In Industry 4.0, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) often get the spotlight as the next great leap in boosting worker productivity. But these X-Reality (XR) technologies aren’t always practical when used as manufacturing or frontline tools, often unsafe for workers in many use cases.
Enter another aR: assisted Reality.
But what is assisted reality? How does it differ from augmented reality?
Assisted Reality gives you access to the right information right when you need it, allowing you to have full situational awareness. Unlike AR, it’s a reality first, digital second experience. Assisted Reality allows a person to view a screen within immediate field of vision, hands free. Information is not overlaid with real-world view.
Let’s explore this by looking at heads-up displays (HUDs).
HUDs in vehicles give an extra layer of relevant information without hampering vision or distracting the driver. The driver doesn’t have to shift their gaze to the dashboard. They can keep their eyes on what’s most important (the road) and have both hands free to control their vehicle.
Assisted reality devices can also be wearable to be more practical in certain situations.
Headsets with micro-displays: A small but high-resolution screen that’s positioned in front of the user’s eye. With the appropriate focal depth, a half-inch display can look like a 7-inch tablet held at arm’s length.
Smart glasses: Worn like ordinary glasses, purpose-built smart glasses project images directly onto the lenses (note: most assisted reality use cases are not dependent on SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping) computer vision.
How is assisted reality different from augmented reality?
Assisted reality differs from augmented reality in a key way. Assisted reality gives users access to relevant information in their immediate field of view (FoV), augmented reality uses computer-generated, digital content to create an interactive experience within real-world environments.
Is augmented reality better than assisted reality?
Every tool has its intended use. This is the same with x-reality technology. While augmented reality has incredible potential, it may not be the best tool for every situation. This is especially true for digital transformations in industrial fields.
Workers need to be able to stay safe around workplace hazards when they access information. This could mean having both hands available to hold tools or secure equipment. Or, more importantly, not get distracted by computer-generated (3D) visuals (overlays) when they need to be aware of, and focus on, what’s truly in their immediate environment.
5 Benefits of RealWear Assisted Reality
Here are five benefits of using assisted reality headsets and devices in industrial digital transformations.
1. Enhances Worker Safety RealWear hands-free, voice-enabled headsets are designed with safety in mind. Because of their durable construction and compatibility with personal protection equipment (PPE) — including hardhats, eyewear, masks, ear protection and hazmat suits — they can be used in nearly any industrial environment.
Hands-free controls help workers stay focused on the task at hand and the slim, adjustable micro-display delivers visual information without impeding line of sight.
2. Improves Access to Information Workers are able to access relevant information when they need it, whenever they need it. Knowledgeable and informed workers are more efficient and productive.
The RealWear devices can display most forms of multimedia, including documents, images, videos and more. While it’s possible to get the same access on other devices, laptops are cumbersome, tablets require two hands and smartphones can be easily dropped.
The RealWear headsets have powerful wireless connectivity that includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the LTE network. The HMT-1 also has an optional LTE modem attachment that extends a 4G cellular link.
3. Increases Expert Accessibility
Sometimes, frontline workers just need extra support. But equipment or facility experts aren’t always at the same worksite or even in the same time zone.
RealWear assisted reality headsets are equipped with high-resolution cameras and noise-canceling microphones and headphones. With video conferencing, remote experts can see what the worker is seeing in real time. This enables onsite workers to collaborate with remote experts and solve issues on the spot.
RealWear also has dozens of technology partners (e.g. Microsoft, Cisco and Zoom) that help remote participants collaborate with others, presenting their screens and interacting through the headset’s micro-display.
4. Boosts Productivity and Efficiency
RealWear HMT devices are Android tablets in headset form. This means whatever can be performed on an Android tablet can be performed on a RealWear device, accessing digital resources, capturing videos and images, completing checklists and forms, and even performing location-based tasks using GPS.
5. Reduces Costs
The ability to safely collaborate with experts — or any stakeholder — in hazardous environments can help organizations save notable operational costs. These can include international travel costs of multiple experts. Also, with fewer people on these hazardous worksites, workplace accidents can be greatly reduced.
Many organizations have experienced faster first-time resolution times and increased first-time fix rates with assisted reality. By reducing equipment downtime, facilities can return to operating costs at maximum capacity sooner.
Assisted Reality Use Cases
Assisted reality devices can be used in a variety of industrial or facility tasks. In fact, many Fortune 1000 companies are already using assisted reality in their manufacturing and production lines — with proven ROI.
Here are some examples companies are using assisted reality technology:
Remote Expert Total S.A. is a broad-energy multinational company and is one of the seven Big Oil organizations. The RealWear HMT-1Z1 hands-free headsets allowed Total to connect onsite workers to expert colleagues anywhere in the world for faster equipment diagnoses and repairs. “You put the HMT-1Z1 on your head, and you go handsfree. I can actually check vibrations and temperatures with my hands. I can turn wrenches or open up a book. I can work.” – Adam Hale, Superintendent of Maintenance Execution
Remote Acceptance Testing Prysmian Group is the largest manufacturer of telecommunication cables in the world. The multi-national organization deployed RealWear HMT-1 running OverIT’s SPACE1 to drive remote acceptance testing and knowledge transfers.“It brings many benefits in terms of efficiency, as it accelerates technological transfer, and sustainability.” – Carlotta Dainese, Head of Digital Innovation Lab
Distribution Asset Documentation Burns & McDonnell is an engineering, consulting and construction firm. Assisted reality technology with RealWear streamlines site documentation and enables Burns & McDonnell’s senior experts to virtually visit and review sites without traveling. “Hands-free, voice-activated wearable technology in a single solution can keep projects moving where site access is limited because of travel restrictions and health and safety orders [during the COVID-19 pandemic].” – John Olander, COO and President of the Transmission & Distribution Group
Information Accessibility Vestas Wind Systems A/S manufactures, sells, installs and services wind turbines around the world. RealWear helped Vestas’ sprawling network of field technicians and engineers access key knowledge resources, including experienced remote workers. “In the blades area, the workers can’t use their hands for navigating through the data they need.” – Mark Jaxion, Senior Specialist of Leading IoT and Industry 4.0 Strategy
Virtual Factory Acceptance Testing Honeywell International Inc. is a Fortune 100 company and global conglomerate. RealWear allowed Honeywell to perform onsite validations and testing of customers’ newly implemented industrial equipment virtually.“If RealWear wasn’t available, we would have extended tests by months and expanded costs, which would have drastically impacted our customers.” – Hank Wrenn, Vice President and General Manager of Americas Projects and Automation Solutions
For enterprise companies, the opportunity to have our physical world interact with the digital world is exciting. For work tasks that require information at the right time just when you need it, Assisted Reality devices such as the RealWear devices are quickly becoming the standard way to empower frontline workers to take their skills and value to the next level, no matter where they work.