — your cobot stops responding to  its programmed commands. Your first reaction may be to call the cobot manufacturer’s remote support line, however, rather than reach for your phone, you grab a holographic headset and head over to the cobot. Within a few moments, a skilled engineer looks at your cobot in real-time through your headset and guides you through troubleshooting with the help of interactive holograms — problem solved and your cobot and production is up and running!

While this may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, this new form of Mixed Reality (MR) is already available through technology such as the Microsoft HoloLens. In fact, MR could soon become the future for providing remote support to food manufacturers. Want to learn more? Check out our quick guide below!

VR, AR, and MR – What’s the difference?

First things first: You’ve most likely heard of Virtual Reality (VR) before, and you may have encountered the idea of Augmented Reality (AR) as well. However, Mixed Reality (MR) is still relatively new. Here’s a small breakdown of the differences between these similar technologies:

  • Virtual Reality (VR)
    One key component of VR is full immersion into a digital environment, where real world surroundings are not incorporated into the user’s experience. One example of VR technology is the Oculus Rift, where users are “transported” to an entirely virtual world through their VR headset.
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
    Unlike VR, AR overlays virtual components over the real world. Sometimes, digital objects created by AR are designed to interact with the user’s environments, but these interactions are usually limited. One example of AR technology is the popular mobile game Pokémon Go, where users can catch virtual creatures which roam around their real-world environment.
  • Mixed Reality (MR)
    MR is similar to AR, as it overlays virtual components over the real world as well. However, one key distinction is that the digital objects created by MR are responsive and interactive. One example of MR technology is the Microsoft HoloLens, where users can physically interact with holograms that are added to their real-world environment through their headset.

HoloLens Microsoft

MR Applications for Food Manufacturers
Now that you know what MR is, what does it mean for food manufacturers? One area with great potential
is remote support since there are a variety of benefits  provided by technology like the Microsoft HoloLens.

For example, if you were to use a phone for remote support for a cobot, you would have to verbally describe what’s wrong with the cobot, and this can be difficult for both you and the support specialist. If you’re not an engineer, you may have trouble describing the technical aspects of the cobot which can often lead to miscommunication.

However, with MR technology, the support specialist can easily see the cobot through your point of view in real time, allowing them to easily understand what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. Not only that, but with MR technology, the support specialist can provide holographic visual aids, such as arrows or diagrams to help you fix the problem yourself. And since MR utilizes a headset, the remote support experience is completely hands-free, making the entire process even more convenient!

Conclusion

Remote support through MR is certainly a promising idea for food manufacturers. After all, it provides a new level of convenience and improved communication that most people have never experienced before. Another exciting thing about MR is the fact that remote support is just the tip of the iceberg; there are a countless number of ways for MR to revolutionize the way we work.

That being said, this technology is relatively new, so there are still some developments to be made before it becomes mainstream. Even so, there’s no denying that MR will eventually result in a new way of experiencing the world, and because of that, food manufacturers need to keep an eye on it in order to stay ahead and keep production running!

 

*Microsoft Hololens – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens