Challenges of Enterprise Wearables, AR and VR: A Changing Landscape, Budget, Battery, and More

In this largely Q&A-driven panel discussion from last month’s EWTS 2018, Tacit’s Todd Boyd and members of the audience question IT leaders from Worthington Industries, HB Fuller, Ford, JetBlue and The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) on the cultural and technical challenges of adopting wearable technologies. Some of the challenges addressed include keeping people engaged, dealing with opponents and a constantly changing hardware landscape, budget and financing, battery life and back-end system integration. Watch now:

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

All the News Out of EWTS 2018

The 2018 Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit took place October 9-10 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. A number of announcements were made at the event—all great news for the future of enterprise wearable technologies. From new partnerships to global deployments, here are the developments announced at the event:

RealWear Announces That Colgate-Palmolive to Roll Out HMT-1 Hands-Free Wearable Computers to 20 Manufacturing Sites in 11 Countries

Colgate-Palmolive is rolling out RealWear’s voice-operated HMT-1 among hundreds of its mechanics and engineers across 20 of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Colgate-Palmolive employees will use the technology to receive support from remote SMEs, equipment suppliers and manufacturing teams, as well as to retrieve and capture documents and video.


Vuzix Receives M300 Follow-On Orders from SATS to Outfit Ramp Handling Operations with Smart Glasses at Changi Airport

SATS, the chief ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport, began piloting the Vuzix M300 to increase accuracy and efficiency in its ramp handling operations in mid-2017. The company is now expanding its use of the technology, deploying smart glasses to over 500 employees at Changi Airport. Wearing Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses, workers will be able to receive real-time loading instructions and scan barcodes on luggage and cargo containers, hopefully reducing loading times by up to 15 minutes/flight.


Toshiba Adds Voice Commands and Enhanced Camera Capabilities to Create Vision DE Suite 2.0

Toshiba has upgraded its software engine to include voice commands, enhanced camera capabilities, and other new features. Vision DE Suite 2.0 delivers live video collaboration, photo/video capture and viewing (plus image resolution control), real-time file synchronization and alerts, a remote management console, and flexible controls to dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses users. The upgraded software is now available for purchase, while existing customers will receive a free upgrade.


RealWear Rolls Out Zero-Touch Deployment Solution with RealWear Foresight Cloud Platform

In other RealWear news, the company announced the RealWear Foresight cloud platform with zero-touch deployment, now a built-in feature of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1. The solution accelerates early enterprise deployments, allowing RealWear to ship devices directly from its fulfillment centers and organizations to immediately and securely deploy the technology by adding any app from the RealWear app catalog. Companies who’ve optimized their apps for the HMT-1/HMT-1Z1 include HPE, Librestream, PTC, Ubimax, and Upskill.


AMA Partners with Proceedix to provide advanced remote assistance solutions

The integration of XpertEye and Proceedix delivers the most comprehensive solution for remote assistance and work flow support on mobile and wearable devices, maximizing usage and benefits for end users. The alliance of the two solutions is designed for industrial sites with multiple use cases for smart glasses, so that a worker can use the same pair of smart glasses to view heads-up, hands-free work instructions and receive real-time support when needed. See what the CEOs of AMA and Proceedix had to say at EWTS here.


Atheer Announces the World’s First Augmented Reality Management Platform, Creating New Enterprise Software Category

Atheer revealed the “world’s first Augmented Reality Management Platform for industrial enterprises,” a new category of enterprise software aimed at helping companies tackle challenges relating to change, connectivity, talent, and operational complexities. The device-agnostic platform supports natural controls, see-what-I-see video collaboration, digital asset management, contextual awareness, predictive and performance analytics, and more. Aragon Research calls it “an important milestone” for enterprise AR. Check out the White Paper that accompanied the announcement.


Upskill launches support for Microsoft HoloLens

Upskill announced the early release of its AR/MR platform Skylight for Microsoft HoloLens. The move opens up more real estate to display information and extends Skylight into the spatial computing environment, offering a new experience for Skylight customers. Users can use hand gestures and simple gazes to navigate in virtual space and view multiple windows at the same time. Building on HoloLens’ Windows 10 capabilities, the solution securely connects to back-end systems to pull information into the mixed reality environment. Watch the video.


Three trends to watch in enterprise wearables

The Glass team shared their experiences at EWTS 2018 in a blog post, recapping the trends they’ve observed working with their partners and customers. Read it here. Jay Kothari and his team at X, the moonshot factory, say they are continuing to improve Glass based on user feedback.

Empowering the Power Sector: The Use of Wearable and Immersive Tech in Utilities

Today’s power and utility companies are navigating a period of uncertainty: Political, environmental and social pressures are making it critical for the power sector to evolve the technology and business models by which it has traditionally operated. Radical policy changes such as regulation rollbacks and tax reforms, severe weather including historic floods, hurricanes and fires, a rapidly retiring workforce and changing electricity needs are testing utilities, compelling them to embrace digitalization… with caution.

And it’s not just in the U.S.; energy markets around the world are changing. As power grids become smarter, electricity gets cleaner, and consumers have more choices; utilities are rethinking how they generate and sell electricity, how they can make their operations more intelligent and give customers more control while safeguarding reliability, affordability and safety.


State of the Power Sector: Trends and pain points

 Changing Fuel Mix

Power generation today is increasingly diverse and decentralized. The rise of cheaper renewable and distributed energy sources has led to a kind of fork in the road: How do traditional energy providers strike a balance between maintaining and repairing aging infrastructure and investing in the future? The trends towards grid parity and liberalization of the energy market are clear: 50 gigawatts of coal-fired generation capacity were retired between 2012 and 2017, and BMI expects the capacity of renewables (wind, solar, etc.) to double by 2026. Some analysts are even saying the cost of delivering power via grid could surpass that of consumers producing and storing their own energy as early as 2022.


The New Energy Customer

Becoming more responsive to customer demands (and more resilient in the face of extreme weather) requires more than just strengthening poles and wires; it means stemming the tide of outgoing knowledge and training the next generation of utility workers to do their jobs better, faster and safer. It means new services and charging models that give customers more control over their energy consumption and even manage the surplus energy generated by consumers-turned-prosumers. A digital grid powered by automation and data intelligence will help synchronize the new complex network of fuel and power providers to deliver increased flexibility, cleaner energy, faster service, and lower costs to consumers.


Making Sense of the Data

 The large amount and variety of data collected as the grid gets more connected – data from smart equipment, customers (mobile notifications and smart meter data), and even drones (visual GPS, infrared LiDar, etc.) – is a challenge in and of itself. Processed and analyzed correctly, this information could help power companies stay on top of outages and damaged assets, anticipate demand and repairs, optimize scheduling, and improve customer service. But to translate all this data into actionable insight, utilities must invest in advanced data analytics along with the tools to feed information to change agents “on the ground.”


A Dying Breed

With half of their workforce expected to retire over the next several years, it’s critical for power and utility companies to be agile and adapt. The industry, however, is dealing with both decades-old infrastructure unfamiliar to younger engineers and newer smart grid technology alien to veteran workers; not to mention low-tech work tools and inadequate training methods like paper and pencil, slide decks and videos.

