Augmented Reality and IoT in the Enterprise

Augmented reality and the industrial internet of things (IoT) have the power to transform business and manufacturing. The CEO of a large, public company developing these technologies shares a glimpse into the future.


May 24, 2019

Augmented reality and the industrial internet of things (IoT) have the power to transform business and manufacturing. The CEO of a large, public company developing these technologies shares a glimpse into the future. 

James (Jim) Heppelmann is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of PTC, responsible for driving the company’s global business strategy and operations. During Mr. Heppelmann’s leadership tenure, PTC has assembled the industry’s leading industrial innovation platform and field-proven solutions and services that enable companies to design, manufacture, operate, and service things for a smart, connected world. He also serves on PTC’s Board of Directors.

Read more about Jim Heppelmann.


Michael Krigsman: Did you know that augmented reality in the enterprise, well, it's a reality? It's happening in manufacturing and in a variety of different areas. Today on CXOTalk, we're speaking with Jim Heppelmann, who is the CEO of PTC. Jim Heppelmann, thank you so much for taking your time and for being with us today on CXOTalk.

James Heppelmann: Great. Thank you, Michael. I'm happy to be here.

Tell us about PTC and the Evolution of Augmented Reality (AR)? 

You mentioned PTC is a Boston-based software company. We're a global company, about 6,500 employees, a little more than $1 billion of software sales every year, and a market cap of about $10 billion trading under the PTC ticker on NASDAQ, so a pretty big--I like to say large, but not extra-large--software company.

You've been in business for a long time and tell us, today, if you can summarize your business strategy.

We really think our company has a special place at that point where the physical and digital worlds come together. I mean 30 years ago, our company pioneered the field of 3D computer-aided design, and the whole idea there was to have a digital model of something that would later become physical.

Along the way, we expanded into product lifecycle management, which is really managing the configuration of those models of those things. Then, more recently, we really doubled down on IoT software with our ThingWorx platform and augmented and virtual reality software with our Vuforia platform. We see IoT and AR as really ways of connecting physical things to digital things and physical spaces to digital spaces so that we can very easily and, in a lubricated way, move information back and forth between these physical and digital worlds.

Michael Krigsman: What is the extension or evolution of AR from the previous generations of software that you had developed?

Imagine that we started as a 3D company. Then we became a lifecycle management company. It was the idea of lifecycle management that brought us into IoT because IoT allowed us to kind of close the loop during the fielded part of the lifecycle of a product, for example, so we'd have a closed loop lifecycle management capability. Then when we thought about, now we have data from things in the field, and we have a 3D understanding of those things, that's a perfect application for AR.

AR is a 3D technology and we're a 3D company. AR, of course, benefits from having information that's about the physical world that you could display in the physical world. That's really what IoT is all about. It's just been kind of a natural progression from CAD to PLM to IoT to AR.

Michael Krigsman: Where are the intersections between the industrial Internet of Things, IoT, and augmented reality, AR?

There's a huge intersection there. Here's the way I like to describe it. AR is IoT for people. If IoT is about connecting things to the Internet so that we can monitor, control, and optimize those things, well then AR is about connecting people to the Internet so that we can monitor, control, and optimize the work of people.

If you think about it, in so many environments whether it's a factory, a plant, an airport, or a bus terminal, there are things and there are people. It would be ideal to optimize each of the things in people and, frankly, optimize the way they work together. For example, IoT might tell me that a machine is going to have a problem and I can use that information to direct a worker where to go and what to do when they get there using AR. It's really a powerful complement that I think is pretty unique to PTC and gives us really this holistic view of connecting everything, including the organic things, in the physical world back to the digital world.

How is Augmented Reality (AR) Used in Manufacturing?

You're right that it's at least a phase behind IoT, but I think we're at a tipping point where AR, done well, requires very good computer vision. Of course, in recent years, phones and tablets, the things we all carry around with us, have become very good at computer vision. Suddenly, now with AR, we have a ubiquitous device that every one of us owns that can do AR really well.

Now, AR would be even better on smart glasses, like a HoloLens or any of the other varieties that are here and that are coming but, in the meantime, we can all try it out and see its power and see what it means using the phone we have in our pocket or our purse. I think we're at that tipping point where AR is very practical and everybody is seeing what it is and how you might apply it in business and then shocked at the value it can create. I think our view at PTC is the market is exploding right now, but it's early.

