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.

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.

Smart Glasses, AR, VR and MR: Head-Worn Devices in the Enterprise

Watch Picavi’s Johanna Bellenberg talk about head-worn devices with the very people implementing the technology at Walmart, GE Transportation, Gensler, USPS, and FM Global. The group shares the insights, “aha” moments, and limitations realized in implementing AR/VR glasses and headsets; and come to a common consensus on the value of these technologies especially for employee training.

 

 

AR/VR is helping the Postal Service meet the demands of a changing digital world, in which its 20-year-old fleet of vehicles needs fixing and replacing and more and more part-time employees need fast training. Passing information from carrier to carrier via a physical book containing information on every route isn’t an efficient method, not with millions of delivery points each day. Using AR/VR for vehicle maintenance and to eliminate 50% of training time for new employees is what it takes to keep the Postal Service alive.

As there isn’t a solid use case yet for HMDs in the retail world, Walmart is using VR at its training academies to simulate exceptional customer experience problems you wouldn’t want to create in a real store and shopping events that only happen once a year. VR is ideal as you “can get multiple reps over and over.” For Walmart, how associates feel on the floor is important. While allowing them to be hands-free and heads-up in stores might help them engage more confidently with customers, VR training goes a long way towards increasing their confidence before they have to face shoppers.

FM Global, a commercial property risk insurer that counts one out of every three Fortune 1000 companies as a customer, is using AR for remote engineering surveys of client facilities and VR as a selling tool. If political restrictions make it difficult to send out a field engineer, FM Global sends a pair of smart glasses to the customer, having a remote expert guide the customer through the task. VR has also proven to be a compelling medium for convincing policyholders to take the proper measures in case of a flood or fire by showing them the potential damage.

At GE Transportation, training doesn’t always mean a brand new person needing to learn a brand new process, not when you’re dealing with 20,000 locomotive SKUs that ship all over the world. So, GE is using AR/VR to design and build kits of locomotive parts for operators, thinking through the presentation of these kits and how they align to manufacturing or service processes. From a plant layout perspective, VR is also incredibly useful for designing and planning operations. 

Finally at Gensler, visualization technologies are impacting how architects design and develop structures of every kind. The architecture and design firm is also considering how these tools will impact the places it designs as those buildings and environments mature. The environments we work in are increasingly contributing to the jobs we do, so Gensler is thinking about the future: AR/VR will influence the structures we design (not just help design them) because of the way they will fundamentally change how we consume information.

AR/VR and Wearables: Shaping the Future of Construction

Bechtel, Caterpillar, CDM Smith, MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, Martin Brothers Construction, Brady Services, Rogers-O’Brien Construction… These are just a few of the engineering and construction players who recognize the potential for wearables, AR and VR to increase efficiency and productivity, facilitate better communication and collaboration, and improve safety on the job site.

When we last checked in on the construction industry, the difficulty of implementing wearables posed a great challenge. The devices weren’t robust enough, IT departments were unprepared, etc. Solution providers have since worked to make their products more suitable for construction environments, and companies are increasingly developing PoCs, setting up pilots, and thinking ahead. The construction industry is in need of disruption by wearable technology for a number of reasons:

Poor Safety

Safety is a top priority on every construction project and yet working in construction – as a laborer, equipment operator, steel worker, carpenter – is still one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. The most workplace accidents? Construction. One of the highest rates of fatal injuries? Construction. OSHA has even dubbed a nickname, the Fatal Four, for the leading causes of construction worker deaths: Falls, electrocutions, getting struck by an object, and getting caught in/between objects. Sadly, the number of deaths in this industry has been steadily increasing, but emerging technologies present new opportunities to make the construction site safer.

Rising Demand, Expectations and Costs vs. Shortage of Skilled Labor

Infrastructure and housing needs are growing globally; so too is the scale and complexity of construction projects as older infrastructure needs replacing and climate change challenges our communities. On top of demand, material and labor costs are rising; and customer expectations as well as the nature of contracting are changing: Customers want high-performing (sustainable) buildings, shorter timeframes, and less financial risk. E&C firms are being asked to adopt green construction practices and assume costs as contracting shifts toward public-private partnerships and lump-sum, turnkey contracts. Competition for bids is increasing, as well, as clients demand unbundled contracts in order to cherry-pick among subcontractor offers.

All of the above might be manageable if not for a serious labor and managerial shortage. Employers are struggling to staff job sites and to stay on schedule for projects. Several factors are contributing to this problem:

  • The industry laid off 40% of its workforce (2.3M jobs) during the last recession. Many of those workers did not return.
  • There is less emphasis today on the trades and technical training in schools.
  • Aging workers are leaving the job faster than they can be replaced.

And so, firms are forced to spend more money for slimmer profits; raising wages to recruit workers, shelling out healthcare and workers’ compensation costs, and paying higher prices for supplies.

Simply put, construction companies need to find and train skilled labor fast. They need to be more productive with less if, as the McKinsey Global Institute estimates, the world will have to spend $57 trillion on infrastructure by 2030.

Uncertain Times

In the U.S. and among America’s trade partners, there is a feeling of uncertainty under the current administration. Will existing trade agreements stay in place? Might possible trade conflicts raise material prices? Will new immigration policies further weaken the construction labor force? Will there be steady federal funding of infrastructure projects? To say the least, E&C firms may have to quickly adjust to the whims of the White House.

Industry Trends vs. Old Ways 

Although one of the world economy’s largest sectors, Construction is one of the least “digitized” and least productive industries. It’s also wasteful in terms of time, labor and materials; and very much stuck in its ways, including being slow to adopt new technology and underinvesting in IT and R&D.

A typical large-scale construction project takes 20% longer to finish than scheduled and comes in 80% over budget. This productivity problem is, of course, a result of the labor shortage but the nature of construction itself also impairs productivity: Construction projects are highly fragmented and unpredictable, with multiple parties and work crews involved and remote worksites that are constantly changing as building progresses. It doesn’t help that the industry still relies mainly on paper drawings, blueprints, orders, logs and reports. And then there’s the lost-in-translation factor: Blueprints are flat but structures are three-dimensional—a discrepancy that makes communication and collaboration difficult. With the architect of the building, the owner and the various contractors working off of different versions of reality; errors, order changes, delays and rework are inevitable.


Construction projects today are not being optimally coordinated, and the labor force is not being sufficiently developed or protected from harm; but there is tremendous value to be gained if only the construction industry would digitally transform. Emerging technologies including wearable devices are the answer to many of the sector’s ails; to realizing a more connected jobsite and enabling digital collaboration, and becoming more productive, timely, efficient and safe. Read on to learn how wearables are being applied in construction:

Top Applications:

Safety and Efficiency

Most construction project managers can’t tell you the number of workers on site or where those workers are located at any given time; and yet knowing where your assets are, including people, equipment and inventory, is half the battle in avoiding inefficiencies and keeping workers safe in construction. Eliminating paper from workflows (ex. taking building plans out of workers’ hands and putting them directly in their field of view) would address another major source of inefficiency.

The construction jobsite is a hectic place, with multiple contractors and their crews working at the same time, so inefficiencies can go unnoticed; but strategic use of robust sensors could make a big difference. Some companies are already turning to IoT solutions like drone surveying and automation to improve site operations. Real-time visibility into jobsite operations is the ultimate goal, giving project managers the ability to make intelligent decisions based upon real-time information. After all, how can you build smart buildings if the building site itself isn’t smart?

Real-time information comes from tracking workers (GPS and EHS sensors,) tracking inventory (RFID tags,) and monitoring equipment health and repair status. All this data yields actionable insight through advanced analytics—insight that can be pushed to the right person at the right time via wearable devices to optimize the jobsite.

Sensors in a variety of form factors can track workers’ biometrics and surroundings (ex. heart rate, fatigue, gas exposure) along with their location and movement (ex. proximity to danger zones, falls, bad form.) To this end, a number of companies are making construction safety clothing and gear “smart” with embedded sensor technology. The data can be relayed from the jobsite to determine unsafe working conditions and notify workers when dangerous levels are reached or there’s potential for injury. In addition to displaying glanceable safety info, wearables can also have a panic button feature enabling the user to call for help.

