When is the time to talk about consumer-facing AR apps in enterprise?

The release of Magic Leap One was supposed to be the “magic moment” for consumer AR, the development that finally got consumers excited about augmented reality glasses. Needless to say, it wasn’t. Despite the billions in funding, awesome concept videos and mainstream media attention, Magic Leap did not suddenly big-bang the consumer AR market into existence with the launch of its much-hyped headset.  

Though Magic Leap the product may be “just another HoloLens” aimed at consumers; Magic Leap the company did a lot in 2018 – through strategic partnerships with AT&T, Sennheiser, and Wayfair – to impress upon consumers the potential for augmented reality beyond Google Glass and Snap filters. In addition, 2018 saw a number of relatively normal-looking smart glasses hit the market, including Focals by North and Vuzix Blade, which make a far stronger case than Google Glass did in 2013 for putting our smartphones (and AI assistants) on our faces. And just this week at CES 2019, nreal debuted colorful, 3-ounce AR glasses that look like everyday sunglasses and ThirdEye unveiled its X2 Smart Glasses, “the smallest standalone 6oz mixed reality smart glasses with built-in SLAM.”

Why should any of this matter to enterprises? Is it still too early to talk about consumer-facing AR applications in enterprise that aren’t branded mobile apps? I don’t think so. It’s possible to serve the existing enterprise market and simultaneously prepare for one that doesn’t yet exist. Today’s companies know they must prepare for a future in which augmented reality glasses are a standard tool in the workplace, even if they’re not yet deploying AR solutions; why should companies not prepare for a future in which consumers own smart glasses (or, if not own, are at least accustomed to AR in a heads-up form factor)?

Though AR Insider estimates there are only around 129 million active mobile AR users; there are nearly one billion AR-enabled smartphones around the world capable of exposing their owners to the benefits of AR. This represents a huge potential market with opportunities for new revenue streams and services in retail, travel, hospitality, airports, even field services. There are untapped applications for AR glasses in the consumer-facing aspects of business in industrial sectors, as well: Manufacturer AGCO, for instance, uses smart glasses on the plant floor and for public tours of its factories. With the number of consumer-friendly devices now (or soon-to-be) available, the time is now for organizations to begin innovating around these products in order to engage with customers in new ways, including providing pairs of smart glasses for temporary use by customers during interactions with the business.

Current Consumer AR Market:

Furniture retailers like Ikea and beauty brands like MAC are already capitalizing on AR via new try-before-you-buy features in their mobile apps. Although companies aren’t sharing the data, AR shopping experiences built with ARKit and ARCore presumably help to increase conversion rates and average order values while reducing returns. But are consumers aware that this is augmented reality? Are Snapchat users aware that AR tech powers the app’s face and world lenses? In a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, 70-75% of respondents aged 16-44 said they were aware of AR. Awareness, however, is not the same as experience: In the same survey, only 35% of 16-34s said they had experienced AR in the past month. The best way to sell immersive technology is through experience, the level of which is currently low among consumers. There have been no killer AR apps and I suspect that many smartphone users do not register that they are experiencing AR when they do. I expect this to change as AR is integrated with other everyday form factors, including car windshields and kitchen ovens.

One day, according to analysts and futurists, smart glasses are going to replace smartphones altogether, but the transition to head-worn mobile computing is proving less predictable and slower than imagined. The reality is there are a number of significant barriers to consumer smart glasses adoption as well as a number of positive signs for the future of the consumer AR market. What’s throwing us off, as Charlie Fink points out, is the comparison to smartphones, which took only two years to reach mass adoption. Charlie argues that while the iPhone was innovative it was still a mobile phone, whereas smart glasses are an entirely new product, a new purchase much like the personal computer was in its day and the Apple Watch was in 2015. The adoption factors are similar, too: Design (form), user interface (function), utility (content), enjoyment, cost, and social acceptance.