I want to remind everybody; we're talking with Jim Heppelmann. He's the CEO of PTC. Jim, it's relatively early stages for AR, yet you have a variety of applications that are in production that are being used by real customers. Please share with us some of those types of AR applications.

Professor Michael Porter and I wrote an article in Harvard Business Review about a year ago. During that, we studied all of the use cases for AR in the typical enterprise. We documented 103 major use cases that ranged really every part of the company.

For example, if it were an industrial company, the engineers have use cases for AR to combine physical and digital things together in a design. The manufacturing organization has innumerable use cases around work instructions; around pick and place, maybe in a warehouse; human/machine interfaces becoming virtual.

You move down into sales and marketing and, of course, everybody loves the hologram catalog to be able to see a product, maybe even configure, and then see a product as a hologram. Salespeople, by the way, love selling products that have accompanying AR experiences because it's a big differentiator for the product.

Then you go out to the customer site and, of course, we can train the customer with AR. We can give the customer a whole new type of digital experience around a product with AR. We can even let the customer do self-service.

If there is a problem, we can step them through what they would need to do to see if they could fix the problem before we dispatch a truck and a service technician. Many times, they can. Of course, we could actually jump on a video call with an AR overlay and coach them through what we think they ought to do in the moment.

Then you take it downstream from there. Every service organization can get huge productivity benefits by understanding exactly what I should do right now in order to fix the problem that I'm confronted with.

Then, finally, the enterprise itself is thinking about training. It can be completely reinvented. Training today, for frontline workers, is really in advance and just in case. We have an opportunity to turn that on its ear and make it in the moment, just in time, and just as needed, so there is a real opportunity here in every part of an enterprise to reconsider how we pass digital information on to people and make those people much more productive, much more accurate in the work that they do.

What Kinds of Data is Used in Augmented Reality (AR)?

It's actually a very good question. I think that when we're augmenting information into the physical world, it's a good question to say, where did it come from? Well, we have information in databases in IT systems, which could be part of the picture. We have information coming from that physical world: sensors, control systems, and so forth. That's part of the picture. Then we can bring in human intelligence and/or we can bring in artificial intelligence and then take what we want from that combination and build an augmentable experience out of it.

I would say, could there be biases? Yes. I don't think that's a major problem but, for sure, any human or AI biases that you'd find in other forms of computing could find their way into AR as well.

Michael Krigsman: Please elaborate on, again, the kinds of data that both human-generated data and real-world data that must come together in order to create an effective AR system for the enterprise.

Let me say first, one kind of data we need is some kind of 3D understanding of the physical world so that we can position information relative to that, particularly if we want to real AR with computer vision as opposed to what some people call assisted reality, which is also valuable but maybe not mainstream AR. We need to understand the shape of the physical world or the physical object that we're interested in decorating so we know where to place the decorations.

Then the information that we're going to decorate into that world, where does it come from? Well, there are IT systems that know a lot about things and places, and so they have very valuable information. They might know who is the customer, what kind of service contract we have with this customer.

Then there is data from the physical world. This would be data being sensed from the actual physical object or the physical space that we're in. What temperature is it? Is this machine in front of me working or not working? Is it too hot to touch or is it cold? There's lots of useful information that I can combine with IT data.

Then again, I can have a human join that conversation and become a contributor of AR content. Sort of, join the conversation. Maybe become part of the augmentable content and feed voice and video into it.

Then, of course, I can use AI to process any and all of that in the background, so it's really this idea of, there are many sources of data. In theory, we can build a webpage from many sources of data, so I say, think of AR as like 3D webpages.

The issue with the Web, as it relates to AR, is that the Web is built on the fundamental premise of a 2D page, an HTML page. You put information on a page and you could collect that information from many places. Then you take that page and you render it on a flat piece of glass.

But I don't want to render it on a flat piece of glass. I want to render it on the real world, which is 3D. So, if I replace the page notion with a shape notion and I gather data and, instead of putting it on a page, I put it on a shape and store that on the server. Then when I download that shape, I take the data on the shape and transpose it onto the physical world in the same place. It's a very powerful, I think, simple to understand concept if you think of it as 3D Web technology.

