New tech­no­lo­gies and the deploy­ment of Aug­men­ted Reality:

The Digi­tal­werk in Wer­der sup­ports small and medi­um-sized busi­nesses for digitalisation.

Can the hand­ling of a wel­ding machi­ne be trai­ned digi­tal­ly? Could you yours­elf pro­du­ce spa­re parts or pro­to­ty­pes in small quan­ti­ties? And can a digi­tal soft­ware for boo­king appoint­ments redu­ce the workload for employees who, for exam­p­le, are ans­we­ring pho­ne calls and coor­di­na­ting requests for appoint­ments in hair­dres­sing salons? The Digi­tal­werk in Wer­der shows craft enter­pri­ses and repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of small and medi­um-sized busi­nesses the kind of digi­tal tech­no­lo­gies which will be available to them in the future.

Digi­tal appli­ca­ti­ons such as “Lear­ning to weld with Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty”, 3D prin­ting, work­force plan­ning soft­ware or digi­tal cash regis­ter sys­tems can be tried out for free at seve­ral inter­ac­ti­ve sta­ti­ons on site. The pro­ject - sup­port­ed by fun­ding from the Euro­pean Uni­on and the sta­te of Bran­den­burg - was laun­ched in 2019 with a focus on craft busi­nesses and, fol­lo­wing an exten­si­on of the fun­ding peri­od, is now also taking a clo­ser look at such sec­tors as cul­tu­re, tou­rism or sta­tio­na­ry retail.

The inter­ac­ti­ve sta­ti­ons are the Digitalwerk’s core offer. In addi­ti­on, events, work­shops and trai­ning cour­ses are orga­nis­ed in order to pre­sent the sen­si­ble and effi­ci­ent inte­gra­ti­on of digi­tal pro­ces­ses into ever­y­day working life. This can invol­ve more com­plex solu­ti­ons with hard­ware, such as tho­se requi­red for a 3D prin­ter, as well as a digi­ta­li­sed work­force plan­ning sys­tem which enables a craft busi­ness to coor­di­na­te its orders efficiently.

“We offer ent­ry-level for­mats. Not ever­yo­ne has a smart­phone to hand on a dai­ly basis or knows any­thing about VR glas­ses. We also need to show a mas­ter pain­ter who has been run­ning the busi­ness for 30 years what digi­tal solu­ti­ons might available for him,” says Alex­an­der Skam­bath who coor­di­na­tes the ser­vices for the craft sec­tor and mana­ges press and PR. “We are acces­si­ble online for ever­y­bo­dy - in other words, our offer covers the who­le of Brandenburg.”

Enhan­cing lear­ning pro­ces­ses using Aug­men­ted Reality

A lot of rese­arch may have been done in the field of Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty (AR) and Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty (VR) at uni­ver­si­ties and in the field of sci­ence, but hard­ly any valid data has been coll­ec­ted to date in busi­nesses to show whe­ther and how useful its deploy­ment is. This is whe­re the­re seems to be a gap in the rese­arch. Inde­pendent­ly of Digi­tal­werk, Jan Wage­ner, who has sin­ce beco­me respon­si­ble for deve­lo­p­ment and pro­gramming as a pro­ject mana­ger at the com­pa­ny, had inves­ti­ga­ted this as part of his stu­dies in Com­pu­ter Sci­ence and pre­sen­ted the fin­dings in his master’s the­sis on the “Deve­lo­p­ment and Eva­lua­ti­on of an Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty (AR) Appli­ca­ti­on to Sup­port Lear­ning Pro­ces­ses in the Work­place Environment”.

Alt­hough AR and VR are alre­a­dy used in lar­ge indus­tries - and are even on the ISS space sta­ti­on whe­re remo­te main­ten­an­ce is under­ta­ken using Holo­Len­ses -, the pos­si­ble appli­ca­ti­ons in small and medi­um-sized enter­pri­ses have rare­ly ever been the sub­ject of sci­en­ti­fic rese­arch, accor­ding to Jan Wage­ner. Yet many examp­les of con­cre­te appli­ca­ti­on are con­ceiva­ble. Com­plex machi­nes regu­lar­ly have to be set up or main­tai­ned in com­pa­nies as well as in the field. For exam­p­le, a cof­fee machi­ne manu­fac­tu­rer, who­se tech­ni­ci­ans are ser­vicing dif­fe­rent machi­nes, can sup­port and train employees with AR ins­truc­tions by having them fol­low the repair ins­truc­tions using AR glas­ses. Anyo­ne who is then stuck with a pro­blem out in the field can request help via a remo­te video link.

Prin­ted Ins­truc­tion manu­al vs. Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty app

So, will Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty and Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty real­ly help to streng­then lear­ning pro­ces­ses and gui­de employees in the future? Can ope­ra­tio­nal pro­ce­du­res be mas­te­red and core pro­ces­ses impro­ved? In order to crea­te a sci­en­ti­fic basis for this, Wage­ner had 14 test per­sons con­s­truct an auto­ma­tic dis­pen­sing sys­tem as part of a prac­ti­cal exer­cise. The dis­pen­sing sys­tem con­sis­ted of com­pon­ents that were com­plex, but not too com­plex. The fil­ling of the glass was con­trol­led by elec­tro­nics. A glass sen­sor mea­su­red when the glass was full. Accor­ding to the ins­truc­tions, various cables had to be con­nec­ted with one ano­ther or, say, object A with object F. The assem­bly was a chall­enge for the inex­pe­ri­en­ced and unskil­led test per­sons. They included trai­nees, stu­dents, office workers and pro­ject mana­gers aged bet­ween 35 and 56, with dif­fe­rent edu­ca­tio­nal back­grounds - all with litt­le expe­ri­ence of AR. The par­ti­ci­pan­ts were divi­ded into two groups: one half fol­lo­wed each step in clas­sic prin­ted ins­truc­tions, the other half was gui­ded by using Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty. The ins­truc­tions appeared with text and arrows in their AR glas­ses (Micro­soft Holo­Lens 2). Micro­soft Dyna­mics 365 was the soft­ware used by Wage­ner here.

The eva­lua­ti­on show­ed the results coming out in favour of using AR. The­re was a bet­ter rating for the con­cepts deve­lo­ped for the ins­truc­tions using AR, and the test per­sons also said that they lear­ned signi­fi­cant­ly more. An impro­ve­ment in per­for­mance was cle­ar­ly achie­ved in the test envi­ron­ment. AR could thus pro­ve hel­pful in sup­port­ing ope­ra­tio­nal pro­ces­ses as well as in-com­­pa­­ny trai­ning. The new AR/VR glas­ses and soft­ware coming onto the mar­ket in the near future can help small and medi­um-sized enter­pri­ses to beco­me even more fami­li­ar with the many pos­si­bi­li­ties offe­red to them by AR.

In the mean­ti­me, you can test new inter­ac­ti­ve sta­ti­ons at Digi­tal­werk, visit work­shops or explo­re the who­le ran­ge of ser­vices on offer in a rela­xed atmo­sphe­re at the Open Day on 13 Janu­ary: https://​digi​tal​-werk​.org/​n​e​u​e​-​w​o​r​k​s​h​o​p​s​-​i​m​-​j​anuar/

About MTH Blog

The media tech­no­lo­gies of the future are alre­a­dy being used today – not only in the enter­tain­ment sec­tor, but also in a wide varie­ty of indus­tries. Chris­ti­ne Lentz meets up with tech enthu­si­asts, estab­lished com­pa­nies and rese­ar­chers for our month­ly Media­Tech Hub Pots­dam blog to tell the sto­ries behind the inno­va­ti­ve busi­ness models.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.