Co-Founder and COO at VR Vision Inc an immersive technology group that is developing virtual and augmented reality solutions for the future.
While many of you may have used augmented reality (AR) on your mobile devices to play games like Pokémon Go or the face filters on Facebook or Snapchat, how many of you have actually used AR in real-world scenarios? As technology advances, we’re seeing greater adoption of AR in the business world as it can streamline processes and improve learning outcomes for on-the-job training.
Today we will take a deep dive into wearables, specifically AR devices, that a person can use to augment the world around them. We will look into the advantages of incorporating AR for enterprise training and how skills can be taught faster than ever before. We will also take a look at specific use cases to showcase some of the best ways AR is being used for training so that your organization can make a more informed decision when adopting the technology.
There are generally two different types of wearables that one can use for AR-based training: one is with a headset and the other is more immersive and interactive using smart glasses. Both of these headsets have their merits, and I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The Head-Mounted Tablet
We will start with an in-depth look at the head-mounted tablet (HMT). This device connects to a helmet or baseball cap and allows the wearer to have a picture-in-picture viewing angle in their peripheral vision. This device is best suited for industrial applications in which technical information is required on the fly. You can receive hands-free remote collaboration in your ear from connected experts, who can also see your viewpoint as if they were in your shoes.
This makes it an effective tool for manufacturing, automotive, oil and gas and telemedicine. There are countless use cases, but the most useful usually involve some kind of safety inspection or technical implementations where an expert is needed but may not be locally available. The device allows for remote inspections and relayed information to help the wearer guide or walkthrough to complete their task.
By using the device, companies can reduce downtime for maintenance and repair operations, reduce travel footprint for remote experts that may be needed in multiple facilities at once, and lastly, improve safety and productivity by being able to access information in context without distraction. This can help maintain situational awareness and reduce mistakes made on the job, which can save on cost and time for enterprises.
The wearable device can also allow the user to pull up documents via a small mini-tablet view in one of their eyes by using voice control. This can relay training information but is especially useful for digital workflows and data visualization.
Using this type of wearable has definite merit in many industrial applications but may not be the best-suited device for more complex and graphically intensive applications. If working with overly complex diagrams or systems, oftentimes it is still a better practice to use a computer. Companies are looking to solve this challenge, but it still has a ways to go to get to the point at which it will replace a PC while being mounted on your head.
The Smart Glasses
While the HMT device is built for industrial use cases predominantly, smart glasses are the more immersive and visually appealing wearable device available on the market today. This wearable allows you to see an immersive overlay of graphical information in an AR view. This can be used on the job to support workers in the field to eliminate mistakes and reduce downtime.
For industrial manufacturing, the device can be used to help service teams connect frontline technicians with experts to ensure a first-time fix and prevent mistakes that would have happened otherwise. Similar to the HMT device, you are able to connect to experts anywhere in the world and have them see what you see while relaying information in real-time. This can lead to less costly mistakes and an overall increase in worker productivity with the mixed reality visual guidance that many times includes step-by-step checklists and instruction.
Situations in which smart glasses can become a detriment or simply won’t work involve a higher degree of user interaction. This is when a tool like virtual reality becomes a better fit as it will allow you to manipulate objects and interact in real-time.
One use of this type of AR has been with Unilever, which was able to solve problems quickly and reduce its downtime by as much as 50%. The AR was used to help upskill new employees by their older employees who were expert technicians, and overall, Unilever measured more than 1700% direct ROI. Another case study came from Boeing, as it uses this technology to help with aircraft manufacturing, reduce errors and save time. Historically, its engineers would reference blueprints, which was a tedious process. With superimposed imaging using AR, the company sees those detailed references on the fly.
There are countless other use cases, but the learning curve remains the same. The technology can aid on-site workers with information, whether through a visual aesthetic or through expert mentoring. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for wearable AR technology. I, for one, am excited, to say the least.