Michael Krigsman: The tools that are needed to create these technologies as well as the data, where precisely is PTC playing in terms of all of these components?

We've tried to pull together a suite under our Vuforia brand that really has pretty much everything an enterprise would need to tackle most of those use cases. For example, you need a 3D shape. Well, I mentioned 30 years ago, we pioneered the idea of modeling things in 3D. Of course, the things you're interested in might be modeled in somebody else's 3D, but that's okay; we'll just use that instead.

Then, as it relates to spaces, for example, where do you come up with a 3D model or a space? Well, the best thing to do today is to use a 360-degree camera. For example, we have a nice partnership with a company called Matterport that captures virtual tours of homes. Using a 360-degree camera, they very quickly create a 3D model of a home that you can walk through to decide if you might want to buy that home or not and save yourself the time of driving there until you did the virtual tour.

We can use that same model to bring together a 3D model of a space and that's typically a factory, a plant, or something like that. Now we have 3D descriptions of things in places and then PTC has a whole suite of technology to allow you to, if you want, develop experiences against that, author them as more like a technical publications author to capture work being done in that space, and then replay it for a new worker in that space, or to have a video call and to bring somebody else into that space with you and let them show you, in that space, what they think you ought to do on a phone. We have a whole suite, again, for software developers, for technical authors, for frontline workers to capture and transfer their expertise and then to just do ad hoc collaboration using AR through video calls.

How is Collaborative Design Used with Virtual Reality (Spatial Web)?

Many of us have a scenario where we're trying to do something. I'm trying to bake bread or I'm trying to change the oil in my car or whatever I'm trying to do. Trying to figure out how to download the new operating system onto my laptop. It's not going right and I need help. What do I do?

Now, I can call somebody with any kind of a video call. Facetime, for example, on my iPhone. While talking to that person, I could turn the phone around and show them what I'm looking at.

What AR brings to the table is you're having that same type of conversation, but they can see your environment and we're automatically generating a 3D model so the remote user can say, "See this thing here?" and they mark some object in the environment. They're not really marking on the screen. The marks are going through the screen and being anchored against the object in the background, so they can, while talking, also draw in your environment and you can see it.

Again, if I were baking bread, they might say, "Take this cup of flour over here and bring it over and pour it in the bowl. Then go get this tablespoon of yeast over here and put it in the bowl. Now go get that cup of water."

I don't really know how to make bread. I'm just making it up.

"Then stir it around," and I would see all those instructions in the real world. I could just say, "Wow, it's crystal clear what to do. Thank you for bringing the power of AR into this video call."

Michael Krigsman: We've got a couple of questions from Twitter. The first one relates very much to this topic you were just describing. Chris Petersen says, "Where do you see AR going in terms of telepresence and then, beyond that, will we see people operating machines or cars long distance using AR and VR systems, sort of similar to the way the military operates drones?"

I would say absolutely to both of those ideas. They're both very good ideas and things we show people here at PTC in our labs.

Tele-presence means rather than seeing what you see through my phone, let me become a hologram and stand next to you. I see you and you see me. In particular, if you're wearing, say, HoloLens type technology, you can really do that in a powerful way.

I think there's a whole new form of telepresence, which is, literally, project yourself into some space or someplace and join the action. Then the idea of sort of remote control would be put yourself inside a machine, a car, that's a thousand miles away, look out the windshield, and decide whether you should take a right or a left because you've placed yourself in that environment.

There are some other examples that are less intuitive but very powerful. For example, if I had a VR model of a factory, I could program where I want the robot to drive that's carrying the parts around through VR. If I went into the factory, I could do the same thing with AR by programming points on the floor that I want the robot to follow. There are so many applications. It's just a treasure-trove, if you will, of opportunities to bring real productivity to people.

Many studies say people can be made 30% to 50% more productive. Part of that would include you don't have to go there. Just think of all the time you'll save. Typically, 60% to 90% fewer mistakes made, and that all translates into big ROIs, big value propositions for businesses.

Michael Krigsman: To some extent, it sounds like something that has been existing in games for a while, this notion of virtual worlds.