Both personal computers and smart glasses require(d) big changes in consumer behavior. Mass adoption of PCs took 15 years. I was one of the first kids in my class to have a computer at home. My father, a lawyer, had his own computer at work, so he purchased a laptop for his home office. My brothers and I played games on it (floppy disks!), leading to the purchase of a second “family” computer. Might the new wave of consumer-friendly smart glasses follow this pattern, with businesspeople, designers and technologists first to adopt and convert the rest of us?

Positive signs for consumer smart glasses in 2019

Apple is very serious about augmented reality; Tim Cook calls it a “profound platform” and market researchers are predicting a release date for the company’s rumored AR glasses as early as 2020 (2022 or 2023 is more likely). Given Apple’s design cred and clout with consumers, it’s not hard to imagine Apple being the first to come out with sleek smart glasses that look no different from regular glasses and offer enough style and functionality to make hands-free AR apps a part of everyday life. After all, the Apple Watch has made watch-wearers out of people who never used to wear a watch.

In addition to Apple’s belief in AR and the latest iPhones, which seem to be built for running AR apps, there are other positive signs for consumer augmented reality: Magic Leap is offering $500,000 grants and support to developers who build design, engineering, architecture and other creative software for its headset; and it was just announced that the company’s partnership with AT&T is expanding to include enterprise AR. AT&T has also promised nationwide 5G by 2020, which is necessary for higher quality AR experiences. I can see Magic Leap finding a niche in B2C use cases, which would increase consumer exposure to wearable AR beyond in-store retail apps and social media.

Source: Vuzix

Vuzix Blade and Focals by North are promising, as well, not only because they’re more stylish and lightweight than anything that came before but also because of popular apps like Alexa integrated with the technology. Vuzix and North have taken bold steps into the consumer market: Vuzix, for instance, was marketing Blade on Instagram and at New York Fashion Week. While the company hasn’t even cracked 1,000 followers on Instagram, it is smart to experiment on the social platform that gave rise to influencer culture and has become mandatory for brands today. Vuzix also recently partnered with AccuWeather to provide local weather information to Blade users, who can tap on the glasses or ask Alexa to bring up forecasts right in their field of view. Blade went on sale to the public earlier this month for $999, a price point that’s still too high for consumers but just right for what Vuzix calls “light enterprise” use cases.

I have to say that Focals are better looking than Blade. The cost is the same but the mainstream appeal of North’s branding, social presence, and Warby Parker-esque sales model make Focals (in my opinion) the best effort yet in consumer AR. Focals can replace one’s prescription glasses, sync with Android and iOS devices, and offer a degree of customization: Shoppers can choose between classic and round frames in black, tortoise or gray, and you have to get fitted at either North’s Brooklyn or Toronto showrooms. The integration of Uber and exclusive in-store availability are genius, yet even Focals won’t make smart glasses mainstream.

Investing in consumer-oriented devices outside the workforce

In 2017, DigitalBridge found that 56% of 18-24-year-olds would be more likely to use AR if it were offered to them via a wearable device, and 69% would be more loyal to the brand that offered this. Retailers are arguably having the most success getting smartphone owners to use AR by solving a real consumer pain point. (IKEA Place was actually the second-most downloaded ARKit app in a 2018 survey.) It seems inevitable that AR will reinvent the shopping experience, but why not also the personal banking experience or the dentist’s office, hotel, post office, etc.?

I don’t know which device will win over consumers or what the breakthrough app will be, though it will definitely be practical as opposed to a game. Nevertheless, with AR invading our cars and homes and startups introducing new consumer-friendly smart glasses, consumers should have more opportunities to experience the technology in 2019. Businesses that regularly interact with consumers don’t have to wait for smart glasses to completely usurp smartphones to begin benefiting from consumer-facing applications of devices like Blade. My prediction is that 2019 will be the year of light enterprise use cases, with companies purchasing early consumer smart glasses for employees to interact face-to-face with end customers and for consumers to use in places of business.

