How Austin Engineering transformed industrial production & sales with XR

Austin Engineering is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of premium mining equipment, with more than 50 years’ experience in engineering and manufacturing equipment for the mining industry.

Austin approached Viewport to develop a concept to both future-proof marketing and sales, while simultaneously preparing for MINExpo – the world’s largest Mining exhibition held at Las Vegas Exhibition Centre. 

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With a complex and highly customised product offering, customer confidence is vital to Austin’s business and their major corporate clientbase. Client-side decision makers must have absolute certainty of a product if they are going to sanction a spend in the millions. The challenge that Viewport faced was how to present Austin as the industry leaders they are using technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Holograms. 

To take their Sales & Marketing team into the future, Viewport created “Austin XR”.

A heavy duty, cross-platform XR product visualiser experience that configures gigantic mining equipment in real time. With some initial project delays due to COVID-19, Austin XR came to life and was launched at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas. Our involvement with the project was end-to-end, from Stand Design, Equipment Logistics and Procurement through to Custom Software Development to create the Austin XR platform itself – an interactive product configuration tool that is deployed on an impressive suite of immersive and interactive technology; an Augmented Reality App for iOS and Android (AR), a Virtual Reality app for the Oculus Quest 2 (VR), a Mixed Reality app for the Microsoft HoloLens 2 (MR), and a large format holographic projection system custom designed for Realfiction’s Dreamoc Diamond 4K. 

  • Cross-Platform Engagement

One of Austin XR’s keys to success is its platform-agnostic software development pipeline. Platform agnostic development means we have one source of truth, one primary repository to submit code and asset changes to, one client project to maintain. However, from a single source the engineering team is able to deploy builds to multiple platforms with ease. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and the Holographic platform. All able to be worked on simultaneously, and deployed rapidly when required. 

Austin XR is a world-first. No other mining equipment manufacturer has gone to this level of complexity or advanced adoption of immersive and interactive technology as Austin Engineering. This technology (XR) is shaping the future for exhibiting, sales, and customer engagement for the mining and resources industry.

Let’s take a platform deepdive on the platforms that redefined the showroom experience:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) App: iOS (iPhone, iPad) Android (Phone, Tablet)
  • Mixed Reality (MR) App: Microsoft HoloLens 2
  • Virtual Reality (VR) App: Oculus Quest 2
  • Holographic App: Realfiction Dreamoc Diamond

The Augmented Reality (AR) app has brought the Austin Sales and Marketing team global reach at a time when international sales are difficult to facilitate. It is available on any smart device globally through the App Store or Play Store, creating a low barrier for entry to increase customer engagement and scope. The Austin XR public facing app expands brand and product awareness, on a scale not possible using traditional marketing methods.

The Virtual Reality (VR) app takes Austin’s sales into a new dimension, allowing their entire catalogue to be visualised from all angles, at any scale and at any location. By placing gigantic mining and engineering products in their clients’ hands, Austin is able to build affinity and brand confidence – circumventing the need for cost prohibitive site visits and physical product demonstrations. The intuitive controls in the Virtual Reality software allow easy customisation of their product range – all  in ultra high fidelity and realism – replacing the need for costly physical product demonstrations. 

The Mixed Reality (MR) app makes for a truly engaging tech-forward sales process harnessing the full power of the Microsoft HoloLens 2. With an ‘eyes up’ approach, the HoloLens let’s us get rid of screens – freeing up clients’ hands (and minds) and allowing them to truly focus on Austin products. The Microsoft HoloLens tech has a captivating and lasting effect on potential and existing Austin clients, and has been a showstopper at all the events it’s been used at to date. 

The Holographic app acts as a major draw card at events and displays – showing the custom software Viewport developed in large scale and visible from a distance, without the need for specialised equipment to view. A behemoth of a unit, and the largest of its kind in the world, Viewport sourced Austin two Realfiction Dreamoc Diamond 4K units. The holographic display is visible from 360 degrees, and controlled from wireless iPad units that Viewport set up streaming capabilities for. 

Brand confidence is key here – Austin itself is highly technologically advanced in its own manufacturing processes. When clients and potential customers see how Austin is adopting disruptive and next-gen technology such as the HoloLens 2, Austin is reinforcing their position as a technical leader in their field – while simultaneously improving customer engagement and strengthening their global sales process. 

Access to a wide range of platforms gives Austin’s sales and marketing teams the tools to meet client needs.

  • Research and Collaboration

Our concept for Austin grew from small beginnings, starting in mid 2019 with an approach from their Global Manager of Market Development & Innovation. Our first round responses included high resolution, high realism computer generated imagery, as well as detailed floorplan layouts, cost benefit analyses and software user interface mockups. 