Tracking workers keeps them safe. Live location and status information also improves efficiency: Knowing where crews, materials and equipment are and how these assets flow through the work site, knowing when inventory stocks are running low, and knowing when equipment is on the verge of malfunctioning improves project coordination and jobsite organization.

A change in ergonomics would further boost safety and efficiency. Exoskeletons are a rather extreme example that will nevertheless empower construction workers to manage physically demanding tasks with less risk of injury. More practical today are smart Augmented Reality glasses: Constantly looking down at paper plans or BIM models on tablets is dangerous. –> Wearing smart glasses (or an AR helmet,) a person can look at a BIM model overlaid onto the built environment while remaining heads-up and hands-free. Conducting inspections with a checklist in hand, holding up a camera to take photos, and taking written notes is slow and not very accurate. –> Smart glasses allow for hands-free documentation of building progress (including voice memos,) the ability to annotate and update blueprints in the field, even view automated dashboards from live field data. AR glasses, and even more so Virtual Reality headsets, can also be used for faster, safer and more effective training on heavy equipment; and to visualize where assets should go in planning staging areas, supply deliveries and equipment storage.

Of course, taking the data collected from different devices on the jobsite and turning it into quality, actionable information that gives a manager or worker greater context or situational awareness is not easy. Additionally, employee tracking can be a sticky issue due to privacy concerns. And deploying digital solutions at scale, across construction sites that are geographically dispersed and essentially “shared” among firms of varying size and sophistication, is also problematic. None of this is going to get any easier, however, so waiting doesn’t put a company in a better position down the road. The time to overcome these challenges is now.

Design Visualization, Communication, and Productivity

The rise of Augmented and Virtual Reality signals a new era in design visualization. Better visualization capabilities improve communication, speed up decision making, shorten the project lifecycle, and reduce material costs. Thus, companies are developing BIM- and CAD-based design and construction solutions for AR/VR platforms.

Buildings today are usually planned out on flat screens and pieces of paper, yet 2D drawings and scale models of an architect’s 3D vision are hard for project owners to interpret, and not a foolproof guide for contractors either. The leap from 2D blueprints or even 3D models on a computer screen to the real built environment is great enough to cause misinterpretations and errors requiring changes to be made after construction is already underway; but what if you could virtually walk through a design or interact with digital content in the physical environment? That is the power of AR/VR in E&C.

Virtual Reality is useful for design conception and group design review. Multiple users wearing VR headsets, regardless of their location, can interact within the same virtual environment, identifying issues and making necessary changes before building begins. VR can also be used by project owners and builders to visualize the final space or structure. During construction, workers can use AR glasses to view schematics and detailed specs like electricity floor plans overlaid on top of the building site for guidance, helping them work faster and avoid mistakes.

AR and VR also enhance communication, as does instant documentation and sharing of information enabled by hands-free wearables. Disagreements, mistakes and delays arise on a construction project when not every stakeholder is able to envision the design and provide feedback; information sharing is slow and imprecise; and different contractors use different platforms for design and project planning. Everyone involved, from the architect/engineer to the end user, needs to understand the design; and contractors need to be able to communicate in a standardized way, providing updates on building progress, cost and schedule.

Smart glasses present a quick and accurate way to capture, view, update and convey jobsite information. Visual information is universally understood—smart glasses can take photos and record video via voice command; and that data can be integrated into live building models and workflows, and shared with off-site decision makers and remote experts in real time to more effectively explain and respond to issues.

AR/VR in the design process and to share ideas increases productivity, with virtual reality having a bigger impact on the design side (facilitating group design, expediting design review) and augmented reality helping out on the construction site. Smart glasses help construction go smoother and faster in several ways:

  • Augmented work instructions and other (real-time) task-based information in one’s FOV: On-the-ground crew can access information while working with their hands, wearing gloves or using tools.
  • Direct, hands-free connection to remote experts and supervisors: Live photo/video/audio streaming allows for faster issue resolution and decision making; and with expert oversight lesser-skilled workers can be as productive as experienced ones.
  • AR inspections: In addition to smart glasses-enabled remote inspections, managers and contractors can wear AR glasses to view a 3D model of a building over the as-built environment, comparing the two as they walk through the site.