It’s telling that one of the very first use cases of Google Glass involved Virgin Airlines staff processing first-class passengers for their flights and that every automotive manufacturer seems to be experimenting with “loaning” AR headsets to shoppers in dealerships. There is ROI in businesses investing in consumer smart glasses if it solves a customer problem or improves customers’ interactions with the business. The other side to this is that consumers do want to try immersive technologies but they don’t want to pay for the devices right now. Here are three applications I imagine business-wide:

  • Product testing: Enabling consumers to clearly envision a product or service. Right now, mobile AR apps offer this but there hasn’t been much innovation around incorporating smart glasses into the in-person shopping experience, improving the in-store experience, and drawing customers back into stores. (Imagine entering a grocery store and grabbing both a cart and a pair of smart glasses to help you make informed decisions or being able to preview how to use a KitchenAid blender while at Bed, Bath & Beyond.)
  • Guidance and context: Showing directional information via a digital overlay in airports, malls, banks, and other large places of business. No physical signs, reduced frustration, and less pressure on employees to direct customers. Additionally, providing contextual information via digital overlay to help customers make decisions (nutrition information, product reviews, etc.) and get more out of their experience of the business.
  • Engagement: Beyond marketing gimmicks, engaging consumers to interact in new ways with products, buy more and stay longer at the business, increase brand loyalty, etc. (Imagine wearing smart glasses around a wine store to learn about where each bottle came from, hear stories about famous wine-producing regions, read reviews, etc.)


Personally, I’m excited about all the new consumer-friendly AR products, and not because I think they will be a hit or want to buy one myself. The arrival of products like Blade and nreal light marks an intermediate stage in consumer smart glasses adoption in which businesses provide consumers with the opportunity to use these devices risk-free in the (non-industrial) office, at stores, in office reception areas, etc. 2019 should see an expansion in enterprise use cases beyond industry into more mundane areas of business and commerce, in turn providing a much-needed push to consumer AR.


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

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


Image source: nreal

Wearable and Immersive Tech and the Female Workforce

In the three to four years since the release of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the number of VR headsets available on the market has grown. Millions of VR headsets have been sold and PwC expects an installed base of 55 million active VR users by 2022. I work in XR, organizing events and writing about AR and VR for my livelihood and yet, unlike some of my male peers, I purchased my very first piece of VR hardware just this year with the release of Oculus Go.

Go was the first headset I put on that was relatively comfortable, and no wonder: Women were behind its design. Oculus’ Charmaine Hung, Caitlin Kalinowski, Rachel Franklin and Reina Shah put their past experiences with frustrating VR hardware into a physical design that’s more appealing to female VR users than its predecessor (content is another story). Go is untethered, relatively lightweight, a pleasing dove gray in color, and lined with the same material used in women’s bra straps.

A world designed by and for men:

The Oculus Rift, of course, provides a much more powerful, high-end VR experience than the Go. I’d love to own one (never mind the computer requirements), but the headset’s just too heavy for me. To keep the device from falling down and myself from having to constantly readjust, I’m forced to hold it up with my left hand or else tilt my head and neck slightly up, which limits the amount of time I can stand to spend in VR. It’s not just the Rift: I’ve tried on haptic gloves that were too large for my hands and gotten my hair caught in the HoloLens’ adjusting mechanism, not to mention how ridiculous I feel wearing the devices, making me less eager to try these new experiences in public.

There are plenty of examples of apps and tools that have been designed in ways that inhibit use by women and/or outright neglect factors that disproportionately affect female users. “Patriarchal coding” can be found in technology, buildings, public transportation, consumer products, and even life-saving medical devices. For instance, temperature regulation in office buildings still accords with standards set over 50 years ago for a 154-pound man. Since men have faster metabolic rates than women, female workers are more likely to freeze in the office, which studies show negatively impacts productivity. (Imagine if due to lower productivity, a woman got passed over for a job promotion that went to her male colleague instead!) Even cars were designed for decades to be safer for men than women, with industry regulations permitting automakers to use just one crash test dummy representing the average male in vehicle safety testing.