In addition to capturing outgoing expertise, utility organizations need to make new employees highly proficient quickly. A Department of Energy survey last year found that there are two types of utility workers in short supply: Those with firsthand knowledge of legacy systems and those with the training or qualifications to move up and replace the former. And though 74% of employees are ready to learn new skills, the number of different devices and generations of technology in a typical substation today – many lacking maintenance and repair records or even user manuals – complicates training.


Applications of XR and Wearables in Utilities

If you’re wondering how utilities are going to maintain revenue as the demand for non-renewable electricity continues to decline; you’re not alone. In order to make necessary investments and keep rates competitive given all the new players, utilities have to look beyond power generation for opportunities to reduce costs and increase productivity. One option they’re exploring are new and continually improving wearable and immersive technologies, especially augmented reality. In fact, despite heavy regulations, energy and utilities are one of the top three verticals buying Augmented Reality glasses (ABI Research).


Efficiency & Productivity

A quick response time in a power outage depends on technicians being able to quickly and accurately assess the damage and expedite repairs; but what if field workers lack the knowledge or experience to do so? This scenario is becoming more common as experienced utility workers retire before transmitting their specialized knowledge to their replacements and as the required skills for the job change and diversify (along with fuel supplies). Smart glasses present a solution in the form of on-demand data, step-by-step instructions, and over-the-shoulder remote coaching. If AR overlays fail – information like asset type, operating stats, maintenance history, etc. overlaid on a piece of equipment – see-what-I-see assistance from an office-based, expert worker would speed the job along while leaving both hands free for actual repairs. This has the added benefit of easing the impact of changing workforce demographics and enabling utilities to do more with less, as one expert in an office can remotely mentor an entire team of younger technicians.

AI-based data solutions and even virtual reality models could help predict failures to distribution equipment and other power quality issues, and furthermore dispatch the closest technician to the job and automatically order replacement parts. And with new data sources, existing utility systems of information like asset management, distribution management and geographic information systems will improve, as will the AR overlays and virtual SMEs guiding workers in the field. All of the above speeds up power restoration, improves customer service, and reduces operating and maintenance costs.


Safety

With employees spread out at multiple field locations, keeping the utility workforce safe is a challenge. Usually, engineers’ status and location are known only if they check in regularly. But body-worn wearables equipped with sensors that monitor location and risk status to workers, including hazards in their environment and key biometrics, allow real-time incident reporting and safety warnings. Real-life examples include smart badges that detect when the wearer has fallen from a pylon, smart clothing that can monitor heart rate and heat stress while climbing a transmission pole, and smart wristbands with built-in voltage detection.


Training

Smart glasses both stream and record, meaning institutional knowledge can be reserved in the form of first-person training videos recorded by seasoned workers wearing smart glasses. Additionally, remote guidance “sessions” can be recorded, serving in the moment to help younger workers on the job and later as training material to look back at. The same can be used to design VR or MR training simulations for incoming employees, as we now have the studies to back up the effectiveness of immersive experiences over traditional learning methods.

By wearing an AR display, utility workers in any job can have immediate access to the resources and real-time intelligence they need right in their field of view. This error-proofs the work of newer employees while simultaneously training them on the job. Moreover, the flexibility afforded by XR in training will be absolutely critical as the skills and knowledge required of the next-generation utility workforce change in sync with power generation itself.


With tremendous industry-wide support, especially from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the power sector is taking a long-term yet effective approach to not only piloting the latest in immersive wearable tech but also producing the studies – hard data – to ultimately facilitate industry-wide adoption. See my next post for use cases!

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-11, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Tickets now available at www.aweeu.com.

Let Your Customers and Workers Choose the Right XR Use Case for You

Here’s a common misconception: The more robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) advance, the more expendable human beings become in the workplace.

Although Forrester Research predicts automation will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027, it’s irrational to fear that robots will ultimately replace all human workers. For as robotics and AI improve, so do technologies for empowering human workers. I’m talking about wearable technologies like augmented and virtual reality headsets as well as wearable robotics (exoskeletons) that enable humans to work longer, quickly train for new jobs, and perform in sync with automation. You could even argue that as automation progresses, human workers will become more indispensable to enterprises—while robots may assume the dangerous and repetitive aspects of work, unmanned technology won’t be able to address every productivity issue or match distinctly human capabilities like human dexterity and imagination.

When it comes to embracing disruptive technology, successful organizations take a “user is king” approach, finding out pain points in the business directly from the source, i.e. workers or customers who are expected to use or benefit from the technology. Whether it’s getting a group together for a brainstorming session, including members of the workforce in the proof of concept stage, or simply encouraging a company culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas with leadership; there is no one better than the user herself to determine where and how to digitally transform.


“Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” – SAS CEO Jim Goodnight


Two companies have gone beyond merely asking for user input: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines established a physical hub to foster workers’ original ideas for using emerging technologies; while Lowe’s went directly to the customer, applying “young” immersive tech to age-old home improvement shopping challenges. Essentially, KLM and Lowe’s are letting their employees and customers come up with the use cases in which they’re investing.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

In 2016 at its Amsterdam Airport Schiphol East base, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines opened its Digital Studio, a creative space where workers from all areas of the airline’s business are encouraged to come and innovate. Here, employees can put forward ideas on how to use digital technologies like AR and blockchain in their work, and see their ideas fast-tracked into development and then, hopefully, into practice.

The Digital Studio, which currently has room for 200 workers, is based upon Dave West’s Scrum Studio concept of an environment where high-performing teams, physically separated from the main business, can fast-track projects. It’s very hard to change large legacy companies like KLM from within: The larger the organization, the higher the chances of disruptive technologies ending up in pilot purgatory and innovation suffocating in red tape between divisions and levels of management.

Though most of the current projects at KLM’s Digital Studio are still in the experimental stage, a handful have turned into practice. The studio has embraced KLM employees of all different backgrounds and roles, who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to take their transformative ideas further. Take Chris Koomen, who was stationed in KLM’s engineering and maintenance division: Chris had an idea for using VR, so he joined the Digital Studio and has been a part of integrating VR for training aircraft crew. Another idea pitched by a KLM mechanic involves using AR in aircraft and engine maintenance.

Every four weeks, the Digital Studio hosts a demo of what it’s working on to interested observers. The lesson here is don’t hide emerging tech in a lab unless you’re going to let the user in. Show employees what’s out there, give them resources, and let those who perform the job every day tell you how to transform the business.


“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” – Jerry Gregoire, former VP & CIO of Dell


Lowe’s

Despite the impression one might get from HGTV, building things is not easy for the non-professional. Planning a home improvement project, shopping for building materials, executing the project…what’s most difficult for the average consumer, even a hardcore DIY-er, is visualizing the final product. But it seems a solution has finally appeared in the form of XR (AR, VR, MR), and all the major home improvement brands recognize the potential. There are now apps for virtually measuring your surroundings and picturing all kinds of design options and home products in your real space. And it’s not just the Lowe’s and Home Depots of the world—architects and engineers have seized upon VR to help clients visualize new structures, real estate agents are giving virtual home tours, and even Gulfstream Aerospace employs XR so its clients know exactly what their custom jets will look like when delivered.