Despite the high implementation costs, leveraging AR/VR in construction can have tremendous ROI. The industry actually has somewhat of a head start in taking advantage of new realities thanks to advancements in visualization software like BIM and CAD; but to adopt new solutions capable of converting those platforms to VR simulations, E&C firms will have to increase IT spending.

Training and Recruiting  

Construction companies could use VR headsets to design better, make the jobsite more connected with a variety of sensors, and give AR glasses to workers to reduce errors; but that won’t be enough to make up for the fact that the skilled labor workforce is shrinking rapidly. Along with attracting and training new talent, E&C firms must harness the knowledge of industry veterans and even prolong their careers if possible.  

Augmented and Virtual Reality present new paradigms for training employees to perform complex procedures and physical tasks, including emergency safety procedures, operating a crane, etc. It has been shown that experiential learning is more effective than using written or video material to transmit skills. Virtual Reality immersion is the next best thing to hands-on learning in the field, and a more ideal method for preparing workers for real-life situations on the jobsite than the static, standard training most construction workers receive today. And new tech like AR/VR is attractive to Millennial workers who are able to transition skills learned in virtual reality to the real world more easily.

Thanks to smart glasses, new workers can also train on the job without risking the integrity of the project (i.e. without making rookie mistakes and hurting quality.) Following step-by-step instructions in a heads-up display and receiving real-time remote guidance from older, more experienced workers—that’s learning by doing, and it accomplishes training while also contributing to building progress.

Exoskeletons might help extend the physical careers of aging workers, but smart glasses offer a more realistic, immediate proposition for preserving these employees. By wearing smart glasses to record their work from a first-person point of view, older workers can capture their knowledge for the next generation, creating training material for new recruits to reference on the jobsite using the same devices. And, of course, the most experienced workers can continue to provide remote support, viewing the jobsite through another’s eyes (or smart glasses) once the physical demands of the job become too much. So instead of a mass exodus of talent, smart glass technology could help transfer the value of older skilled workers from the construction site to a central planning office.


Much of this technology is expensive, especially the Augmented Reality helmet and exoskeletons, and challenging to implement given the rugged conditions and remote locations of most construction sites. But consider the productivity and safety gains, weighing these against the rising costs of workplace injuries; need to grow and empower the workforce to balance out the loss of retiring workers; new design possibilities, etc. From sensors embedded in familiar PPE to strength- (and safety-) enhancing robotic suits, perhaps the most attractive potential benefit of wearable technologies in construction is the cost savings. Better trained workers have fewer accidents; more informed workers make fewer errors; a connected jobsite eliminates inefficiencies; and wearable-enhanced communication prevents common hiccups. The result is less injury-related costs, fewer expensive building delays and rework, projects completed on time and within budget, more satisfied customers, and more profit. That’s the bottom line.

 

The Fall Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place October 18-19, 2017 in Boston, MA is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. 

photo credit: dmitryzhkov 2_DSC8644 via photopin (license)

Just in Time: AR/VR Spark a Digital Renaissance in Aviation and Aerospace

About 20 years ago, Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, identified the need for a hands-free, heads-up technology in its operations. Flash forward to 2014, when a device fitting this vision (Google Glass) finally appeared on the scene. Today, the aviation and aerospace industries are experiencing a digital renaissance, and the timing is critical for several reasons:

Demand is high

Demand is being driven by two factors: 1) Rapidly aging fleets that need to be replaced or maintained at great cost; and 2) New, more technologically advanced aircraft needed to stay competitive. (Boeing, for one, has a backlog of some 5,000 planes it is under contract to build.) Next-generation aircraft boast features like advanced avionics, noise reduction capabilities, improved interior cabin designs, and greater fuel efficiency. Aviation and aerospace companies are under pressure to ramp up production to replace customers’ older fleets and supply them with state-of-the-art vehicles. And, of course, as demand for new aircraft rises so too does the need to operate and maintain those crafts.

