In our latest “What Is” article, we take a look at assisted reality (aR), explaining what this technology is, how companies are using it and some of the benefits that can be gained.
What is assisted reality (aR)?
Assisted reality is a relatively new concept but is beginning to revolutionise the way our essential industries work. Assisted reality, also denoted as “aR”, allows users to view information via a screen that is directly in their field of vision, working hands-free. Think heads up displays in vehicles, smart glasses and head-mounted tablets with micro-displays as examples.
Unlike Augmented Reality (AR), which can change what the user sees, Assisted Reality adds an extra layer of information to the user’s existing field of vision. It delivers information such as text, images, videos and diagrams to enhance the situational awareness of the user.
Examples of real-world, wearable aR devices include head-mounted tablets for technicians and industrial workers. Small, wearable computers that can deliver information, replacing the need for handheld tablets, laptops, and cumbersome documents to transform the way people work.
What are the benefits of assisted reality?
Imagine a technician working on an aeroplane or car. Armed with the information and tools they think they need for the job, they encounter an unexpected problem that they don’t know how to fix. Traditionally, they’d have to down tools and physically go and find instructions or an expert colleague to solve the problem. With a head-mounted assisted reality device though, technicians can easily call-up diagrams and checklists, or consult colleagues via 2-way video if they need help. All while staying focused on the job at hand. Convenient and time-saving, the rollout of aR devices is resulting in a measurable boost in productivity.
As assisted reality headsets and head-mounted wearables are primarily used in industrial environments, the hands-free operation allows the user to stay focused. Designed for use with safety glasses, hard hats, hazmat suits and other PPE, assisted reality enables delivery of the right information with safety at the forefront.
Many assisted reality devices are designed to be worn and operated hands-free, so there’s no need for carrying additional laptops or documents. Information can be delivered exactly when it’s needed, right into the eyes and ears of the user.
With an increase in home or remote-working and increased dependency on virtual technology, most of us are used to meeting colleagues in different locations via a screen. Assisted reality takes this a step further, with meetings no longer confined to a desk. Remote team members can view what their colleagues are working on via the aR device, seeing and hearing what they see. This eliminates the need for in-person support and significantly reduces travel costs. Great use cases include remote expert support and auditing processes, removing the need for senior resource to be present while still allowing them to witness what’s happening first-hand.
The need to successfully connect in real-time with company staff, across products, with different processes and others around the world poses a logistical problem for any business. Assisted reality devices allow companies to transform the way that they work, creating an opportunity for businesses to grow and develop as effectively as possible.
Where is assisted reality being used?
We’ve mentioned that assisted reality is helping to transform the way that some industries work. Burns & McDonnell, an engineering, consulting and construction firm, successfully introduced Realwear aR devices to streamline site testing processes and maintenance.
They were faced with a challenge where experienced staff were unable to distribute assets and visit multiple sites as quickly as they needed. With the rollout of Realwear headsets, senior staff were able to visit and review sites virtually, enabling them to monitor multiple settings. By using aR devices, distributed asset information could be completed 5x faster and field errors were reduced by 33%.*
Realwear assisted reality devices such as the Navigator 500, HMT-1 and HMT 1Z1 are hands-free, voice-enabled head-mounted tablets that have been designed for safety. Besides Burns and McDonnell, Realwear technology has also been embraced by Honeywell International Inc’s Process Solutions team, Vestas Wind System’s engineers and Prysmian Group’s field operations team – and many others.
The future is assisted reality
With a host of technologically advanced features and the ability to deliver fast, effective solutions in real-time, assisted reality is holistically solving many of the issues that industrial companies face. Helping to lead the way for Industry 4.0 and digital transformation, assisted reality is already delivering tangible benefits to businesses today, but it’s also paving the way for future applications such as IIoT data visualisation.