Lowe’s has been conspicuously innovative in making the benefits of XR available to its customers. For the last four years, powerful new immersive technology design and shopping tools have been brewing in Lowe’s Innovation Labs. Josh Shabtai, Director of the Labs Productions and Operations, says he looks at those problems that keep resurfacing. Since the introduction of Holoroom How-To in 2014, Lowe’s Innovation Labs has rolled out an impressive suite of mobile apps / pilot projects to gauge customers’ comfort level with XR, including Lowe’s Vision, In-Store Navigation, and View in Your Space.

Lowe’s is trying to solve the classic pain points of home improvement shopping by giving customers the ability to see with the eyes of a contractor or interior designer, determine whether products fit in their space, virtually tile a bathroom, operate a power tool, and more. By focusing on customer problems, Lowe’s has made some of the strongest cases for consumer AR and VR to date. The retailer’s steady flow of practical immersive experiences even landed it at the top of a list of most innovative companies in AR/VR by Fast Company!


With each employee-generated idea, KLM not only gains a potentially transformative technology solution but also primes its workers for the change to digital—there’s no need to convince employees to use solutions they helped conceive of. And with each application, Lowe’s refines the XR tools that future consumers will use to visualize spaces and learn new skills; ideally positioning itself to scale when the time comes, build customer loyalty and future-proof its business from online competition.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Tickets now available at www.aweeu.com.

 

Image source: Lowe’s via Road to VR

Making Your Next Flight Safer and Smoother with Wearable AR+VR

From building the actual plane to the in-flight experience, wearable XR (AR, VR, MR) devices have a role to play in multiple professions within the commercial aviation industry. Employees whose jobs affect every aspect of one’s trip, including aircraft maintenance workers and flight crew can make use of wearable XR technologies to ensure the end goal: A safe and satisfied traveler. Find out how XR might be used on the ground and in the air when you go on your next business trip or vacation:


On the Ground: AR for Assembly

Both Airbus and Boeing employ augmented reality (AR) glasses in the aircraft assembly process. Airbus workers follow plans directly in their field of view, superimposed on the plane’s interior during cabin installation. They use the same solution to check the accuracy and quality of their work (image recognition technology and artificial intelligence at work); while Boeing employees use smart glasses to view a heads-up, hands-free roadmap for wire harness assembly over their real-world view. In each case, AR functions to form a stronger connection for the user between textual or diagrammatic instructions and the real working environment.

Using AR glasses with software by Upskill helped Boeing save tens of millions of dollars, but it’s not all about money: By helping employees work faster without error, aircraft manufacturers can deliver defect-free planes to customers quicker. Airlines and other buyers thus receive faster-built, higher quality aircraft and parts that breakdown less often. Aircraft and parts engineers can also use AR and VR devices to collaborate on new designs from anywhere in the world, sharing and testing ideas and even simulating the assembly or installation process to foresee issues. New XR platforms are only making this collaboration easier.


VR for Training

After assembly comes maintenance: It can take up to eight years to train and license an aviation maintenance professional. This includes aircraft OEM mechanics and airline technicians who perform safety checks, prepare aircraft components for flight, make repairs, and more. While accessing real aviation equipment for hands-on training is costly and difficult, in VR trainees can practice skills in a realistic, accident-proof immersive environment with virtual parts and tools. For instance, a mechanic wearing a VR headset could walk inside an engine and examine its parts as well as simulate different repair scenarios. With advanced audio and haptics (like a haptic suit), the trainee could even hear the noise and feel the motion of the engine, better preparing him for the real thing.

A recent study at the University of Maryland found that people actually learn and retain information better through immersive experiences compared to using a computer or tablet. Enterprises are also finding VR to be superior to reading a manual, watching videos, or taking a lecture-style class. While not an example of full immersion, Japan Airlines used Microsoft’s HoloLens to improve training for its engine mechanics—in place of physical hangouts, trainees learned all the engine components by working on a virtual engine in mixed reality.

Learning by doing with AR is effective and cost-saving for training, as well. Aviation maintenance workers can learn on the job without risk of error by using heads-up, hands-free smart glasses to view fool-proof text and visual aids over their work. The technology can even validate each step of an inspection or repair to prevent errors. Static instructions can become interactive, with virtual arrows and labels appearing on top of real-life aircraft equipment, showing the user where parts and tools should go. The result: Faster training without sacrificing accuracy or quality = quicker maintenance, fewer flight delays, and happier travelers.

Once the engine has been overhauled, the plane is ready for service. Expensive and logistically challenging, pilot training is another opportunity for VR. In recent years, the burden of paying for flight school has fallen onto pilots themselves. The $60,000-$80,000 price tag explains why flight school enrollment has fallen in the U.S., leading to a growing shortage of trained pilots not all that unlike the troubling shortage of skilled workers in other industries. CAE forecasts that over 255,000 pilots will be needed in the global commercial aviation industry by 2027, yet less than half that number has even begun training. Some carriers and manufacturers are making efforts by sponsoring aspiring aviators or expanding their flight training services, but the cost and time is still too great.

For industries with large, complex and expensive equipment like aviation, VR offers the closest thing to hands-on training. Virtual reality, capable of simulating almost every aspect of flying, feels more real than many current flight simulators (essentially stripped airplane cockpits with screens for windows) and is adaptable to all kinds of scenarios. Rookie pilots can walk around the cockpit, interact with the plane’s controls, and even practice an emergency landing, with tactile feedback to increase the sense of realness and help build muscle memory. VR is already finding its way into flight training programs: Airbus, for one, has been able to reduce training time and train more people in limited space using VR to supplement training in real aircraft; while Future Visual created a simulation for Oculus which takes pilot students through the entire pre-flight process. And VR isn’t just for ground crew and pilots; cabin crew and even airport staff training could incorporate immersive tech, as well.


In the Air: AR for Guidance

The length of runway required for a standard aircraft to get off the ground can be calculated, but what if there are unexpected failures? What if the engines aren’t working to full capacity or the takeoff field is wet? Will the aircraft still reach the required speed for takeoff? According to Boeing, 13% of fatal aircraft accidents occur during takeoff. In fact, pilot errors, not maintenance failures, are responsible for the vast majority of all aviation accidents. This isn’t surprising considering it’s largely left to the pilot’s subjective opinion to determine a response when something goes wrong.

The problem lies in how information is presented to the pilot inside the cockpit. It’s hard to focus on flying when you have to read and quickly analyze the text on a bunch of small instruments and screens all around you. AR technology can display this information in a more intuitive format. For instance, with smart glasses, information like pre-flight checklists, step-by-step instructions, current weather and air traffic information, even a 3D graphic of the takeoff path can appear overlaid in a pilot’s vision before takeoff. Aero Glass actually has a solution that displays flight path and instrument data to small airline pilots wearing smart glasses. The same cockpit information a pilot might get using physical controls and touch screens can be retrieved instead by voice command; and when a snap decision needs to be made during a flight, AI technology can pick out the most relevant information to display to the pilot.


