This weekend, the Chicago Auto Show opened. The largest in the country, the auto show will bring in over a million people by the time it closes on Monday the 19th. Every year I brave the cold and spend a few hours in McCormick Place getting in and out of cars that I wouldn't otherwise get the chance to.
But this year, the increase of virtual and augmented reality sections throughout the convention center surprised me. I'm used to seeing test drive sections coordined off and Jeeps proving their worth through various obstacles, but this inclusion of developing technology added another dimension to the day. Chevy had a soccer virtual reality section, where kids could pretend to be goalies and try to deflect goals while wearing a headset. Nissan had a Star Wars augmented reality section, which I fully took advantage of. Ford had an elevated simulator, which included hydrolic lifts and three screens. Acura used virtual reality to simulate racing a car. Other companies had various other degrees of simulators and interactivity.
While I hope all the car companies took full advantage of this trade show-like atmosphere to increase their audience, I'm also hoping that this increase in innovative technology on the consumer-facing side also translates to the same or similar technology being using on the manufacturing floor.
The last few years has seen virtual and augmented reality technology slowly finding a home in the manufacturing industry. The technology can help in many different aspects in the industry, including safety and training. As manufacturing has an increasingly difficult time recruting new workers, advertising the use of emerging technologies could help bring in a younger workforce.
A kid that used a virutal reality experience this weekend could be the next generation of manufacturing workers. It's time for manufacturing to use emerging technologies on the factory floor and market that use to spark an interest in the workforce.