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PTC Says AR Can Fill A Gap When Experts Are Stuck At Home

'The technology that we're delivering is allowing people to communicate in a fundamentally different way. And when we have social distancing, when we can't travel, our technology delivers a lot of value,' PTC executive Mike Campbell says in an interview about augmented reality.

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Coronavirus Crisis Underlines Importance Of AR, PTC Exec Says

The coronavirus pandemic has set many people adrift at home while many others continue to work on the front lines at hospitals, factories and grocery stores. So what happens when a critical system breaks down, requiring the assistance of a specialist who's stuck at home or hundreds of miles away?

PTC executive Mike Campbell says augmented reality, the technology that enables virtual objects to be overlaid into the real world with a mobile device or headset, provides a compelling solution to the logistical challenges created by social distancing, stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions put in place to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak — which is why the Boston-based industrial software vendor is offering one of its AR applications,  Vuforia Chalk , for free until at least the end of June.

[Related: Coronavirus Has ‘Expedited’ Need For CBT’s Remote Expert/Connected Worker Solution ]

In an interview with CRN, Campbell said PTC has seen a four-fold increase in usage for Vuforia Chalk since travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines have been put in place.

"The technology that we're delivering is allowing people to communicate in a fundamentally different way," said Campbell, who is PTC's executive vice president of AR products. "And when we have social distancing, when we can't travel, our technology delivers a lot of value."

Maddy Hawkins, director of IoT sales at Aquitas Solutions, a Roswell, Ga.-based PTC partner that provides connected maintenance solutions, said her company is already seeing a need for AR solutions like Vuforia Chalk with multiple manufacturing and maintenance customers who are struggling to send systems experts to multiple plants to help with repairs.

"One of our customers, we've got a guy who manages and supports maintenance across multiple plants. Typically his job involves flying out from plant to plant to help support their individual plant initiatives," she said. "And when there's issues, he is the subject matter expert, and he can go help troubleshoot things. So he's really faced with a lot of problems right now where he can't leave his house."

As a part of PTC's Vuforia AR product portfolio, Campbell said Vuforia Chalk offers the "fastest time-to-value" because it can be used as smartphone app to quickly draw annotations over live video to help point out different components in a system and how they work for a field worker.

"Sometimes we describe it as 'FaceTime on steroids,'" he said, referring to Apple's popular video chat app. "You know how to have a video call. Now you can just draw on the video call, and those annotations stick, and we can both see them."

In his interview with CRN, Campbell talks about how organizations can use AR to navigate social distancing obstacles for physical locations, how the current crisis is underlining the need for such technologies and PTC's future plans for its AR and IoT solutions. The following is an edited transcript.

 
 
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