M3 + Augmented Reality

In this article I introduce the first implementation that I know of Augmented Reality for Infor M3. Augmented Reality is the ability to superpose digital information on top of real world objects. This is achieved by locating the user’s head in space, by determining the user’s point of view, by registering real world objects, and by projecting virtual 3D objects accordingly. Implementing it has been a deer dream of mine. In this example I use fiducial markers and data coming from Item Master – MMS001.

Applications

Augmented Reality for M3 could be used for many applications. For example, it could help a worker find an Item in the warehouse by showing optimized walking directions and distance to possible picking locations. Also, it could help a worker show contextual information at a glance.

I believe Augmented Reality to be a disruptive technology and one of the next big revolutions in the software industry, with positive impacts similar to those of the Internet and mobile devices, that will reshape entire industries in the next 10 years.

Timeline & motivation

In 1998 I got a summer job in a warehouse for a company that sold car brakes. Every few minutes a printer spit out a picking list of items that I had to collect. As a temporary worker unfamiliar with the place, I spent most of my time wandering through the warehouse, searching for the items, and asking the more seasoned workers for help; I found that inefficient and I wished the computer gave me a map with directions of where to go. Also, the picking lists were un-ordered and I often had to go back to a previous location I had just visited; I found that inefficient and I wished the computer optimized the picking lists. Also, once I found the location, I often discovered the boxes were empty and I had to ask a forklift driver to replenish the stock location from a box of a higher shelf; I found that inefficient and I wished the computer planned replenishment ahead of time. That was in 1998 and nowadays ERP and Warehouse management systems are more common. Yet, I kept my wish to make better systems.

Then, In 2001 I read about Professor Steven Feiner’s Augmented Reality KARMA project from 1992 at Columbia University. The system fit in a backpack and had portable computer, batteries, GPS, compass, and head-mounted display. It would give detailed instructions to a user on how to repair a printer. That was my first exposure to Augmented Reality and ever since I have been wanting to implement it.

In 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, with a stunning user interface, graphics, and processing power, blowing everybody’s mind about mobility and redefining an industry. And in 2009 Apple added a camera to the iPhone 3GS. The hardware technology for Augmented Reality started becoming accessible to the masses.

In 2009 I met with Brad Neuberg of Google at the Google I/O conference and I started working on a client-side search engine for M3 source code. That was my first exposure to HTML5.

In 2010 I implemented my first Warehouse 3D demo using Google Earth, with real data fed from the ERP, and I projected the result on a large touch screen for an immersive experience. That was my first step towards implemented Augmented Reality for M3.

In 2011 I proposed an idea for an internal project for M3 + Augmented Reality on mobile devices.

In parallel, WHATWG and W3C have been working hard to standardize HTML5 with the ability to use the webcam in JavaScript with WebRTC, to access pixel data, to paint on the canvas, and to use WebGL for 3D rendering. The software technology for Augmented Reality is becoming accessible to the masses.

More recently I started working on geo-locating Stock Locations in M3. This opens the door to new applications for geo-coded data in M3.

Then, at the Google I/O conference this year, I met with Ilmari Heikkinen whom pointed me to his article in HTML5 Rocks on Writing Augmented Reality Applications using JSARToolKit. That was the last push I needed to implement actual Augmented Reality for M3. So I did.

Implementation

I used Ilmari’s source code and I added a few lines of code to call an M3 API using REST in JavaScript when a marker is detected. In this example, the marker is mapped to an Item number (ITNO), but it could also be mapped to a Stock Location (WHSL) for example. Then, for that Item number I call the M3 API MMS200MI.GetItmBasic and I display the Name (ITDS), Description (FUDS), Basic unit of measure (UNMS), Volume (VOL3), Net weight (NEWE), Gross weight (GRWE).

Result

Here is a video of the result. Note the section below the canvas that shows M3 data coming from MMS200MI.GetItmBasic for the detected marker. We can see an activity indicator flickering as the markers are detected. For best viewing, watch the video in YouTube, in HD, and in full screen.

Source code

I provide the result for download at http://ibrix.info/ar/demo.zip with HTML and JavaScript source code, sample fiducial markers, and sample images.

Future work

With the simple example I introduced in this article I illustrate that hardware and software technology for Augmented Reality have have already become accessible for the masses. The technology is still maturing. There are on-going projects to provide registration without the use of markers. Also, sensors are becoming better for indoor location.

That’s it for now.

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Published by

thibaudatwork

M3 Technical Consultant

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