The point is that there are real physiological and lived experiential differences between men and women; and in the case of technology worn intimately on the human head and body in the workplace, those differences can alienate the female workforce.

 “That’s a woman’s job:”

In 2016, women made up:

  • 90% of registered nurses
  • 79% of elementary and middle school teachers
  • 61% of accountants and auditors
  • 35% of supply chain workers
  • 29% of the manufacturing workforce
  • 24% of the transportation and utilities workforce
  • 16% of architecture and engineering professionals
  • 13% of the mining workforce
  • 9% of the construction workforce

Though women make up nearly half the labor force (46.9% in 2017), they’re underrepresented in certain industries—in particular, the skilled trades affected by an aging workforce like manufacturing, logistics, construction and utilities. This is problematic, as those sectors desperately need to find and train the next generation of workers and can’t afford to ignore half the population. In business in general, women’s participation in the workforce is more than a social issue; it’s an economic one, too, with researchers finding that barriers to women in the workplace are stifling the growth of the U.S. economy. Whether it’s a historically male-dominant industry in need of a public image makeover or one in which the gender pay gap and unfavorable employment policies (ex. no paid maternity leave) are turning women away; the future economy and growth of the workforce depend upon improving job prospects and working environments for women.

Physiological differences between the sexes:

Of her time at a trade show, Adi Robertson (writing for The Verge) recalled a much-hyped virtual reality headset that was too loose around her head even when tightened all the way, as well as a motion control ring that left a quarter-inch of space between her fingers and the hardware. Wearables, including XR glasses and headsets, body-worn sensors, wrist wearables, and even exoskeletons, are not one size fits all; they’re one size fits most men and it shows: Headsets are often too heavy for female users, frames too large, lenses too far apart, accessory and motion control devices ill-fitting, etc. As a result, women are literally unable to have some of the same (quality) XR experiences as men. Of course, such wearability issues with XR devices are not universal for women but it is a common pain point impacting women’s use of the technology.

Physiological differences between the sexes have major implications for wearable technology, or so one would thinkWomen on average are smaller than men and while sizing is an issue with wearable tech by definition, the problem is magnified in the case of wearable XR devices that require precise calibration to deliver the experience. If the fit isn’t just right in VR, the simulation can be blurred, distorted and/or nauseating for the user, yet today’s VR headsets are made to fit the average male’s head. This is one reason women experience VR sickness more often than men. The fact that men and women see differently is another: Men have better depth perception and more M cells for tracking the movement of objects in their retinas—a plus in VR. Women can see more of the red end of the color spectrum, but they also blink twice as often as men and their retinas are rich in P cells, great for identifying objects and analyzing color but not for preventing motion sickness. In other words, we’re dealing with advanced optic technologies, yet the two major groups of potential XR users don’t even perceive distance and space in the same way.

In addition to stature and vision, other differences between men and women go right to the bone. For example:

  • Men’s upper body strength is estimated to be 30% greater than women’s.
  • Women have wider hips, broader facial bones, a smaller chin, longer neck, and shorter legs than men.
  • Broader hips mean a wider angle at the knee joint, so females’ knee joints are under more stress than males’.
  • Women’s hands are, on average, 17 mm shorter than men’s. A woman’s index finger is typically longer than her ring finger, while the opposite is true for men.
  • Women hear better but have a stronger emotional response to the anticipation of pain. (Implications for high-stakes, hazardous job training in VR)
  • Men and women use different areas of the brain for navigation: Women navigate using landmarks while men use cardinals and distance.

Can you imagine how such differences might work against women in XR or how exoskeletons and other wearables could be more beneficial to male workers simply because the fit is better? If a female worker has to stop a VR training simulation due to motion sickness, will she be able to get the training she needs? If a pair of smart glasses constantly slide down a female worker’s face, will she be less efficient than her male coworker who’s comfortably working heads-up and hands-free?

