Assembly instructions on the headset

Mixed reality becomes interesting for the furniture industry

In a project, the Dortmund-based company adesso mobile shows what role the use of Mixed Reality can have for the furniture industry. Assembly instructions are just one example here. In addition to the technology, however, it is above all the right approach that counts.

Sep 21 2021

Which screws should be inserted where, how is the back panel attached to the cabinet, what should I use the hammer for? If you want to assemble a piece of furniture using the instruction manual, it can quickly become confusing. In a feasibility study, adesso mobile from Dortmund now shows how this could be much easier in the future: Mixed Reality (MR) was used to connect three-dimensional content with the real environment.

In concrete terms, the assembly instructions are brought to a headset, and the users see the interactive information for assembling the piece of furniture right before their eyes, so to speak, in a real environment, such as their living room. Instead of struggling with paper instructions, the necessary work steps are presented interactively. 

Florian Bliesch, Head of Consulting at adesso mobile, is responsible for the project. "There were definitely some challenges, as is to be expected when dealing with brand-new technology, but the practicality has been quite clear." From a usability point of view, he says the hands-free scenario is particularly exciting; the application can be operated entirely with the help of the eyes, leaving the hands free for the real tool.

The MR assembly instructions show the role such applications could play in the future. "We create real added value for the customer by combining physical things and digital information and bring the analogue world together with the digital world," Bliesch explains.

If the virtual guidance is used via headset, the hands remain free. Image: adesso mobile / provided)

Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality 

What does Mixed Reality (MR) mean anyway? It is the combination of real and computer-controlled content. There is a finer distinction between augmented reality (virtual content in a real world) and augmented virtuality (real content in a computer-controlled environment). Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, is a completely computer-generated environment without real elements.  

These technologies are experiencing an enormous push - even away from familiar applications such as in gaming. According to Bliesch, there are two factors that are now driving augmented reality and mixed reality: "On the one hand, the further development and availability of the technology - whereby headsets are not necessarily needed to use MR applications, many things already work with current smartphones." The second reason is the socio-cultural development, i.e. the greater willingness to deal with digitalisation topics. "This openness and the technology push are bringing the topic into the mainstream." 

There is also another important point: the big players are very committed in this regard, for example Facebook with the Oculus Quest. "The expected market entry of Apple will also move a lot, that could happen as early as 2022," says Bliesch. Furthermore, an important topic is 5G, this will guarantee the necessary bandwidth and low latency times for high-quality mixed reality applications. "And the big mobile operators need concrete use cases for 5G, especially in the consumer market, and are pushing AR and MR for this reason." 

What does this mean for the furniture trade? 

Mixed reality is not only interesting for assembly instructions as a supplement or even replacement for written instructions. "It is also possible to use it in stationary furniture retail," explains Bliesch. For example, new office equipment could be viewed virtually in a shop on the basis of real floor plans, or complex product variants could be presented and configured vividly.

But technology is not everything. Bliesch warns that maximum transparency for customers is essential for actual use: "What do the devices do, how do we handle the data?" Secondly, added value must be apparent to customers. "No one is interested in technical details, it has to be clear what I as a customer actually get out of it." 

adesso mobile is part of the adesso Group and specialises in mobile applications. "We develop software that is oriented towards the concrete needs of the industry," explains Bliesch. Therefore, they are looking for sensible ways to use current hardware for a professional application and to implement corresponding use cases. "We see a lot of potential here, especially in the areas of maintenance, training, but also sales and after-sales."

Author: Robert Prazak 

Florian Bliesch, Head of Consulting adesso mobile: "It also works with any smartphone." Image: adesso mobile / provided

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