A talent gap is creating a need for fast, low-cost training

As in pretty much all manufacturing sectors, the aviation and aerospace industries are dealing with a skilled labor crunch as experienced workers retire and leave the workforce, taking their careers’ worth of knowledge with them. By some estimates, the aerospace industry is going to need to attract and train nearly 700,000 new maintenance technicians alone by the year 2035. More jobs are being created and more baby boomers retiring than can be filled or replaced by new workers. Aerospace manufacturers and suppliers are therefore looking for innovative technologies to maximize the productivity of their existing workforces and quickly onboard new workers.

The stakes are high: Operations are complex, downtime is costly, safety is crucial, and the market is competitive

Building aircraft (commercial airplanes, military jets, spacecraft, etc.) and the engines and propulsion units that drive them involves extremely complex processes in which thousands of moving parts are assembled in precise order, carefully inspected, and maintained for years. Speed is desirable to meet demand and for competitive advantage, yet there can be no compromise or negligence when it comes to accuracy and safety—after all, we’re talking about aircraft that transport hundreds of passengers across oceans or even dodge enemy missiles at over 1,000 mph. Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and other large firms are all vying to sell to the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and large airlines (the aviation, aerospace and defense industries’ biggest U.S. customers;) so errors and downtime are, of course, expensive and bad for business, and can also greatly affect human lives.


To accelerate production, close the talent gap, reduce errors, limit downtime, and improve safety; the leading aviation and aerospace companies are employing wearable technology, especially smart (Augmented Reality) glasses. In general, smart glasses are good for complex industrial processes that are very hands-on, time-consuming, error-prone, and loaded with information—processes like wiring an electrical system or installing the cabin of an airplane. AR glasses and VR headsets are proving useful in aircraft assembly, quality and safety inspection, field maintenance and repair, and training. The technology is providing aviation and aerospace workers with instant, hands-free access to critical information, and reducing training requirements for technicians and operators alike. Here’s how some of the aerospace giants are applying wearable tech in their operations:

Airbus

In 2015, the French aerospace company teamed up with Accenture on a proof of concept in which technicians at Airbus’ Toulouse plant used industrial-grade smart glasses to reduce the complexity of the cabin furnishing process on the A330 final assembly line, decreasing the time required to complete the task and improving accuracy.

Sans smart glasses, operators would have to go by complex drawings to mark the position of seats and other fittings on the cabin floor. With Augmented Reality, a task that required several people over several days can be completed by a single worker in a matter of hours, with millimeter precision and 0 errors.

Airbus went ahead with this application: Technicians today use Vuzix smart glasses to bring up individual cabin plans, customization information and other AR items over their view of the cabin marking zone. The solution also validates each mark that is made, checking for accuracy and quality. The aerospace giant is looking to expand its use of smart glasses to other aircraft assembly lines (ex. in mounting flight equipment on the No. 2 A330neo) and other Airbus divisions.

Boeing

Every Boeing plane contains thousands of wires that connect its different electrical systems. Workers construct large portions of this wiring – “wire harnesses” – at a time—a seemingly monumental task demanding intense concentration. For years, they worked off PDF-based assembly instructions on laptops to locate the right wires and connect them in the right sequence. This requires shifting one’s hands and attention constantly between the harness being wired and the “roadmap” on the computer screen.

In 2016, Boeing carried out a Google Glass pilot with Upskill (then APX Labs,) in which the company saw a 25% improvement in performance in wire harness assembly. Today, the company is using smart glasses powered by Upskill’s Skylight platform to deliver heads-up, hands-free instructions to wire harness workers in real time, helping them work faster with an error rate of nearly zero. Technicians use gesture and voice commands to view the assembly roadmap for each order in their smart glasses display, access instructional videos, and receive remote expert assistance.

Boeing believes the technology could be used anywhere its workers rely on paper instructions, helping the company deliver planes faster. AR/VR are also significantly cutting training times and assisting with product development. For instance, HoloLens is proving useful in the development of Starliner, a small crew transport module for the ISS.