XR in Flight Service?

The benefits of integrating AR glasses and VR headsets into aircraft assembly and technician training are tangible today, but at this point airlines have merely proposed ideas for using XR in the air without seriously investing. This is probably due to the consumer-facing nature of the in-flight experience. Providing flight attendants with smart glasses to interact with passengers or offering VR headsets as in-flight entertainment are not critical use cases like the need to quickly train thousands of new pilots. Moreover, the timeline for mainstream consumer use of AR and VR is still unclear.

XR hasn’t yet transformed the experience of flying, but some airlines are considering it. Air New Zealand, for example, had its crew members try out HoloLens to expedite and provide more tailored customer service during the flight. To cater to individual passengers, flight attendants might access their flight details (to help make connections), food allergies (to personalize meals), even their emotional state (facial recognition tech). Air France trialed VR headsets for in-flight, immersive entertainment; and though not in the air Lufthansa has used VR to sell upgrades to premium class right at the gate. Who knows? Maybe one day those safety instructions in your seat pocket will be replaced by a virtual reality video. In the meantime, rest assured that XR technologies are improving aviation operations behind the scenes, from the hangar to the cockpit.

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Apply to exhibit, submit a talk proposal and buy Super Early Bird tickets now at www.aweeu.com.

Everything Enterprise XR Announced at AWE USA 2018

The scope of the Augmented World Expo is large to say the least—six tracks, a huge expo divided into pavilions, a Playground of entertaining immersive experiences, workshops, and more. As opposed to EWTS’ enterprise focus, AWE truly gathers everyone interested in defining and progressing the future of XR in every aspect of life; and BrainXchange was happy to partner with the show’s producers to help plan the industry event.

There were many announcements at the 9th AWE and some really cool tech on the expo floor (mixed reality backpack, anyone?) For our followers interested in the business and industrial applications of wearable XR technologies, we’ve separated enterprise from consumer in recapping the major developments (yet still beta in many cases) that came out of last week’s event:


Kopin

One of the most anticipated announcements was for the Kopin Golden-i Infinity: A compact and lightweight, gesture- and voice-controlled smart screen that attaches magnetically to turn any pair of suitable eyewear into an AR display. The Golden-i is powered by an Android or Windows mobile device – thereby offloading the heavy lifting – and can connect to apps using a USB-C cable. It’s intended for enterprise use and will arrive by the third quarter of this year at a price of around $899.


Qualcomm

Qualcomm revealed the Snapdragon XR1 Platform, the first chip specially made for standalone XR devices. The new processor features special optimizations for better interactivity, power consumption and thermal efficiency; and could potentially reduce the cost of entry for new AR/VR hardware developers. Qualcomm also released a reference design that has already influenced forthcoming standalone devices from VIVE, Meta, Vuzix and Picoare.


Vuzix

In addition to taking the stage alongside Qualcomm to reveal the new Snapdragon XR1, Vuzix announced a partnership with Plessey Semiconductor and a shipping date of June 1st for the Blade AR Smart Glasses. Both partnerships will affect Vuzix’s next-gen smart glasses (expected in 2019) by increasing processing power and upgrading the display engine. During his keynote presentation, Lance Anderson also called on developers to help augmented reality move forward by creating practical and entertaining apps for the Vuzix Blade, the first fashion-friendly smart glasses for both work and play.


RealWear

AWE attendees were introduced to the HMT-1Z1, the first commercially available, ruggedized head-mounted AR computer certified for use in potentially explosive work environments (ATEX Zone 1 and C1/D1). The intrinsically safe wearable computer presents no ignition risk, allowing all workers to go hands-free and take advantage of the efficiency benefits of the HMD, and will ship on June 15th.


eSight

SPEX, a new division of eSight Corporation, showcased its first AR headset platform offering “breakthrough enhanced vision” in commercial, industrial and medical scenarios that require precision vision. The lightweight HMD has no release date as of yet but has been described as comfortable, providing an augmented view of the world without obstructing the user’s natural vision.


Atheer

Atheer announced the latest version of its AR platform, which includes secure group collaboration so that multiple remote experts can provide live video guidance and support across the supply chain (think of manufacturers with multiple suppliers). The company also widened the range of business processes supported by the Atheer AR Workflow Engine to include dynamic warehouse pick lists, contextual task guidance, checklists, link workflows, surveys, and note-taking for seamless process documentation.


Epson

Epson released the Moverio AR SDK for its line of Moverio Smart Glasses, which adds new capabilities like 3D object tracking using CAD data and 2D image tracking to the former SDK. The update enables the creation of 3D content for Moverio glasses and can detect various objects from 3D CAD files (no need for QR codes or other markers) as well as track multiple 2D images on a 3D plane. Epson is accepting applications for beta testers to help identify bugs.


Kaaya Tech

Kaaya Tech’s HoloSuit, a motion capture suit featuring haptic feedback for full immersion, was on showcase at AWE. The MoCap suit with haptic tech comes in two models, a basic one with 26 sensors and a higher-end version with 36 sensors. As opposed to games and entertainment, Kaaya Tech sees its technology being used in physical training simulations for industrial jobs, factory line work and the operation of heavy machinery.


ODG

ODG demonstrated a working model of an AR oxygen mask it has been developing with FedEx. The mask, named SAVED for Smoke Assured Vision Enhanced Display, has a heads-up AR display to help pilots make a safe landing despite smoke filling up the plane. In the near future, ODG plans to offer the technology to civil and commercial aircraft manufacturers and pilots as well as the military.


ScopeAR

ScopeAR debuted a new AR platform offering real-time remote assistance and augmented reality smart instructions. The all-in-one solution combines Scope AR’s video calling app Remote AR and the AR content creation library WorkLink to enable increased levels of collaboration and guidance.


Toshiba

At AWE, Toshiba demonstrated its dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses with two new applications resulting from recently-announced partnerships with Applied Computer Services (ACS) and Ubimax. ACS’ Timer Pro Storyboard software for video training and the Ubimax Frontline application suite are now both available on the dynaEdge.


Meta

AWE attendees got a live, on-stage demo of the Meta Viewer, the first software application for the Meta 2 headset that lets users view 3D CAD models in AR. Currently in beta state, the app will save time and reduce costs in the product development process—everyone in the development chain (designers, salespeople, etc.) will be able to use Meta Viewer to collaborate and interact with 3D designs without having any special technical skills.


RE’FLEKT 

The company has added Sync – “the first software solution to automatically create edge-based tracking from CAD data” – to REFLEKT ONE, its suite of AR/MR app development tools. Sync is designed to further simplify the transformation of existing technical documentation and CAD data into AR/MR manuals and enterprise applications. With Sync, RE’FLEKT claims AR apps for maintenance, training and operations can be built completely in-house. Companies can save time and money and do not have to share their proprietary CAD and other data with a third party.

