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Whiteman Lecturer urges Monmouth students to explore AR careers

Barry McNamara
Andrew Heath, who presented the 25th annual Wendell Whiteman Memorial Lecture, is pictured second from left. Also pictured, from left, are Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt, Jupiter CEO Roy Whitehead, Ralph Whiteman' 52, Ralph's wife, Martha, and Dick Whiteman '64. Along with their brother, Don '49, the Whitemans started the lecture series in 1992 in memory of their father, a member of Monmouth's Class of 1927.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Augmented reality, which once seemed like only a distant vision, has exploded over the last few years to become a burgeoning industry of the present.

That’s what Monmouth College students were told by Andrew Heath, who presented year’s Wendell Whiteman Memorial Lecture on Tuesday morning in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

The Whiteman Lecture annually brings prominent leaders of American business and industry to Monmouth. It is named in memory of Wendell Whiteman, an alumnus of the College and long-time executive of Security Savings Bank in Monmouth.

“Augmented reality is exploding, and talent is in great demand,” said Heath, who is vice president of international operations at Jupiter Machine Tool Inc.

Founded about a year ago in nearby Galesburg, Jupiter is breaking ground in the relatively new field of augmented reality. Specializing in cutting metal, the company uses augmented reality to assist customers with real-time instruction guiding physical tasks.

“We can troubleshoot a problem immediately for our customers,” said Heath. “They’re back in business in 10 minutes instead of a week, and that can make tens and hundreds of thousand dollars’ difference to them.”

But Heath explained that augmented reality is not limited to the manufacturing industry.

“Amazon has AR in its mobile app,” he said, citing another example of how the technology is used. “You can click on a piece of furniture and see how it will actually look in your house. That’s a big improvement over simply looking at a two-dimensional image of the furniture in a catalog or on a website.

“Augmented reality is a huge change in human life. It breaks down the barriers between the computer and the real world.”

An opportunity for students

The investment bank Goldman-Sachs correctly predicted three years ago that augmented reality would become a $20 billion industry by 2019. Goldman-Sachs’ projections call for AR to continue to ascend throughout the 2020s. Heath said the technology could develop into a $150 billion industry by 2030.

Heath hopes that area high school and college students will realize the career opportunities available in both areas where Jupiter excels – manufacturing and augmented reality.

“Jupiter works in a $40 billion industry worldwide, but our customers feed all the major industries in the world,” he said, citing automotive assembly ($1.6 trillion), aircraft assembly ($800 billion) and mobile phone assembly ($500 billion). “We have people who can make tools, and we have people who have a need for them. We have a deficit of people in between.”

Heath said that augmented reality offers a lot of career paths for college graduates. He said qualifications to work in AR-related industries include youth, being comfortable with computers, having some coding and graphic design ability, possessing communications skills, and having “a pioneering spirit.”

“Many times, college students lose out in the job market to older workers who have experience,” he said. “But with augmented reality, no one’s done this before. It’s just starting to come onto the scene.”

Why now for augmented reality?

Among the reasons the technology’s time has come is because of better and more widespread broadband connectivity, increased mobile device capability, and the rise of big data.

“Augmented reality promises to impact almost every aspect of life,” he said. “It will demand interdisciplinary skills and a deep understanding of user stories. But it doesn’t demand a huge capital investment to get off the ground.”

Heath said Jupiter finds itself in an exciting position.

“We’re a manufacturing company, but we also have this exciting new technology,” he said. “What we’re doing with augmented reality with our machine tools can be applied to other areas. We want to grow that side of the business.”

During a question-and-answer period that followed the lecture, Heath was joined on stage by Jupiter CEO Roy Whitehead.

“As we come to understand augmented reality technology better, we are beginning to see that there is no limit to the possibilities,” said Heath.

Added Whitehead, “The only limiting factor is your imagination.”