It is now very affordable to have your own PCBs fabricated and delivered to your door, and free open source software like KiCAD makes it easier than ever to design them. But you’re still going to have to validate and test your PCBs once they arrive. That can be a surprisingly laborious task if your PCB is complex. Fortunately, new software called Inspectar promises to make your board inspections quick and easy with the help of augmented reality.
At the most basic level, Inspectar uses augmented reality to lay a representation of your board’s design over a real-time image of the actual physical board. The overlay comes from your PCB’s Gerber files, so you can toggle which layers are visible at any given time. Those can even be exploded to show all of the layers at once. Those layers automatically move with the physical PCB as you inspect it, so you can look at it from any angle. By simply turning on a trace layer, for example, you can see if a pin is properly connected to a component or if you made a mistake during the design phase — or the manufacturer made a mistake during fabrication.
In addition to inspecting your own boards designs, Inspectar would be very useful for working with boards that other people have designed. As long as the board is open source and there are Gerber files available, you can see all of the same information. Imagine being able to see exactly what the function of a pin is without having to decipher a datasheet. All you need is a smartphone or tablet, and you can do that and more. Inspectar is currently in private beta testing, but you can request access. After it is officially released, different subscription levels will be available to suit your individual needs.