 

Image source: Wareable

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 5th annual EWTS will be held October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. For more details, please visit the conference website or download the EWTS 2018 Brochure.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Apply to exhibit, submit a talk proposal and buy Super Early Bird tickets now at www.aweeu.com.

Setting Up An Inventory System Is As Easy As 1-2-3…4

Written by Special Guest Bloggers Robert Seward and Steven Lewis, Co-Founders at Rendered Perception

 

Computer Vision (CV) and Augmented Reality (AR) coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will create that step change for inventory improvement that you are looking for. A good inventory system is a byproduct of having a deep understanding of your customer. Through our years of experience, that means you must be relentless about delivering a great customer experience. If you truly understand your customers’ jobs to be done, you will innovate and hire the correct product. More importantly, it is about progress not just a static product or service. There are plenty of off-the-shelf inventory management platforms for purchase but creating the best-in-class experience cannot be pulled from the shelf. When building an end-to-end inventory system, it should be set up in a way to collect insights, learn, teach, predict and understand customer circumstances. We will describe how setting up an inventory system is as easy as 1-2-3…4.


Step 1. Pain points: Understanding Customer Friction

First, you must dig into all the pain points, rationalizing customer friction points. In creating any solution, we first fall in love with the problem. We employ a 5-D method: Discovery, Define, Design, Develop and then Deliver. Whether you have been in the distribution business for years or are looking to increase your value proposition by adding warehousing to your transportation outfit, pain points exist. Inventory is a function of storage and flow.

Pain points on the flow could be as simple as needing better coordination with your vendors on the receiving side.  Implementing something as simple as advanced ship notice (ASN) provides visibility to the transported inventory. Couple ASN with the product type and engineering standards provides earned hours for scheduling within a workforce management system. It is common to use inventory buffers against the variability associated with customer demand. It is critical to know what you have, where you have it, where you are going to need it and how you will provide it.  Yesterday, you needed inventory correct at your edge node (local unit). Today, you need inventory visibility across the enterprise in real-time to accommodate the different purchase channels as well as provide vendors visibility to collaborate. Even outside the normal business, when a weather event like a hurricane happens, it is critical for inventory precision. Having the ability to create a pop-up retail unit, dynamically shifting inventory to the nodes that matter, is a competitive advantage and delivers tremendous value to customers that need it the most.


Step 2. People Focus: Simplify Tasks and Activities

Inventory systems can be cumbersome, frustrating and complex.  We have known operators within the business that have a successful track record garner more influence on how the inventory flow and processes should work. The challenge can be having a holistic viewpoint of the pain points and job to be done. The operator has tremendous domain knowledge of the business and expects everyone to have that level of experience and execution. Reality is the system should be designed to the lowest common denominator. You cannot assume much of the workforce will be able to execute a system designed by and for an expert operator. The balance is how do you leverage the person with operational expertise with professionals in the inventory space and a sprinkling of tasteful automation.

If you get this wrong, you spend good money and time, yet employees end up fighting with the systems and the inventory is not correct. The natural inclination is to automate everything and hope the problem will go away.  There is no shortage of use cases that people can speak to that would make their professional lives easier. The challenge with that is automation requires very complex calculations, multiple streams of data and backend processes. You do not want to automate bad behavior. The cost to automate something that changes frequently is a waste of capital. Before automation, you should have very solid controls as a foundation when creating business requirements. People that design the processes have great intentions but cannot aggregate the complexities thus creating a mess. There are several case studies that illustrate the importance of identifying the right systems to automate versus enhanced workforce. There is a sweet spot on the automation curve that leverages labor expenses intelligently versus spending capital on automation.

Fun Math

If your inventory system is only 60% accurate, what is the math of your secondary systems and how accurate are they? If they are not perfect, you start to talk about fractions of fractions and your system collapses. Where you want to start your calculus is with a near 100% for your foundation (which is Inventory by the way people!), and then your fractions can start from there, preferably 99% or 100%’s all the way down so that it runs smooth. If your foundation is secure and running great, your secondary systems will take care of themselves so that you can focus your support and attention to more important things… like the customer.

Example: You order an item online and you don’t get it. Does the problem end there? The company has a 95% ship rate. If the customer did not get it, where is it? Where was the real-time alert identifying a break in the supply chain? Proactive versus reactive. Find and fix the problem before the customer realizes anything less than superior service has occurred. If there is a problem in the supply chain that cannot be addressed in a timely manner, the customer should be updated and informed before unpleasantly surprised.


Step 3. Process Focus: Standardize and Streamline Routines

You have heard the expression, “what gets measured, gets done.” Companies understand the value of simplifying, standardizing and optimizing processes. Creating routines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) aligns large-scale labor forces. The challenge is not in the set-up of engineering standards, working data sheets and frequency studies. The challenge is in the delivery of the training material!  No one appreciates the series of 4-inch binders containing outdated instructions on how to perform a task. Maintaining the binder content has evolved to basic interactive training videos. Would it not be easier to use Augmented Reality (AR) to do the training while the employee is performing the task? We have seen training that normally takes several weeks down to a few hours.

Once you have an AR-assisted solution available to help employees complete the task, you need to have a follow-up mechanism. Yesterday and today, you would have a small team of auditors or managers audit a sample of tasks. Does that audit team need to exist tomorrow? Could you build AR tools performing system-assisted inspection? You still need to inspect what you expect. Instead of auditing a person, you would be validating the results… a modern version of trust but verify.

Building an AR-assisted solution will not happen overnight. Good news, though, is you get notable incremental benefits along the way. Most approaches today start with taking existing systems to mobile. Then from mobile to head-mounted displays. Lastly, head-mounted displays to basic AR. We believe in starting with basic AR and rapidly iterating to more value-added AR. A 3-year roadmap could look like the following:


Step 4. Platform Build: Innovation, Automation and Analytics

Building the platform is the fun part. Integration is simply a function of inputs, outputs and transformations. Most people see and judge a solution on the merit of interface. The secret is not in the interface, it is in the data capture. Identifying the source(s) of data, building real-time systems to ingest the data and build a system to intelligently understand and then apply the data are some of the most important parts. This is not sexy but pays tremendous dividends. Please note we did not get this right the very first attempt. What kept us on track is we had a motto for when we reviewed our “final” solution design– Hate your design, continue forward and iterate tomorrow. We did a 3-month proof of concept that we could have easily spent a year on, but we would not have gotten through all our test-fail-learn cycles.

The diagram listed below is an oversimplification to the actual architecture design. A few notable jobs to be done based on our experience:

  • Capture lost sales opportunities – what, when, where, why, how
  • Workforce planning – based on routines, SOPs, engineering standards and dynamic tasks
  • Connectivity throughout the supply chain – anchored in the retail unit and worked upstream and downstream
  • Predictive insights – decision options, consequences, pros, cons

Streamlining everyday tasks, performing wildly complex computations, and having a personal assistant to talk AND walk you through exceptions should be a staple. There is a lot of work that goes into building out the technology stack, software configuration and use case prioritization.