Boeing’s Brian Laughlin will lead a thought-provoking closing brainstorm on Day One of EWTS Fall 2017

GE Aviation

General Electric is using Augmented Reality and other IoT technologies in multiple areas of its far-ranging operations. At GE Aviation, mechanics recently tested a solution consisting of Upskill’s AR platform on Glass Enterprise Edition and a connected (WiFi-enabled) torque wrench.

The pilot involved 15 mechanics at GE Aviation’s Cincinnati manufacturing facility, each receiving step-by-step instructions and guiding visuals via Glass during routine engine assembly and maintenance tasks. At any step requiring the use of the smart wrench, the Skylight solution ensured the worker tightened the bolt properly, automatically verifying and recording every torqued nut in real time.

GE Aviation mechanics normally use paper- or computer-based instructions for tasks, and have to walk away from the job whenever they need to document their work. With smart glasses, workers were 8-12% more efficient, able to follow instructions in their line of sight and automatically document steps thanks to the device’s built-in camera. And reducing errors in assembly and maintenance saves GE and its customers millions of dollars.

Lockheed Martin

In early 2015 it came out that Lockheed Martin was trialing the Epson Moverio BT-200 glasses with partner NGRAIN, to provide real-time visuals to its engineers during assembly of the company’s F-35 fighter jets and ensure every component be installed in the right place. Previously, only a team of experienced technicians could do the job, but with Augmented Reality an engineer with little training can follow renderings with part numbers and ordered instructions seen as overlay images through his/her smart glasses, right on the plane being built.

In the trial, Lockheed engineers were able to work 30% faster and with 96% accuracy. Those workers were learning by doing on the job as opposed to training in a classroom environment, which amounted to less time and cost for training. And although increased accuracy means fewer repairs, the AR solution could be used to speed up the repair process, too, from days- to just hours-long, with one engineer annotating another’s field of view. At the time, however, Lockheed acknowledged that getting the technology onto actual (secured) military bases would be difficult.

Lockheed is also interested in Virtual Reality, seeing AR/VR as key to lowering acquisition costs (all costs from the design/construction phase of a ship to when the vessel is decommissioned.) The company is applying VR to the design of radar systems for navy ships. The challenge lies in integrating the radar system with a ship’s other systems, which requires very precise installation. VR can help identify errors and issues during the design stage and prevent expensive corrections.

Using HTC Vive headsets, engineers can virtually walk through digital mock-ups of a ship’s control rooms and assess things like accessibility to equipment and lighting. Lockheed is also using Microsoft’s HoloLens to assist young naval engineers with maintenance tasks at sea—much more effective than a dense manual.

*Learn more about this application from Richard Rabbitz of Lockheed Martin Rotary Mission Systems (RMS) at EWTS Fall ‘17

Lockheed is allegedly saving $10 million a year from its use of AR/VR in the production line of its space assets, as well, by using devices like the Oculus Rift to evaluate human factors and catch engineering mistakes early. For the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and GPS 3 satellite system, Lockheed ran virtual simulations in which a team of engineers rehearsed assembling the vehicles in order to identify issues and improvements. A network platform allows engineers from all over to participate, saving the time and money of travelling.

Last but not least, Lockheed Martin is also actively developing and testing commercial industrial exoskeletons. Keith Maxwell, the Senior Product Manager of Exoskeleton Technologies at Lockheed, attested to this at the Spring 2017 EWTS. The FORTIS exoskeleton is an unpowered, lightweight suit, the arm of which – the Fortis Tool Arm – is available as a separate product for operating heavy power tools with less risk of muscle fatigue and injury.


While Augmented Reality has been around for decades in the form of pilots’ HMDs, only now has the technology advanced enough to become a standard tool of engineers, mechanics and aircraft operators across aviation and aerospace operations. In a high-tech industry like aerospace, AR/VR are critical for keeping up production during a mass talent exodus from the workforce. Workers won’t need years of experience to build a plane if they have on-demand access to instructions, reference materials, tutorials and expert help in their field of view.