Yeah, I mean it is. We're really talking about the mirror world where you create a virtual world to understand what's happening in the mirror image physical world. Games typically don't have a physical counterpart, so you're in a make-believe world. You can do whatever you want. But I want to put you or help you immerse yourself in a virtual world that's a mirror image of the physical world or go into the physical world and bring all the information from the mirror imaged digital world into that physical world and see it in that environment as if it's part of the environment.

The power of AR is it allows you to see and process information without thinking about it. If there is an exit sign above a door in a room, you don't even think about that, but you know it's there and you know that's the way out if there's a fire. That's the power of AR. You don't distract people and say, "Disengage from the real world and stare at this phone, tablet, or laptop for a while." You say, "Anything that's interesting in that phone, laptop or, frankly, the cloud behind it, I'll just decorate as sights and sounds into the physical world."

Maybe one more point on that. I like to think that if you're thinking about a HoloLens, but this would apply as well to a phone or a tablet, when you put that on your head, bits and bytes coming down from the cloud turn into sounds and sights. You can see data.

Likewise, when you generate sounds with your mouth or sights with your hands, that gets interpreted and converted back into bits and bytes going up to the cloud. This only works with people who are old enough but, if you're old enough, you know what a modem is, which is something that converts analog signals to digital signals and digital back to analog. Really, a HoloLens or, frankly, any kind of AR device is a modem. It's converting data into things you can see and hear and maybe even feel using your God-given analog senses.

It's really a way to connect people to the Internet. You can both provide information to people and get information back. It's not conceptually different from putting a raspberry pie with a sensor pack on a machine and getting data from it. It's really the same exact concept but applied to people.

How Does Augmented Reality (AR) Help with Customer Experience?

Let me back up to 50,000 feet and talk about user experience. One day, I was sitting in my kitchen looking around. I realized that there's a digital display and some buttons and dials on my oven. There's another one on my cookstove. My refrigerator is trying to tell me what temperature it is. Then I have buttons to adjust it. My freezer does the same thing.

I realize my coffeemaker has a digital interface, my microwave has a digital interface, and my refrigerator has a digital interface. All of those things are trying to talk to me, but they're all trying to do it using crude, proprietary, primitive techniques that I don't really understand that well and hate to have to learn. All of us have the blinking 12:00 on the microwave. That's why we don't even know how to reset the clock.

The point, though, is we can virtualize all that. We can not only virtualize it but combine it. Maybe next time I go into my kitchen, there could be, like, think of a stadium display like you'd see at a basketball game showing the scoreboard and so forth. I could have all those things projecting information up to that central scoreboard where it's all aggregated together and, by the way, that scoreboard is virtual. I only see it when I look at it with my smart glasses or point my phone up there.

The idea here is, we can completely change the way that people perceive things, places, data, control systems, and so forth. We can virtualize it all and turn it into holograms and sights and sounds, frankly, which Alexa does, and Siri, at some very small level. But with AR, what we're really saying is, don't just stimulate people's sense of hearing. Stimulate their eyesight because eyesight is so much more powerful.

You can still do hearing as well, by the way. But really bring people's eyesight into the game so they don't just hear data; they see it. Anyway, I think it's a fundamental rethink of products coming down the road because of our ability to virtualize the entire interaction model with them.

What are the Enterprise Use Cases for Augmented Reality (AR)?

The most common use case, let's say the low-hanging fruit, is to pass guidance and instructional content onto what we'd call frontline workers to help them do their job and not make mistakes while they're doing it. Rather than publish information in PDF, which gets printed and they're flipping through pages trying to understand what that means and how to apply what I see in a PDF paper document or, frankly, PDF on my phone. It doesn't really matter. How to interpret that and then map it into the real world.

I've got to take 2D information and map it into the 3D real world and try to understand how to do that. It's the problem we all have, by the way, when looking at the GPS navigation system in our car and then looking out through the windshield and saying, "How do I equivalence those two because they don't really look that much the same?"

Anyway, we can pass that information on and put it right where it needs to be. While doing the work, the information about how to do the work shows up. By the way, there are certainly medical applications, assisted surgery and so forth, for this same concept.

Really, the low hanging fruit is companies that have what we call frontline workers, meaning they don't work behind a desk, behind a computer. They're out there in the real world. They're in a factory. They're at the customer site. They're installing something, repairing something, what have you, and they need information. We can send that right down to them perfectly in context.

Are the Augmented Reality (AR) Standards and Protocols?

