Many established brands and smaller private companies have been spending a huge amount of money on developing new products or improving their existing products. According to the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard 2018, Samsung spent around $14.9 billion to build an AI platform and Galaxy smartphones. On the other hand, Toyota Motor Corporation spent $8.7 billion to build eco-friendly vehicles. In the last few years, companies have been fusing the new age technologies in the R&D division to accelerate the performance of the organizations and create value-driven services for customers. In this article, we will explore three main areas in R&D across enterprises where cutting-edge tools like VR/AR can play a pivotal role.
Design Visualization – CAD to VR
In the discipline of Architecture and Engineering, 2D drafting plays a major role in helping manufactures to produce various mechanical components like gears, chains, bolts and screws. However, this paper-based method is unreliable as it lacks perspective and is often time-consuming. Given the complexities of projects in the manufacturing domain, 3D CAD Software like AutoCAD and Solidwork came into existence and have now become ubiquitous in helping product designers visualize their ideas on a virtual desktop. With the recent proliferation of VR headsets, product designers in the R&D department across enterprises can now immerse themselves in a real-life environment and interact with their 3D CAD Models like never before. On the other hand, with an AR headset, product designers can see virtual 3D CAD Models superimposed over the existing real-world and use hands to scale, dismantle and rearrange various parts of it.
Examples of these benefits are already popping up in multiple industries but most notably Bell Helicopters used VR last year to speed up their time to market by 10X.
Consumer Research is one of the most important activities in R&D, as it can give researchers an understanding of consumers' expectations and buying behaviour. R&D teams have been using traditional methodologies like Surveys, Questionnaires, Focus Group and other techniques to garner consumer insights; however, this has resulted in dishonest and unconscientious responses. In the field of consumer research, Virtual Reality can revolutionize the traditional methodologies, which have been used by researchers to conduct studies for decades. With eye-tracking enabled VR headsets, researchers can test their product by letting the human subject explore it in the virtual world. Next, researchers can capture the involuntary muscle movements of the human subject using heatmaps and gaze. This can help researchers in the R&D departments to collect accurate data and make informed decisions in the product designing and the manufacturing phase.
In many organizations, the Research and Development team oversees the quality checks on products manufactured by the organization to ensure that the products meet customers’ expectations. Traditionally, the quality control team uses a printed checklist, workflows and procedures to monitor every component that makes a product. This is often time consuming and inefficient. By leveraging Augmented Reality for quality control and assurance, the R&D team can get information on defective and damaged products immediately. With the help of AR Glasses, graphical instructions can instruct the user how to carry out the visual inspection process so that no process in the product development phase is omitted. This can save the company from incurring huge losses, and make the R&D department more efficient and flexible.