 

The Fall Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place October 18-19, 2017 in Boston, MA is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. 

How Your Business Can Prepare for an Augmented Reality Future

Whether you believe Apple’s latest announcements mark the arrival of mainstream Augmented Reality or still think mass use of AR is years away; smart (AR) glasses are the future. The question is how long we will hold onto our smartphones for (and yes, which device and/or platform will tip the technology in the consumer market’s favor.)

Just as glasses are the ultimate form factor for workers in factories, out in the field, in the O.R., etc.; heads-up and hands-free is ideal for consumers. The biggest problem with our phones is that we carry them everywhere and are constantly looking down at them. AR will not only provide better contextual information to enrich our daily lives, but it will also revive an element of society that today can feel somewhat foreign compared to texting or email (especially to Millennials;) and that is face-to-face human interaction. (FaceTime doesn’t count.)

So why aren’t people more eager to free their hands and gaze from a hand-held screen? Smartwatches seem to have broken into the mainstream or are at least accepted by consumers. What is it about putting on a pair of glasses? It’s not just aesthetics and privacy concerns. In enterprise, you identify a problem in the workplace – some source of inefficiency – that AR can address; but when the work day is done, what is the problem that AR would fix, that would motivate us to finally give up our phones beyond sheer convenience or entertainment? I can only guess as it’s outside my area of expertise.

Nevertheless, one day AR glasses will be acceptable outside the workplace, and once that happens a whole new world of enterprise applications will open up—those applications that depend upon consumers owning/wearing glasses and headsets, and not necessarily as often as they carry their smartphones now.

 

So, what can enterprises do in the meantime, while waiting for consumer AR glasses to take off?

1) Provide the experience for the customer or partner, like “HaaS” (hardware as a service) or an in-store demo. Some architects, realtors, automotive companies, major retailers and even airlines are already doing this, and some manufacturers are supplying customers with smart glasses to facilitate remote equipment troubleshooting and customer support.

2) Share the benefits of smart glasses with the customer/partner. Ex. HVAC worker wearing smart glasses to a job to let the customer see the problem or service in real time; a store salesperson doing the same to help an online shopper make a purchasing decision; a flight attendant viewing information about a passenger to provide better, more personalized service; doctors wearing glasses with patients, etc.

Or 3) Start with a mobile app or create a 360-degree video with the intent of making it heads-up in AR or VR in the future. While this can be very expensive (a 360˚ video can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000 to produce, according to Forrester Research,) it puts the organization in the best position to capitalize on these technologies in different form factors and environments down the road. Until then, the videos can be shared on social media, at pop-up events, on the company website, etc.

 

Some example use cases:

Hyundai

In dealerships across Australia, Hyundai has introduced the Hyundai AR Showroom app for the iPad, a sales tool for dealers to show car shoppers the built-in safety and performance features of the “all-new i30.”

The app, created by Auggd, allows the salesperson to demonstrate features of Hyundai’s reinvented hatchback that are normally difficult to explain in a showroom environment (without having multiple vehicles on the floor.) By holding up an iPad in front of the real i30, shoppers can manipulate a 3D model overlay of the car; they can change its appearance and accessory options, and view animations of safety features like autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.

It seems Hyundai has been making an effort to get both its customers and representatives familiar with Augmented Reality. In early 2016, the South Korean automaker created an AR owner’s manual for some of its more popular models. The manual app and new Hyundai AR Showroom app could easily transition to glasses or a headset in the future for a more immersive and effective experience. These apps are also providing Hyundai with valuable consumer insights.

Wayfair

This Boston-based online furniture and home goods retailer envisions its customers one day shopping for Wayfair products at home using Mixed Reality headsets. In the meantime, the company’s R&D team Wayfair Next has created WayfairView, a mobile app that leverages Google’s Augmented Reality technology Tango along with Wayfair’s growing library of 3D product models. The app lets users view full-scale virtual models of furniture and décor in their homes with an AR-capable smartphone; they can look at items from multiple angles, see whether a piece of furniture will fit in a room, etc. before buying.