Our end goal in our products is to offer strategic or cost advantage in operations, sales or marketing. The jumping off point for any concept is understanding in depth our clients industry and business pain points. 

True to the Viewport method, we left nothing in the tank when researching Austin Engineering and how we can use our skillset and experience to help evolve their business. Becoming specialists on proportional relationships between payload optimisation and vessel type, understanding the different geographical ore types and how their relationship to the equipment differs, and drawing inspiration and insight on their current marketing model.

Viewport’s synchronised vision was favourably received after Viewport, along with the other final shortlisted participants, pitched at Austin Headquarters in Brisbane, Queensland late 2019.  

Once awarded the contract, we conducted site visits in Perth, Kewdale to better understand the manufacturing process – interviewing and collaborating with engineering staff to gain direct understanding of their customer’s pain points – learning first hand how to improve their customer journey.

  • Improve Brand Confidence

While it may seem natural to those who work in the field of immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) (XR collectively), these new technologies absolutely pack a punch when it comes to making a good impression on clients. 

Brand confidence is integral to the decision making process that customers make in any business. From Retail, through to Property and even Engineering and Mining – customers need to know they are getting exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Viewport works in a disruptive and emerging technology space – immersive and interactives – with our specialty being taking brands and or products two steps into the future – ready for the ever changing and adapting global landscape.

“A picture says a 1000 words. But what if that picture was a 3D hologram
and you could pick it up and interact using your bare hands?
How many words are we saying now?”

Jo Walsh, Creative Strategist, Viewport XR

Many of our clients products are non-transportable. Kitchens, Vehicles, Aircraft, Haul Trucks…  Many of these products can weigh up to 20 tonnes or more. You can’t fit that in  the back of a ute, ready to nick off to an expo. It won’t fold up into the boot of your Tarago behind the baby seats. You can’t just call up a shipping company and get it shipped off to a client for a loan. 

This lack of mobility is a significant factor limiting any sales and marketing team working with large scale products in Australia or globally, but what about highly customisable or interactive product? 

There are 277,440 possible product configurations in Austin XR. A roadblock in physical product demonstration that Viewport clearly removed for Austin Engineering. 

Austin XR is effectively a customisation workshop. With VR, AR, MR and Holographic Displays, we enabled Austin’s sales and marketing team, and their clients to visualise and customise mining equipment with pinpoint accuracy. All with the tap of a finger.

  • Hyper Realistic Digital Twins

It’s common to think that computers do all the work with CG (Computer Generated), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and other interactive technologies. However it’s much more delicate than that. What we achieve at Viewport is a careful combination of ‘Art versus Science’ – a human first approach, that lets us achieve hyper realistic digital twins with handcrafted digital asset management. 

This is a major point of difference to using Viewport as a disruptive technology provider. Top-quality craft is apparent in the development cycle and end product for all of our software. This is our standard – higher above the rest. And it’s what sets us apart.

Led by one of Viewport’s founders and primary visionary, Managing Director – Julius Jeppe. The creative team were instructed to create with an intricately detailed workflow, which allowed us to maintain all high level details of the Austin assets without limiting our optimisation workflow. 

By bridging traditional & cutting edge techniques, the assets are platform agnostic, and performant even on the Microsoft HoloLens 2, a particularly under powered device we were targeting. As well as human driven polygonal optimisation pipelines, marks & scratches were also painted by hand, to bring unique realism to all of real time assets in the XR lineup. We also added Austin logos & custom features to strengthen our customers’ brand presence.

“This attention to detail is of utmost importance when creating engaging experiences, and it is of huge benefit to us that we got to work with a company like Austin Engineering in Australia, which like Viewport share High Quality craftsmanship as one of their core values”

– Julius Jeppe, Managing Director, Viewport XR Group

  • MINExpo 2021 and Beyond

Viewport provided end-to-end event management services for Austin Engineering’s premium stand at Las Vegas Mine Expo 2021, as well as numerous additional events such as Diggers and Dealers in Kalgoorlie, and Austmine in Perth, Western Australia. Our software and services will continue to be used across events as Austin expands their offering in 2022.

The multi-touchpoint experiential marketing – proudly powered with Viewport’s immersive tech – has been a huge success and drawcard at every expo. A key benefit to Austin has been cementing the brand as future ready, whilst also allowing them to showcase product range and complexity while saving significant lost cost on freighting physical product. 

Viewport’s expo design services for MINExpo 2021 included comprehensive stand design, lighting design, equipment procurement, event logistics, wiring layout, & custom experiential software development in Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR).