Glossary Definition: Augmented Reality (AR)

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) integrates digital information with a user’s physical environment. AR works with devices such as tablets and smartphones, and layers text, videos, photos, holographs, and other media onto a user’s real-world environment. As such, this technology brings the physical and digital worlds together, without the user losing sight of their actual reality. 

Although AR may seem synonymous with virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), these three technologies are unique, as are the capabilities they provide. 

Unlike AR, which enhances a physical reality with digital assets, VR immerses users into a totally virtual, 3D environment. In contrast, MR blends the physical and digital worlds together, and enables users to interact with both real-world and virtual objects. However, all three of these technologies are being widely adopted in industries across the world – including healthcare, automotive, and pharma.

AR technology is especially well-suited to highly regulated, manufacturing-heavy industries like pharma because it provides users with greater control over the manufacturing process, allowing them to accelerate production, use guided execution, get remote assistance, and collaborate with others while maintaining a high level of yield and quality.

What are other names for augmented reality?

Augmented reality is also referred to as: 

  • Augmented realities
  • Computer-mediated reality
  • Semi-immersive reality

How is AR used in pharma?

Augmented reality in pharma has a number of use cases. Pharmaceutical scientists and engineers use augmented reality technology to oversee production virtually and streamline collaboration across sites. 

AR features such as augmented reality overlays, guided demonstrations, and video conferencing allow workers to receive feedback on the spot, thereby reducing the likelihood of equipment failures and process deviations.

Through AR-enabled remote collaboration, users receive instant access to their teammates’ datasets, processes, and field of view. When combined with collaboration software, such as an MES solution, AR capabilities allow pharma professionals to navigate and annotate their teammates’ environments in real time, making virtual collaboration a breeze. 

Why is AR important in pharma?

Augmented reality is important in pharma because it provides companies with time- and cost-saving benefits. And in an industry where it typically takes 10 to 12 years to bring a single drug to market, time and money are of the essence. 

AR technology is becoming increasingly popular in highly regulated industries like pharma. This tech helps drug manufacturing companies decrease friction, speed up workflow, optimize production, improve collaboration, and make better decisions throughout the digital manufacturing (DM) process.

Equipped with real-time insights, such as video instructions and guided text overlays, users can work together using video conferencing from anywhere in the world, monitor processes, and commercialize drugs in a fraction of the time.

In addition, AR promotes intuitive authoring through augmented instructional capabilities, allowing authors to overlay precise guidance throughout the manufacturing process. As a result, teams can scale batches up and down with ease, adjust recipes as needed, and resolve problems as they arise.

These benefits help pharma companies reduce the likelihood of manual errors and process deviations, while improving execution accuracy.