Closing

The business should be made as simple as possible. We have built algorithms to create calculations to redesign direct labor out of the system as well as add capacity and increase accuracy. As part of the journey, we built backend processes to remove non-value-added time associated with set-up and wayfinding. In the end, we have always maintained the customer vantage point.

Inventory management powered by CV, AR and IoT creates an intelligent inventory solution. AR technology is here and unlocks a wealth of value added opportunity. If you truly understand your customers’ job to be done, you will innovate and hire the correct product. We fall in love with the problem. If you strive for the best-in-class customer experience, building an inventory system really is as simple as 1-2-3…4.

 

If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn:

If you happen to be attending the following AR conferences, stop by and chat:

Attracting Millennials with XR: The Future of On-Demand Training and Continuous Skill Development

JRCS, a Japanese supplier of maritime systems, is the latest company to partner with Microsoft to test the HoloLens Mixed Reality headset for training purposes. Volkswagen recently became the first car manufacturer to go “all in” on Virtual Reality training for its employees across the globe. UPS, Walmart, Linde North America, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines—all exploring XR as a tool for training employees in lieu of lectures and slideshows. And it’s not just training; as we’ve covered extensively on this blog, organizations in nearly every sector are equipping workers with XR devices to assemble aircraft, repair equipment in the field, inspect vehicles, and more.

Why is this remarkable? Because workplaces are changing, and the workforce is getting younger. There is a reason some game developers are switching gears to enterprise content development—in just a few years, a generation raised on video games and technology in classrooms will make up 50% of the global workforce. There are 75 million millennials in the U.S. alone, all working age (roughly 18 to 35), and their outlook on life and work is very different from that of their middle-aged Gen X predecessors and the baby boomers reaching retirement. Millennials should matter to enterprises. They’re not just a group to be marketed to; they are desperately needed to fill over six million job openings in America, and they are essential to riding out the accelerating storm of disruption caused by technology in both enterprise and society at large. And yet, companies are struggling to attract, train and retain millennial employees.

Although millennials are the largest talent pool, they remain in short supply in some industries, especially the skilled trades. Companies are legitimately concerned about the growing skills gap but are using the same old recruitment and training techniques that are not aligned with the needs and values of millennials. And it’s hemorrhaging money: Last year, 45% of small businesses were unable to find qualified candidates for job openings, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. 60% of employers reported position vacancies of 12 weeks or longer, costing $800,000 annually between advertising and lost productivity.

Recruiting, onboarding and training a new employee is an investment—a worthwhile one if that individual becomes a loyal, productive worker but not if he or she is likely to change jobs. Millennials typically stay in a job for just three years or less. In a 2016 Gallup poll, six in ten (employed) millennials admitted they were actively seeking new employment opportunities outside their company. The yearly cost of such turnover to the U.S. economy? $30 billion. What do you do when your greatest source of skilled labor is also the greatest risk? The answer is not an open office layout or fun perks like snacks, pinball machines, etc. The engaged millennial employee is not so elusive, and millennials’ openness to switching jobs is not necessarily a negative quality.


Millennials’ attitudes about work

Advertisers have already started to turn away from Gen Xers and target millennials, so why not Human Resources? Imagine being in your early 20s. You grew up with the Internet and social media, had computers in your school classrooms, and carry your smartphone everywhere. You shop, socialize and entertain yourself with technology. How desirable would it be for you to work in a factory built in the 1970s or for a logistics company that still uses paper documentation? So, what do millennials look for in a workplace? Purpose, feedback, career development and, of course, technology. It’s not that income is unimportant to them (this is a generation of student debt and low wage growth) or that older workers don’t have similar preferences, but millennials have higher expectations for the sense of personal fulfillment they get from a job.

Millennials want to work for a company open to change, with fair managers who provide regular performance feedback. They want to feel a part of the brand and understand their work within the context of the organization’s greater goals. They are innately collaborative and eager to learn and expand their skills. More so than prior generations, they value an employer that provides excellent training and development opportunities; and 82% of them are likely to decline or quit a job with outdated technology (Penn Schoen Berland).


Digital natives and the declining life span of learned skills

Millennials are heavily influenced by technology. It affects their job decisions, satisfaction, and performance. They are always connected and expect instant access to information no matter where they are. It’s not unhealthy; it’s just how they learn and work best, and it makes them adaptable. Millennials are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of technology than most senior workers, but they’re also a generation that will require continuous skill development in order to keep up with the pace of disruption in industry. This means that in addition to filling their ranks with millennials and transferring knowledge from veteran employees to new workers; companies will need to make sure employees are able to upskill, retrain and switch positions in the future as automation increases, certain industries decline, and new ones are created.

For millennials, learning a skill today doesn’t get one as far as it did 50 years ago. Change happens so fast due to technology advances, evolving business models, shorter product lifecycles, etc. that half of what one knew five years ago is now irrelevant and much of what was learned a decade ago is now obsolete. As Gen Z (ages 18 and younger) enters the workplace, skills will become less relevant at an even faster rate. 65% of the jobs the next generation will have to fill don’t exist yet—an even greater skills gap than millennials are facing. How do you prepare for a future where workers must be able to learn new skills on command and regularly retrain to remain employable?


Why XR is perfect for attracting millennials, intergenerational transfer of skills and future skill development

Augmented and Virtual Reality can resolve generational differences that make the transfer of skills from boomers to millennials difficult. For a generation that responds best to digital learning methods job hunting in an economy in which the pace of change is ever-increasing, XR is the perfect tool.

At many companies, training is classroom-style. Retiring workers may be asked to write down everything they’ve learned or put that knowledge into a PowerPoint presentation for new employees to study in classroom-like training spaces, but that doesn’t do much to stop the brain drain. Not only is it difficult to train for real-life scenarios this way, including emergencies, operation of heavy equipment and unique customer service situations; it’s also inefficient. Even if you could distill a career’s worth of lessons into a handbook or video, millennials learn best by doing.

Enter XR: Employees exiting the workforce can use smart glasses to record workflows, preserving their knowledge in a format that can be pulled up – heads-up and hands-free – by an inexperienced worker on the job or used to create immersive (virtual reality) training simulations. Smart glasses are an easy way for older workers to save their knowledge and new employees to absorb that information while working without risking productivity or quality. Developing VR training programs based upon a longtime worker’s real experiences is another way to effectively preserve, recycle and impart knowledge that would otherwise be lost. And the technology is attractive to millennials, 44% of whom believe their current workplaces are not “smart” enough (Penn Schoen Berland).

Millennials are more likely to accept and stay at a job where progressive technology is integrated into both training and day-to-day operations, especially AR and VR. The Oculus Rift, after all, was developed by a millennial for millennials. It has been shown that people of all ages pick up new concepts more quickly and retain knowledge longer through active learning, including immersive experiences. Millennials see the value of XR right away—66% believe VR training will allow them to train from anywhere, on their own time. Beyond training, millennials believe XR will improve collaboration, innovation and flexibility. In fact, 73% say virtual sharing tools are important to them. This is a generation raised on AIM and natural at using tools like Slack, a generation that shies away from phone communication but would work well together in virtual spaces. Millennials won’t be intellectually stimulated in an office that runs on paper. They won’t be engaged tied to a desktop computer from nine to five; but give them the technology to receive just-in-time training, access information at the point of need, and collaborate/work remotely, and they will perform at their best.


