Extended Reality in the food industry: Four ways XR will affect what we eat
From learning to make cappuccinos to ensuring proper handling of equipment in a food processing plant, the use of Extended Reality (XR) in the food industry is widespread. It can optimize production, improve safety, and speed up training processes.
The applications of Extended Reality, particularly Mixed Reality (MR), in production and manufacturing are endless. We’ve seen it in multiple industries, and we know it will benefit the food industry.
Proper hygiene in the facilities is one of the most important parts of food production. With a Mixed Reality device like a HoloLens, it is possible to add a digital layer to any form of maintenance or service like a routine hygiene inspection.
The digital layer can highlight critical areas, ensuring the worker will cover all important places. Further, it is possible to add a no-oversights feature that means a worker cannot move on to the next step until all necessary steps have been completed. When going through the inspection, the HoloLens can capture a video or a photo and store it in a database. This means improved traceability of hygiene inspections, which is key for the food industry.
Implementing MR in things like hygiene inspections has huge potential to make the process quicker, yet more thorough. It also allows for easier access to databases, which will also benefit the work following an inspection.
Employees who know exactly what they are doing are crucial to securing consistent and high quality output in food production. However with a relatively high turnover rate and with much of the work in food production being seasonal, a production plant’s output will be affected by how quickly and effectively new employees can be brought up to speed.
Using Virtual Reality (VR), any task in a production facility can be copied virtually and can then be gone through in detail as many times as a person wants to. The benefits to this are numerous:
- It has been proven that people learn faster when they are actively participating in the learning process. In VR, learning can be gamified and made much more engaging than simply reading a text or watching a video.
- VR-learning doesn’t require help from another colleague, meaning you are able to train new employees without having other employees take time out of their schedule to do the teaching.
- It can be done anytime, anywhere and as many times needed without any extra costs. Training is flexible and can be done whenever it suits the employees.
- With VR being highly visual and engaging, the language barrier that can occur when hiring foreign workers is easier to work around. With visual guides, a worker should be able to pick up the next steps. Further, the instructions can easily be in different languages.
Safety and training on processing plants are other aspects where XR can be a game-changer in the food industry. Proper training of new employees or the use of new pieces of equipment is crucial – not just for a plant’s bottom line but also for the safety of the people handling the equipment.
With the possibility of creating a VR “digital twin” of a piece of equipment – i.e. a virtual copy of the equipment – employees get to familiarize themselves with the machine and how to work it before they even touch it in real life.
Making mistakes is part of learning. But making a mistake in a virtual setting means there are no risks of harm for the user. And there is no risk of messing up a batch of products or risk of having to shut a machine down resulting in unnecessary downtime.
Practicing with virtual equipment means the employees will be better prepared when they work with the real thing. It is also a cost-effective way to conduct training, as users will be able to replay a scenario as many times as they want without affecting production.
Beyond the production of food itself, XR has the ability to engage customers in a way that has not yet been possible. Through the use of AR, customers are able to bring things like packaging to life and an entire world and history of a company can unfold before their very eyes.
Customers can scan a label and suddenly be in the midst of an immersive brand experience, like having a virtual version of the company’s founder talk about the product right in front of them. With interesting and informative content that is fun to explore, customers take the initiative to make the engagement happen themselves. That’s customer engagement on a whole other level.
Transparency and trust in a food company can also be increased with VR where a customer can be invited behind the scenes and see things like the entire production or supply chain for themselves. Being open and honest while giving customers an experience they will remember can make a huge difference in your company’s image.
The benefits are clear – so get ready to see a lot more smartglasses in production plants.