I don't think there are real standards. There are some organizations who are thinking about that but, I'd say, to the extent there are standards that are not really controlling the game right now, in any case. Today, people are either authoring applications, software engineers authoring applications that contain AR or there are people using AR tools to author content.

For example, one of the things PTC produces is basically a 3D Web publishing tool. It uses Web technology but, again, instead of creating a page, you're decorating a shape. Instead of rendering on a flat browser, you're turning the camera on and passing the content through onto the real world, but it's fundamentally Web technology using all the Web standards that you'd typically think about. For authentication, for security, for all of that stuff, it's just 3D content passing through that.

I think that there are not necessarily standards for all the tech. I'll tell you there surely are not standards for the look and feel. That to me is a bit of a challenge, which is, everybody's notion of how AR should look is different. You might move from one AR experience to another and say, "Wow, that's very different."

It's kind of like before we had standardized look and feel on Windows or Macintosh or what have you, there was just the wild west. I think, in AR, we're in the wild west as it relates to the best techniques for decorating the world in a sort of familiar way.

What Kind of Training is Needed to Use Augmented Reality (AR)?

It's funny. I think you don't need much training to use AR because it's so natural. If you can see and hear in the world around you, AR is just enhancing your ability to see and hear. The training is put on a device or pick up a device and follow the instructions you see and hear.

I think AR doesn't need much training but AR completely blows up the classic model of training. Again, the classic model of training puts you in an unnatural environment, a classroom or something like that, and pass information to you that's not very much in the context of the real world and, by the way, you probably don't ever need to know. We're going to train you just in case, just in case you ever run into an environment. Then we hope, when and if that happens, you remember all this stuff.

I always joke with some of my colleagues here at PTC. I’m an engineer, of course. I say, "How much calculus did you take?"

The answer is, "A lot."

I say, "How much do you do remember?"

They say, "Not very much."

I say, "Well, the good news is, you never needed it anyway," for most people. Some people really do need it.

Again, that was all just in case. We trained everybody in calculus just in case somewhere later in their career it would prove useful.

AR says you don't have to do that. Just, in the moment, where somebody is, tell them what to do. Step them through it. Maybe even, ad hoc collaboration, help them through it. Don't try to load their brain up with all these ideas that they may or may not ever need. Just give them highly relevant content in the moment.

Maybe just one last example on that and I like to share this thought with people just to get them thinking. Let's imagine I wanted to play chess against the best chess player in the world, Garry Kasparov. Now, for various kind of old dog new trick reasons, I don't know how to play chess, so I would have a very difficult time beating anybody much less the best in the world.

There's a computer, of course, Deep Blue from IBM, that can beat Garry Kasparov. What if I put on a HoloLens that was connected to Deep Blue, artificial intelligence, and I sat down across the table from Garry Kasparov and all the HoloLens did is say, "Take this part that's blinking and follow the arrow and move it to the square that's blinking"?

Garry would think really hard. He'd make a move. Then I'd just make a move. Then he'd think hard and make a move, and I'd make a move. I'd win every time, most of the time. I don't exactly know the track record of Deep Blue.

Just think of all the training I didn't bother to do to become as good at chess as Garry is. I am good at chess as he is now good at chess, but only through the power of AR bringing the power of the digital world into the game and me just actuating the desire of Deep Blue, I mean in the chess game in the local Starbucks. It's an amazing idea that I think will forever transform the way we think about training both in the academic world, but for sure in the business world.

What Equipment is Needed to Use Augmented Reality (AR) in the Enterprise?

More and more, the headsets are wireless, of course. Nonetheless, headsets are a problem.

Now, what I would tell you is that AR really runs well on phones and tablets, but there is one problem and that is it ties up your hands. If you're a frontline worker trying to assemble something, install something, or repair something, you actually need your hands available for tools, parts, and so forth.

Now you need a hands-free or a head-mounted device. I think probably the best of those is the HoloLens and particularly the second generation HoloLens, but there are others. What I would say is, I expect we're going to see a dramatic leapfrogging exercise now on the hardware front because Microsoft just leapfrogged with the second generation HoloLens.

