The use of extended reality – that’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology – is quite limited in the home. Xbox and PlayStation users are strapping on VR headsets for more immersive gameplay. Several companies have developed apps that use AR to help sell their products, such as IKEA’s, which shows you how pieces of its furniture could look in your home. And we all remember the splash Pokémon Go made when it was released in 2016. Despite this, we have still only scratched the surface of what extended reality (XR) can do for consumers.

Happily, it’s a different story in the workplace.

A disruptive technology

XR technology seamlessly blends the real and digital worlds, bringing computer-generated graphics to life and superimposing images on what the user sees. The practical uses this technology could have are vast – it’s set to take the disruptor crown from mobile technology in both B2C and B2B environments.

Cutting-edge products at CES

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019. Here, a number of innovative new products emerged that will have a significant bearing on the aerospace industry.

These include mixed reality headsets, such as those from French start-up Lynx, which allow wearers to interact with virtual objects. The headsets can be used during pilot training, maintenance training or even for remote collaboration on maintenance events occurring in distant locations.

Remote collaboration through XR is also a major functionality of a new software-based industrial AR assistant from MAXST. The assistant provides real-time IoT data from industrial machines. Using the assistant, when a worker holds their device or smart glasses up to a machine, they can access IoT data such as the latest maintenance date, or the machine’s history. Workers can then use remote collaboration to call experts in other locations, share their screen view, draw on-screen and record work processes. According to MAXST, the technology is already being used in Samsung’s factories, though it has yet to be adopted within the aerospace industry.

Workplace XR isn’t only restricted to visual technologies. At CES, Bebop Sensors demonstrated a smart glove that uses fabric sensor technology to digitize hand movements. Bebop Sensors has said that the glove could be used to train aviation workers on how to use or fabricate equipment and can be used in conjunction with AR and VR applications.

The next generation of XR

Above all, there is a consensus that XR will revolutionise training, giving engineers and other aviation professionals hands-on experience without real-world consequences. Honeywell has already introduced a cloud-based AR and VR simulation tool to quickly train up new industrial personnel. AXIS Flight Training Systems has a similar service – using Virtual On-Site technology, AXIS Flight Training Systems engineers can monitor and guide a training school’s own technicians through complex repairs and tuning, or any other service that previously would have required an on-site visit.

In pilot training, we have recognised the value of these kinds of technologies since their inception. VR technology in its basic form has been around for decades, and while real-world uses were hard to find, flight simulation was the notable exception. Now, our industry has the potential to lead the way for the next generation of XR technologies in the design, manufacture and use of full flight simulators. It’s already underway at AXIS Flight Training Systems. In 2019, we should all prepare for the XR workplace revolution.