Though millennials are often derided by older generations as entitled, lazy, etc., they’re actually a more socially conscious and quite hard-working group open to new ways of working. So, why should employers accommodate their habits and preferences? In addition to becoming the largest generation in the workforce, millennials’ habits and preferences – to which XR technologies are conducive – are key to surviving and maintaining a competent workforce through digital disruption. What does it mean for businesses that XR will soon become a standard teaching tool at schools and universities? It means future workers will demand those tools. As a technology that can be continuously adapted to new training needs, XR is the future of on-demand training and retraining, the future of shaping the workforce.

 

The 5th Annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2018, the leading event for enterprise wearables, will take place October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. For details, early confirmed speakers and preliminary agenda, please stay tuned to the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE,) the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Augmented and Virtual Reality, is taking place May 30-June 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, CA. Now in its 9th year, AWE USA is the destination for CXOs, designers, developers, creative agencies, futurists, analysts, investors and top press to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times.

photo credit: amsfrank via photopin (license)

Driving Ahead: Car Companies Using XR to Adapt in a Post-Uber World

My last blog post built upon Uber’s wrecking ball-style entrance into the cab industry. Less obvious is Uber’s impact in the automotive sector, where the app is creating waves for car manufacturers. Ride-sharing is just one of the trends forcing the auto industry to transform. In fact, some industry observers believe automotive is about to have its most dramatic revolution since Henry Ford’s time.


State of the Auto Industry

Changing Attitudes Towards Vehicle Ownership and Declining Sales

Private car ownership is becoming less and less necessary, practical and desirable in many cities around the world thanks to the rising costs of urban living, civic measures to discourage car use, worsening traffic and lack of parking, and always-available services like Uber and Lyft.

More car ownership trends: As cars have become more reliable, people are holding onto them for longer or opting for used cars. Delayed by student debt and economic uncertainty, young professionals aren’t moving to the suburbs like their parents did; and younger Americans simply prefer ordering a car via app to owning one—all reasons why vehicle sales declined in 2017 for the first time in years. This downward trend will likely continue; for while ride-hailing makes owning a car unnecessary, in a future with self-driving vehicles people won’t even need to know how to drive.


Ride-sharing and the New Car Buyers

Uber has forever changed how we get around, but why is this problematic for automakers? It’s not like ride-hailing is making cars obsolete. The issue is Uber’s impact on consumer behavior. Automobile manufacturers have been marketing new vehicle designs and features to customer types that are pulling away from car buying (for now). Take the new driver: Learning to drive has traditionally been a rite of passage for suburban teens, but far fewer millennials have driver’s licenses today compared to older generations. So, what will the future of car ownership look like?

In the future, ride-sharing companies and contractors – less discriminatory than traditional car buyers – may very well be the auto industry’s top clientele, and vehicles may become increasingly homogenized as a result. Though still far away from fleets of robocabs, car culture is changing: Personal cars don’t have the same social status they used to, and ride-sharing vehicles are invading city streets. Automotive companies must adapt to the social change brought by new mobility services.


The Race to Get Connected and Achieve Autonomy

On top of the classic goals of reducing costs, improving fuel efficiency, increasing sales, etc.; auto companies today are competing to redefine consumers’ relationship with cars and invent the future of driving. They’re designing ever-more futuristic vehicles – battery-powered, self-configuring, able to track the driver’s health and predict maintenance – and investing in the technology to build them: Cloud infrastructure software and analytics, artificial intelligence, mapping systems, plus the talent and expertise to go with these and other bleeding-edge technologies.


Autonomous vehicles may eventually boost private car ownership; but while companies race to develop the first commercially viable self-driving car platform, today’s drivers want better, smarter dealership and driving experiences. As the level of technological convenience and control in their lives increases, consumers expect more of every product and service offered to them. And though ride-sharing and the promise of self-driving vehicles in the next five years threaten to upend the entire model of car ownership, automakers cannot afford to neglect regular drivers. They need to continue to make and sell new cars, delivering semi-autonomous and connected driving upgrades and revamping the car buying process to lure people into dealerships and keep them in the brand.


Getting Ahead with XR: Ford, Volkswagen and Porsche

Arguably more than any other industry, the automotive sector has been the most aggressive in its wearable tech adoption. Auto companies have had the most success implementing exoskeletons, and they’re exploring Augmented and Virtual Reality in multiple areas of the automotive business. Read how Ford, Volkswagen and Porsche are using XR to advance their operations, improve the customer experience and bolster their brands amidst unprecedented change in the auto industry:


Ford

In addition to providing assembly line workers with upper body exoskeletons to reduce the physical toll of repetitive overhead tasks, Ford has been working to develop VR platforms for both its customers and designers.

Last year, after an initial pilot phase at its Design Studio in Cologne, the auto giant expanded its use of Microsoft’s HoloLens. The technology enables Ford designers and engineers to more effectively work together on confidential designs and quickly model out changes to vehicles, viewing those changes on top of a real car as opposed to the time-consuming and expensive clay model approach. Ford hasn’t entirely abandoned clay models but with Mixed Reality, designers don’t have to build out a new clay prototype after every design decision; they can just augment the 3D model.

At Ford, Mixed Reality is proving to be a boon to innovation, collaboration, and time to market—improvements that will aid the American auto brand’s efforts to reimagine vehicles, deliver a better in-vehicle experience, and differentiate itself through design. Beyond vehicle design, Ford envisions consumers using AR/VR headsets at home to customize cars and create their own virtual test drive experiences; and Ford dealers using state-of-the-art hologram display cars to more effectively utilize showroom space.

(^Elizabeth Baron, Technical Specialist in VR and Advanced Visualization at Ford, will speak at EWTS 2018.)


Volkswagen

In Fall 2017, Volkswagen established a Digital Realities team encompassing 12 of its brands across 120 sites around the world and a Digital Reality Hub to enable long-distance collaboration among team members. The German automaker had been experimenting with HoloLens at its Virtual Engineering Lab in Wolfsburg, to project designs onto a scale model of a VW Golf; and exploring how to apply the technology to technical development.

From these efforts came the Digital Reality Hub, which combines multiple group VR applications and tools into one platform allowing designers and engineers all over to work on the same project simultaneously, exchange and test ideas, and even participate in virtual workshops. In addition to new vehicle models, real locations like factory production lines can be modeled in the virtual environment to trial optimization measures without the need for site visits.

It cannot be overstated how much XR impacts productivity or how critical an efficient network among Volkswagen’s global brands will be to the company’s success in the next phase of the auto industry. Most recently, VW teamed up with VR studio Innoactive to create more than 30 VR training scenarios for the HTC Vive Pro. The automaker plans to train 10,000 employees in production and logistics this year using Virtual Reality.