It's highly rumored that Apple is going to come out with something. When they do, it's going to be a huge breakthrough because it'd be consumer grade, affordable, easy to use, smart glasses. Meanwhile, Facebook and Oculus are rumored to be working on not VR but this time AR headsets and Magic Leap has their AR headset out there. I think that we're in a position now where there'll be rapid progression, a couple of new devices every year, and maybe even every quarter, until we get, in the next year or two or three, to the point where we have a pretty good device.

I look at it and say, my job is to keep the software moving ahead of the hardware and I'm hoping the hardware catches up because what would really burst the dam open for enterprise use would be really good, affordable, head-mounted hardware, something that was of this sort of form factor. If I'm going to put on glasses that do analog correction, wouldn't it be great if the very same glasses also did digital correction so that the light waves coming in were enhanced both analog and digital technology? Then when I looked out the world, I'd see everything clearly, but it would be a combination of physical and digital information.

What will be the Evolution of Augmented Reality (AR) Software and Hardware?

Let me just add a point to that. First of all, we think the software needs to be agnostic or independent of the hardware so that customers can bring their software and content from one hardware device to another as they leapfrog and pass each other. I think it's a big mistake for anybody to build on a software stack that comes with the hardware stack because I think you're going to find yourself painted into a corner when better hardware comes out.

Yeah, if you think of where the software is headed, we're trying to make a nice combination of both object-based and spatial AR, make that really easy so that, in a room, I can do AR. But if I approach an object, I have a deep understanding of, I can switch to a deeper understanding. We're trying to bring more interaction into the model.

For example, the new HoloLens allows you to touch holograms. Now if your control panel for a machine is actually a hologram with 3D buttons on it, I can touch buttons and turn them on and off. Now I've created a really powerful, virtual HMI. We're trying to leverage those new capacities in the HoloLens.

There are telepresence ideas that we talked about based on one of the caller's questions earlier. There is just a target rich environment right now on the software side, getting data from many sources, connecting IoT systems, 3D systems, and AR systems, better and better user interfaces.

One of our goals at PTC is to try to say AR shouldn't be for developers. Frankly, enterprises are never going to make it work if AR experiences are coded in Unity by software engineers. That to me is a dead-end road.

We need to make it so that authors can publish information in AR instead of PDF, Word, or what have you, PowerPoint. We need to make it so that experts can capture and pass on their expertise without needing authors or coders, and that anybody can jump on a video call right now with anybody else and provide AR-based collaborative guidance, let's say. To me, it's such a target rich environment and PTC is spending a tremendous amount of money on this, by the way, because we think it's a really great opportunity for us to ultimately own, hopefully, the concept of enterprise AR because we have a whole suite that tackles the wide range of problems that an enterprise would want to tackle with the cohesive set of technology that works together.

How do the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Augmented Reality (AR) Intersect?

Imagine that there's a machine in front of me, there's me, and the machine is connected to the Internet through some kind of IoT gateway, an edge agent, and is talking to the cloud. Then I'm maybe wearing a HoloLens or I have an AR device and I'm connected to the cloud. Up in the cloud, it's got information coming and going from both of us.

The first thing the cloud can do is tell me about that machine. Which machine is it? What's it been doing? Does it have any current or developing problems? If so, what should I do about it, and so forth?

The cloud might be talking to the machine, what it should do next, but it's also guiding me what I should do next and what I should know. It's giving me the ability to visually and, thanks to logic and even artificial intelligence, really understand what's going on.

It also gives me a new model of interacting with that machine. That machine doesn't need a screen. It doesn't need buttons, dials, keyboards, none of that stuff because now I can talk to it. Again, when I speak, it's not that I'm speaking to the machine. It's that I'm speaking to the HoloLens and the HoloLens is taking my speech, converted to bits and bytes, up to the cloud, turning it into machine commands, and the machine commands down to the machine in front of me.

I can basically carry on a conversation with my hands and my mouth and my eyes and my ears with a machine just like I'm doing with you right now. I basically am on the same playing field now as that machine. Anything the cloud can do for that machine, it can do for me too, which really lifts my capabilities as a human because I can finally enjoy the benefit of the cloud to the extent the machines have been doing over the last decades.

Michael Krigsman: In simplistic terms then, the AR side digitizes me and the IoT side digitizes that machine. Then your system brings the two together so that I can manipulate that machine directly. It's funny. It feels direct but, in fact, it's through many layers of indirection. Essentially, manipulate that machine directly because of the combination of IoT on the machine side and AR on the human side.