For over a year now, Wayfair has been visualizing millions of its home products in 3D. The models are currently used in the shopping app and on the company’s website but are ultimately destined for a headset.

*Mike Festa, Director of Wayfair Next, will speak at EWTS Fall 2017

Excedrin

Virtual Reality is a powerful storytelling medium, which is why it makes for great marketing as well as an effective job training tool. After the success of last year’s online “Migraine Experience” campaign in which users could experience migraine symptoms like blurry vision and flashing lights through AR filters; Excedrin created “Excedrin Works,” a new VR video campaign from the P.O.V. of real migraine sufferers at work.

The 2016 AR campaign saw close to 400,000 social engagements. The latest VR one is expected to be even more engaging, driving home the medication brand’s purpose and driving sales. By appealing to human emotions, Excedrin is hoping viewers will understand how crippling migraines can be and why its product is necessary.

The two VR videos, created with Weber Shandwick and Hogarth, can be found on Excedrin’s website and YouTube channel. To round out the campaign, the company is also running several documentary-style videos on TV and social media, and collaborating with race car driver Danica Patrick to share her history of migraines.

Tesco

The British supermarket chain has dropped a few hints that Virtual Reality is the future of shopping at Tesco. Way back in 2011, the company partnered with Cheil Worldwide to “open” a virtual supermarket in South Korea: An entire wall of a Korean subway station was made to appear like rows of shelves in a market, containing Tesco products with QR codes that commuters could scan to buy groceries on their phones. (After a long workday, it would be nice to get the food shopping done while waiting for your train—Tesco even arranged for deliveries to take place the same night.)

The subway experiment provided Tesco with insight for growing its business in SK. Around 2014, the grocery chain again used VR for R&D, wanting to improve its marketing and how it merchandized and reorganized stores. The company collaborated with Figure Digital on an Oculus Rift demo video called “Tesco Pelé” in which customers wearing VR headsets shop in a virtual supermarket, the layout of which represented an actual Tesco store design up for review. At the end of the simulation, the wearer steps onto a pro soccer field.

The possibilities here include, of course, virtual grocery shopping and consumer research; but the Pelé element (famous soccer player) suggests opportunities for corporate sponsorships, as well.

Lowe’s 

Like Wayfair, Lowe’s wants to be ready for the day when consumers use their own AR glasses and VR headsets. In Fall 2016, the home improvement chain debuted Lowe’s Vision, an app powered by Tango that lets customers measure any room in their homes and design it with virtual Lowe’s products using the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro phone.

In Spring 2017, Lowe’s began piloting Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation, another Tango-powered app, in two of its stores. This second AR app makes it easier to shop for your home improvement project: Customers can use any Tango-enabled smartphone (or demo one with a sales associate) to search for products, read reviews, create shopping lists, and find the most efficient route to items throughout the store with the help of digital directions overlaid onto the real world.

One of the first AR/VR ideas to come out of Lowe’s Innovation Labs was the Holoroom in 2014/15. Now available in select stores, it’s essentially a how-to section in the store where shoppers can put on the HTC Vive headset and practice home improvement projects like tiling a bathroom in virtual reality.

Lowe’s is onto something in exposing its customers to emerging technologies that transition from their homes into actual Lowe’s stores, helping them with their home improvement projects from start to finish.

 

So how can your business prepare for an AR future? This is a time for innovation. Augmented and Virtual Reality represent new paradigms for sharing and taking in information. The same factors that make the technology ideal for workers – heads-up and hands-free, immersive, proven to be a superior learning method – can work for your customers and partners–figure out their pain points just as you would in determining a great use case for your workforce.How might AR/VR make it easier or more appealing for consumers to interact with your brand, seek your services, buy (and use) your product, etc.? Consider the scenario in which the business provides AR glasses for the customer/partner as well as the future one in which consumers have access to their own devices. What can you do now to begin forming a bridge between those two scenarios? 

 

About EWTS Fall 2017:

The Fall Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place October 18-19, 2017 in Boston, MA is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. 

 

photo credit: dronepicr Kölner Dom aus Lego Gamescom via photopin (license)