Patti Lutsky, PTC
September 1, 2019

Many companies are looking to repurpose their existing textual repair procedures into an augmented-reality format.  If they have the CAD data for the equipment, then a tool like PTC’s Creo Illustrate can be used to create input sequences that are based on the CAD data.  But what about the textual aspects of the AR?  There are transformations that can be done to the XML source for textual repair procedure steps to make them more reusable in AR format.  This article considers both structural and style-related changes to improve reusability for augmented reality experiences.

Existing procedures

A key part of technical information about equipment are procedures.  These may be methods for assembly, disassembly, or repairs.  Many equipment manufacturers have hundreds of existing procedures that have been encoded in XML format.  These procedures are valuable corporate assets that have been reviewed for accuracy, compliance, and writing style.  If organizations want to create Augmented Reality versions of these techniques, they want to base those AR experiences on the XML procedures that have already been reviewed and approved.

However, the text that was authored for use in a technical manual or for a technical information delivery system may not be directly appropriate for use in an Augmented Reality experience that will be integrated with 3-D and real-world images.  Consider the following mock-up of an AR repair procedure:

The textual portions of the AR experience are the title at the top, the text of the step at the bottom, and the description of the strap wrench, which is a specialty tool.  The text of the step has been edited to use fewer words, as the version that would be in the Repair Manual would include articles as in “Remove the filter bowl from the filter base using a strap wrench”.

Style considerations

There are style considerations when writing steps of an AR experience.  As shown above, the text may be shortened by removing articles.  Further, the extra information in the AR experience may negate the need to go into detail.  For instance, the repair manual might have gone into more detail about the strap wrench, but in the AR experience, a user can expand the tool display if they want more information about the wrench.

There might also be a need for multiple versions of the step text.  An AR experience may have a hands-free version that provides an audio version of the text.  That text might restore the articles that had been removed to provide a less stilted audio experience.

There are other aspects to the style.  For instance, while a step in a manual might contain background information in the step, the AR step should be direct and start with the command that is being performed.  If a step is optional, as in “If necessary clean the throttle body”, rather than using text like “if necessary”, the step should have metadata that indicates that it is optional.

Structural considerations

In addition to modifying the style of the text, there may be structural changes to the steps that make them more suited as steps of an AR procedure.  Consider a textual step:

     Place the pin mandrel into the bore for the piston pin bearing. Put the crank mandrel in the crankshaft bearing bore.

While it made sense to combine these in a document because they are logically similar, for AR it is better to divide this into two separate steps.  That way the AR viewpoint can be adjusted to direct the user’s attention to the relevant place on the equipment.  There are other examples where the AR step can combine two procedure steps into one step, so the flow is not interrupted by having to jump to the next step.

Further, sometimes procedure steps include implied prerequisites as in:

     Remove the cover if necessary and tighten the hanger bracket.

It is preferable to encode removing the cover as an explicit prerequisite then to include it in the step for tightening.

Looking ahead

As AR experiences become a commonplace media for conveying technical materials, authors will learn to write procedures with reuse to AR in mind.  Any prerequisites will be clearly separated, and each step will be self-contained with regards to the location on the equipment.

Also, any modifications that are needed for AR-specific content will be explicitly linked to the source.  Depending on the requirements of the organization, the modified content may be integrated into the markup for the procedure documents or they may be included in a separate XML document that is linked to the original procedure document.

Patti Lutsky, Director of Product Management. Patti has been working at Arbortext/PTC since 1997.  She is the Product Manager for Arbortext products and Windchill Service Information Manager (SIM).  She has in-depth expertise in Arbortext’s integration with content management systems and on SIM’s translation management capability.