AR is IoT for people. If you think of it that way, now we're both like machines, more or less. I don't want to go too far with that, but we're both connected in the way that you think of a machine being connected and we're both passing information back and forth to the cloud and, through that, to each other, to other machines and things around us, and so forth.

I think we're really talking about changing the way humans interact with the world and that's because bits and bytes become sounds and sights. We know how to process sounds and sights without even thinking about it, particularly if they're part of the environment as opposed to put on some flat device that we have to study while looking away from the environment.

Just maybe to give you a thought, sometimes I say, "Do this exercise," if you're in a big room, an auditorium, or a shopping mall. Close your eyes. Open them for one second, look around, and close them again. Think about how much information you just ingested.

You know where you are -- I'm in a shopping mall. I even know where I am -- I'm outside the favorite department store. The bathrooms are down there. There are not many people here today. Oh, that's because it's a sunny day outside. I can see through the windows. All that information came to me without thinking about it because it was just there and I used my sort of natural, again, mother nature-given right to process information visually and with my hearing and integrate it all together without studying it.

Anything you put on a phone; you have to study. If you put words on a phone, well, you can only read words, text, at about three words per second, which, in digital terms, is glacially slow. But if those words become pictures that are part of the environment--oh, my God--it's so fast. It's a very powerful concept.

What are the User Interface Considerations for Augmented Reality (AR)?

I would say, think of us; we're creating tools to help people author content and that content kind of becomes the user interface. I think what we need to do is to be able to pass on to our customers the right kind of style guides, tips and tricks, and techniques, if you will, to use our software to produce AR experiences that are really sexy and easy to understand. I think we need to have that expertise, but I don't think I'm in the business of selling that expertise. I'm in the business of selling tools and passing on that expertise so people know how to get really great value out of the software tools that I would sell them.

Michael Krigsman: You're selling them the capability and it's up to them then to decide how to use that for their particular use case.

I'm not selling an owner's manual for a refrigerator. I'm selling software that would allow you to develop an owner's manual, an AR owner's manual for a refrigerator. To make that experience 3D and in context rather than 2D and on paper.

Michael Krigsman: Let's finish up by talking about deployment. People are listening to this. They say, "Yeah, this sounds really good, really great." How do they start? What should they do, people in the enterprise?

One thing I'd recommend is, go to and download the Harvard Business Review article that Professor Porter and I wrote because it's a completely non-commercial piece around the strategy and power of AR for enterprises. That'll give you a lot to think about.

Generally, you want to start with use cases. Where could you make workers, particularly frontline workers, much more productive and how would you apply AR to that? There are different types of AR I've talked about in the course of this discussion. Which type is most important and the different types have different startup costs, if you will?

Some of it, like the video call idea, it takes you five minutes to get going. You download an app, you make a call, and you're going. There's no implementation, per se.

On the other hand, if you're trying to develop your own apps using computer vision engines and toolkits, you're going to start by hiring developers. That's a long path to productive use. That's not to say that's not viable, particularly for sales and marketing apps, but I think it's really about picking the high-value use cases and then understand the requirements to go tackle those use cases and then get started.

Michael Krigsman: Finally, what is your vision for where PTC as a company, as an organization, is going over the next number of years?

Yeah. Again, we're trying to bring these physical and digital worlds together. We've identified that IoT and AR are two of the most critical technologies for crossing that physical/digital boundary.

IoT is mostly bringing data from physical to digital and AR is mostly bringing data from digital to physical. That creates a loop that allows us to keep going back and forth between these mirror image worlds.

We want to be the leading software company in terms of connecting these worlds together in particular with our IoT platform ThingWorx and our AR platform called Vuforia. That's a great combination. They're both leading in their respective fields. There's a tremendous amount of business growth and success out there ahead of us, so we're excited to go after it.

Michael Krigsman: Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, thank you again for taking your time to be with us today.

Thank you, Michael. It was great.

Michael Krigsman: You've been watching CXOTalk. Thank you so much for watching. Before you go, subscribe on YouTube and subscribe to our newsletter. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website. Thanks so much, everybody. We have more shows coming up and we will see you soon. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

Published Date: May 24, 2019

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 600