FRC East looks to augmented reality as potential training, troubleshooting tool

John Mitchell, left, with augmented reality company Illumination Works, fits senior materials engineer Rob Thompson with augmented reality goggles during part of a recent demonstration at Fleet Readiness Center East. (Kimberly Koonce, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs photo)

By Kimberly Koonce, Fleet Readiness Center East

CHERRY POINT — Engineers and trainers at Fleet Readiness Center East recently observed a demonstration of how augmented reality headsets can be used to create and display hands-free training and troubleshooting aids for artisans and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps customers.

FRC East’s Advanced Technology and Innovation Team has been working for about two years to bring augmented reality technology to the facility. Augmented reality uses handheld devices or digital eyewear to overlay digital information on top of physical objects, so users can see the virtual and physical environments in relation to each other. This digital information can also include graphics, text, videos and sound.

According to FRC East senior leaders, the technology has the potential to positively impact the depot in terms of safety, quality, throughput and cost.

“For artisan system familiarization training alone on new aircraft, for new capability establishment efforts, and for apprentice development, the opportunities for the use of this technology are endless,” Mark Meno, FRC East executive director, said. “Augmented reality has come such a long way that even for the crucial, tight tolerance, and complex systems found in military aviation, it is a very suitable replacement for hands-on training. I’m excited to see where we can take this next.”

ATI team members say augmented reality has the potential to streamline training and troubleshooting, which would result in significant cost savings and increased efficiencies for the depot.

“We can create content that can take out many, many steps that we currently do and condense it to a more manageable state that we have direct control over,” said Tad Sylivant, ATI team lead logistician and augmented reality project lead. “The financial impact that it brings to the table, the man-hours saved, the cost saved, the verification and validation of processes, it’s just endless to what this technology can do for us.”

Consultants from PTC, based in Boston, Mass., and Illumination Works, based in Beavercreek, Ohio, visited FRC East in late January to meet with depot leaders, engineers and training specialists to demonstrate possible applications for augmented reality at the facility.

According to ATI team members, the next three months will be spent working with stakeholders who have expressed interest in the technology, while identifying others who might not have considered augmented reality’s potential applications. Mr. Sylivant said augmented reality solutions could have a big impact on FRC East’s production efforts, even when applied to relatively simple processes.

“We could be producing a product that is as simple as putting part A to part B to produce C, or we could be executing a very complex procedure where you could have overlying source data such as CAD models, work instructions, video of the actual process, and so on,” he said. “That’s the potential of augmented reality – you can add many types of source data into the AR content to help the users have a better understanding of what they’re working on.”

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