How to Create and Deliver Intelligent Information

See what’s behind – Augmented Reality and User Assistance

How did that go again?

People today are facing an enormous burden of information; there is an oversupply of information that is quickly outdated. Digitization and networking, technically highly complex machines, numerous product variants – against this background, it goes without saying that there are gaps in the user’s knowledge.

When I ask myself the question “How did that go again?” I would like a clear answer and a quick solution! No nerve-wracking search marathon in a 10 cm thick operating manual. Even the best information is of no value if it is not available when a user needs it. Unnecessary searching takes time, time costs money. Targeted information delivery and active support are required. Augmented Reality opens up new dimensions to provide efficient support to users.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality makes it possible to supplement the “real” physical world with digital information. It means that in addition to the “real” world, the user of an Augmented Reality application sees additional objects such as 3D models or animations generated by the AR application and integrated into the user’s perception space.

In order to expand the real world, it must first be captured. Different tracking methods are used for this. The AR application checks whether known patterns appear in the real world. For example, such a pattern can be a 3D model, an image, or a QR code. However, sensor or GPS data can also be used. When a pattern is detected, the AR application combines the real world with virtual objects. Here, the virtual objects are three-dimensionally related to the objects present in reality.

With the focus on technical documentation and user assistance, this means that technical information can be context-bound, multimedia-based and interactively integrated into the reality of the user. Product presentations of previously non-existing products, intelligent instructions for action, remote assistance by experts or the visualization of hidden processes, inside a product, can be realized with Augmented Reality. Particularly predestined for the use of Augmented Reality applications are the following areas:

  • Production and manufacturing
  • Maintenance, service and repair
  • Education and training

What’s the point of Augmented Reality? – Three key advantages in the use of Augmented Reality for user assistance

1. Information for the user instead of documentation

The initiation of an augmented experience is linked to the context and inseparably connected to it. This gives rise to an obvious advantage. The provision of information through an augmented reality application ensures that the context of action and user scenarios are already in the foreground during the creation of information. The creation of information continues from the classical documentation to tailor-made information and support for the user.

2. The end of frustrating and lengthy searches

Augmented Reality supports the basic idea of adapting completely to the user and his needs. The user is provided with exactly the information that is tailored to his specific situation and his individual level of expertise, completely automatically and without searching.

The AR application detects the situation a user is in and provides the required information. The information provided can be adapted to the level of expertise and the task field of the respective user. Each user receives only the information that is actually relevant to him. For example, an operator receives completely different information about a machine than a trainee or service technician. The user is actively supported in the action sequence, instead of being repeatedly pulled out of it by the effort-intensive search for information. All the information the user needs is provided in a centralized application, contextual and user-specific, saving valuable time, increasing efficiency, and promoting a positive user experience.

3. Makes something complex easy to understand

Augmented Reality applications make complex information easy to understand. Visualizations, animations and text are dynamically combined in the user’s perception space. The main advantage here is that information, such as instructions for action or component designations, is not “rigid” in an operating manual. All required information is projected directly onto the respective machine or component. For a better understanding, here is a vivid example:

Complex repair work must be carried out on a machine. The responsible technician cannot be expected to be trained for all possible cases or to always know exactly how and in what order the respective steps are to be carried out. Our technician needs support! That’s why he puts on his data glasses and receives instructions that guide him step-by-step through the repair. Components are recognized by the AR application and color-coded on the machine. Displayed direction arrows show how to perform motion sequences. If necessary, the technician can also retrieve an action sequence as an animation. This animation is also projected directly onto the machine. Required tools, warnings, and tips are dynamically displayed and displayed just when they are important to the technician. This form of instruction and the visualization of the information directly on the machine make complex action sequences, procedures easy to understand.

The focus of the application is always the user, his perception and his perspective. By interacting with the application, it can customize or influence the presentation of the information itself. Step-by-step instructions aren’t just run through. They are experienced. The user performs the action, supported by the application. Parallel to the augmented reality experience, he uses all his senses. This helps, in the truest sense of the word, to better “understand” information.

Is it worth betting on AR?

The reaction to the first Augmented Reality experience is often astonishing, followed by wild assumptions about what could be possible.

But, Augmented Reality is not a miracle tool and not a panacea, but merely a technology that is excellently suited to support users in a targeted manner and to make complex action sequences easy to understand.

However, the use of the technology alone is not enough to provide the user with the “perfect” support. The most creative Augmented Reality solution is useless if it is not tailored to the needs of users.

Is it worth relying on AR?

Admittedly, the technology around Augmented Reality is still in the development or testing phase. This applies in particular to the following points:

  • Tracking
  • Output devices
  • Automated creation process
  • Translation management
  • Change management

But the interesting perspectives that Augmented Reality offers are, in my opinion, reason enough to deal with the technology.

Another important factor is the application case. It is certainly not worth using the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut. If the use case is too simple or is an everyday task, the creation effort is hardly justifiable.

Before deciding on an augmented reality solution, a detailed analysis of the target group, use case and cost-benefit ratio should always be carried out.

It is not only legitimate, but necessary to ask yourself these questions:

Does the user need support at all in this situation?

Is Augmented Reality the right form of support at all, or would another technology (e.g. a VR application, a chatbot or a utility movie) be more appropriate?

What do you think about Augmented Reality applications for User Assistance? Where do you see great potential? Where do you see weaknesses? There is room for your opinion in the comments.


Evelyn Heller

Evelyn Heller has been studying Communication and Media Management at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences since 2014. After completing her Bachelor's degree in 2018, she continues her studies in the Master's program. In particular, she focuses on User Assistance as well as the creation and distribution of information using interactive media (e.g. e-learning, augmented reality, virtual reality).

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