The following video from Immersion R&D shows the manipulation of a 3D object using their Cubtile device. I’m not particularly keen on the cube because it seems more like a prop out of a bad science fiction movie rather than a real interface device. I really couldn’t imagine having one of those in my house or at work.
However, the manipulation of the 3D object shows off nice usage of AR in a hologram sort of way. The interesting part of the video comes at 1:08 when she pulls the object out of the cube.
Using a haptic or air-touch system, 3D object manipulation could be useful for designers that need to see all views of an object. But they will also need a way to select individual surfaces, lines or points to make real changes.
Having watched many of my engineers or techs manipulate 3D objects, I can say they spend a lot of time rotating objects around to get the proper view. Using AR glasses with a freeform control that feels natural (not the cube) in their resident 3D program (design, manufacturing, etc), they could improve their development time by a significant amount to make it worth the additional cost of the AR program.
Unfortunately, this means unless a universal AR viewer can be applied to any 3D program, each product developer will have to incorporate AR into their product. We use a wide variety of programs at our one facility: MasterCam, CamTool, Pro/E Wildfire, CADLite, etc., so the cost could skyrocket quickly, making any benefits cost prohibitive.