Augmented Reality (AR) technology is making workplace strides primarily because it has demonstrated the ability to improve workflows and boost efficiency via devices such as headsets, glasses, and head-mounted displays. AR empowers workers with highly relevant digital information without tying them to their desks or computers. Take, for instance, an AR headset, which allows workers to follow instructions beamed to them, so they can carry out operations, maintenance and upgrades according to specific commands in real-time. And this technology frees workers' hands, so instead of fiddling with their computers, they can perform actual tasks without interruptions.
In some ways, the future of the workplace is already here. AR's potential to transform the workplace is evident from a week-long pilot project at courier firm DHL. Warehouse staff wearing AR glasses were able to improve work in terms of speed and error-free operations by nearly 25 percent.
DAQRI’s Smart Helmet® is a case in point. The industrial-grade helmet is a hard hat with a front visor that overlays text, audio, and schematics onto physical objects. The glanceable headset with immersive capabilities is designed to empower workers with live information about surrounding objects. The helmet-mounted thermal camera superimposes images on a facemask and allows workers to survey their environment at a glance. It also enables them to measure temperature, identify pressure leaks, and carry out predictive maintenance. And workers can virtually call in remote assistance in real-time.
Similar to the Smart Helmet, DAQRI’s Smart Glasses™allow workers to understand processes quickly, spend less time on each step, and make fewer errors. And their data virtualization capabilities enable organizations to decentralize control room operations creating greater efficiency and productivity.
Headset design and machine vision are key to AR. Intel®'s headset designs, for example,feature an Intel 7th Gen Core™ processor, RealSense camera sensors, and a computer vision chip, among other key components (Figure 1). Room-mapping and depth-sensing, based on Intel's RealSense 3-D camera platform, provide depth perception that measures the distance between objects and thus enables capabilities such as motion tracking for gesture detection. These cameras are used to assist an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) with motion tracking, navigation, and deep learning capabilities.
Figure 1: Intel's headset design has created specialized hardware that augments the real world with a virtual overlay. (Source: Intel)
Additionally, computer vision or machine vision technology provides AR devices with the ability to understand positions relative to the world around them. Intel is accelerating its RealSense camera platform with a radically low-powered Movidius computer vision chipset, which provides the ability to track, navigate, map, and recognize both scenes and objects to understand surroundings and navigate accordingly.
Collectively, these two key building blocks allow AR devices to place virtual objects in the real world and then enable the virtual objects to interact with the environment. Where does AR stand now in the future of workplace? Industry observers often point to half-baked demos and AR products that look gimmicky and clunky. That's partly true, but AR's journey from a neo-futurist hobby to an enterprise solution is quickly taking shape. And technical limitations such as small Field-Of-View (FOV) are being countered with more powerful sensors, cameras, and chips.
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