Porsche

In November, Porsche introduced the “Tech Live Look” Augmented Reality solution for dealerships, which consists of Atheer’s AiR Enterprise software platform running on smart glasses. Wearing the glasses, an L.A.-based service technician can connect with Porsche’s technical support team over 2,000 miles away in Atlanta and receive remote expert help in identifying and resolving technical issues. The remote expert can take screen shots of the tech’s view or project instructions into her field of view while she works—far more efficient than an email or phone call.

In a July 2017 pilot program across eight dealerships, the “see-what-I-see” technology helped decrease service resolution time by up to 40%. Not only is this the kind of quick turnaround service consumers are coming to expect, but when the solution launches this year it will be a real differentiator for the luxury car brand. Again, as the technology inside vehicles gets more advanced and as companies like Porsche transition from the mentality of car as a product to vehicle as an experience; the capabilities offered by XR – better communication, productivity, visualization, decision making, problem solving and customer experience – become more significant.

(^Heather Turney, Culture and Innovation Manager at Porsche, will speak at EWTS 2018.)


With all the disruption caused by new alternatives to vehicle ownership, new energy options, 3D printing of auto parts, AI, self-driving tech, etc.; it’s more important than ever for automakers to optimize operations, automate assembly lines, engage consumers, and prepare the workforce for more complex manufacturing and IT-heavy jobs. One major step is to adopt XR as a standard tool for design, training, production and customer service. After all, how can you expect to build the future if your factory and workforce are still in the past? How can you invent the future if it takes days and weeks to collaborate and review designs? And how can you sell the future if consumers aren’t excited about it?

 

The 5th Annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2018, the leading event for enterprise wearables, will take place October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. For details, early confirmed speakers and preliminary agenda, please stay tuned to the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE,) the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Augmented and Virtual Reality, is taking place May 30-June 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, CA. Now in its 9th year, AWE USA is the destination for CXOs, designers, developers, creative agencies, futurists, analysts, investors and top press to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times.

photo credit: Pittou2 Salon de L’auto Tesla Model S via photopin (license)

Preventing Casualties of XR in Enterprise

A New York Times article published on February 6th told the story of Doug Schifter, a New York City yellow cab driver who had taken his own life in front of City Hall. In a Facebook post, Schifter – who was in his early 60s – condemned city and state politicians and ride-sharing apps like Uber that had “de-professionalized” his career of over 30 years and made it impossible for him to earn a living. The Times article described Doug as a “casualty” of the gig economy.  

I know this is a rather depressing way to begin a blog post, but I believe that in Schifter’s death there is a lesson that applies to the global workforce, a force that is quickly changing due to digital disruption. And as enthusiasts, providers, facilitators and users of emerging tech in enterprise, it is important for us to heed that lesson.

Uber and its rivals have been incredibly disruptive to the taxi industries in cities around the world. But the rideshare service, a concept realized with algorithms and a mobile app, didn’t eliminate jobs so much as influence supply and demand, increasing supply while offering a convenient solution to the same needs served by the cab industry. Yes, Uber takes business away from traditional livery drivers, but the answer is not to ban Uber (as some European countries have done) in order to protect those workers. Innovation should be embraced (and regulated,) not resisted.

Fast-advancing technologies like automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and Augmented and Virtual Reality – the next wave of digital disruption in enterprise – do not signify the end of the human workforce as people fear. They do, however, present a challenge requiring us to rethink the skilled workforce and the role of the worker in every workplace and industry. As some jobs become obsolete, others require less human labor than before, and new higher-skilled jobs are created, the workforce will need to adapt. This task does not fall solely on the Doug Schifters of the world; as a community it is our responsibility to prevent the kind of toll that has left many feeling hopeless in the face of innovation.

From the Industrial Revolution to the rise of the Internet, technology has periodically displaced positions in the job market; but from each new wave of technological innovation springs new jobs, different jobs, even entirely new career fields. Today, jobs are being lost to climate change, globalization and, yes, automation, but we’re not headed for mass unemployment. In fact, there are millions of unfilled jobs in the U.S. right now due to a shortage of qualified applicants. The problem isn’t that robots are taking all the jobs; it’s that the nature of work is changing. The jobs that are declining are largely low- and middle-skilled ones, with new employment opportunities requiring higher skill levels. So, while humans will not disappear from the factory altogether – human ingenuity, emotional intelligence and the ability to adapt are irreplaceable, after all – they will need a skills upgrade, fast. I call this recasting the workforce, and it will be accomplished with digital information overlaid on the physical world and immersive simulations of real-world scenarios.

When it comes to jobs, technology is both the disruptor and the solution. What happens to the employee who is replaced on the assembly line? Or the plumber who has less work because potential customers can fix a clogged drain themselves by watching a Virtual Reality tutorial at home? You see it’s not just automation impacting jobs: AR, VR and MR (or XR for short) are de-professionalizing skilled trades à la Uber by lowering the barrier of entry into those career fields. We often talk about AR glasses as a solution for quickly training new workers on the job, but the next generation of computing may also be the reason there is less work to go around in some professions.

For those who do lose their jobs or become unable to support themselves doing what they did BDT (Before Digital Transformation,) how do they adapt? How can we expect worried workers to view the arrival of ARKit as a bright sign for the future when there’s a social and pop culture narrative that demonizes new technologies like robotics, AI and XR? Or when the tech community undersells the technology as a medium for entertainment and a way to view Ikea furniture in your living room before you buy? To the average person, Augmented and Virtual Reality are still really far-out and irrelevant to their problems in life. We need to therefore convey the true potential of XR—XR needs a big PR boost before it becomes as feared as automation, before it’s seen as another job killer, another enabler of the gig economy.

Augmented and Virtual Reality are career advancement tools that should assuage workers’ fears of the “rise of the machines.” By augmenting the human capacity to learn and be productive, AR and VR enable career mobility – upwards and across professional and industry lines – at a time when emerging technologies like automation are putting pressure on the workforce to become more flexible. And though it sounds counterintuitive, digital realities are critical to minimizing the impact of digital disruption because they can help displaced workers move on from the jobs that aren’t coming back by facilitating on-demand, just-in-time training in new, higher-skilled roles.

So, to the current and future ex-factory workers, to industry veterans trying to work through the disruption in their fields, and to those daunted by entering a job force that demands higher and higher skills: Put on a pair of smart glasses. Don’t let current device and software limitations fuel doubts and resentment. And to enterprise technology decision makers: It’s time to pay attention to consumer attitudes towards XR, because today’s consumers will be the ones to fill the ranks of your workforces. As robots assume the repetitive and physically strenuous jobs, their human predecessors will use XR technologies to up their skills, prepare for new jobs, shift positions in their companies, or even change occupations entirely. It’s truly a new wave of mobility.

 

The 5th Annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2018, the leading event for enterprise wearables, will take place October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. For details, early confirmed speakers and preliminary agenda, please stay tuned to the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE,) the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to Augmented and Virtual Reality, is taking place May 30-June 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, CA. Now in its 9th year, AWE USA is the destination for CXOs, designers, developers, creative agencies, futurists, analysts, investors and top press to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times.