What about menstruation and pregnancy, two conditions unique to women? Research indicates that the hormonal and physical changes involved affect a woman’s balance, dexterity and coordination, making her more vulnerable to injury on the job and more prone to VR sickness. The sad reality is many women are pressured to work throughout their pregnancies and return to work soon after childbirth; yet I can’t recall a wearable tech article or actual enterprise product that singles out pregnant women, let alone female enterprise end users. (By the way, it took until iOS 9 for the Apple Watch to finally track menstruation.)

Where an employer may see reason for assigning fewer physical tasks or limiting work hours (and thus pay) for a female employee, I sense an opportunity for working women to leverage wearable technologies to reduce the risk of injury when at their most vulnerable, to alleviate physical and cognitive stress, and to work longer and safer during the course of pregnancy. The problem is I don’t think designers have potentially pregnant users in mind when creating wearable devices. We as a community talk a lot about taking a user-centric approach to hardware and its applications for enterprise, but are all workers truly reflected in the form factors and user experience of enterprise wearables today? If not, how can we expect wearables to ever go mainstream in enterprise?

Betting on a future with more female industrial workers:

Standard worker health and safety gear in general has been designed for male users, without regard for the unchangeable physical limitations of women (or anyone else for that matter). The fact that tools and work stations aren’t really designed for the female frame may be one reason women suffer a disproportionate number of ergonomic-related injuries in the workplace. As a single upper extremity claim can cost an employer upwards of $20,000, you would think more attention were paid to whether standard work processes, essential equipment, and the working environment allow women to work with the same efficiency, productivity, and safety as their male coworkers. And with companies strapped to find and train new workers, you would think employers are doing all they can to source, retain and enable people to work for them.

Women currently make up a smaller portion of the workforce in sectors set to be dramatically transformed by wearable and immersive technologies, but that doesn’t justify the continued use of the male as a default. There are many women today performing hands-on, deskless work on the assembly line, in the warehouse, etc., with more to come in the future, and they need hands-free, well-fitting, performance-enhancing tools they can wield comfortably and efficiently.

Future looking: What does XR’s potential to make job training faster and easier mean for women just entering the workforce or changing careers? If XR makes it theoretically possible to learn any skill or trade, could it solve both gender inequality in the workplace and the skilled labor shortage, expanding the talent pool in many male-dominant sectors, by lowering the barrier of entry for women in industry? One thing I know: Wearables and XR will never reach their full potential if the user experience is inferior for women than men.

Technology “for men:”

“The form factor design of so many wearable XR devices, as with so many everyday objects, has gender bias and ableism baked into design. This is the new equivalent of work gear that only comes in men’s size large. Head gear, glasses, watches, controllers – so much of this stuff is conceptualized and designed to standards that don’t meet the basic functional, ergonomic or aesthetic needs for a multiplicity of users.” – Margaret Wallace, Founder, KijiCo & Playmatics 

“[VR] controllers are too big for the hands of many of the women I demo to. Headset straps are too small to fit around large textured or styled hair, or things like turbans. Don’t get me started on [external] battery packs that expect you to have belts or pockets.” – Becca Little, software developer, State Farm

“…it took me a year to get the HoloLens to fit right for my head. The Magic Leap One has a smaller size for smaller heads and faces, so that helped tremendously, but none of the smart glasses fit my face right yet.” – Evo Heyning, CEO & Founder, Light Lodges

“For me, it’s not about looks but size. I am a petite female, so nearly all gear is heavy and adjustment elements don’t adjust small enough, from the face of a watch on your wrist to the focal adjustment of lenses inside a headset, to the Velcro and clips of a haptic vest. I know weight can’t be avoided much yet, but I’m afraid that targets are not low enough to be ergonomically friendly for those of us with smaller frames.”Jamie Woodard, Senior Solutions Engineer, Instructure

In 2010, Danish researchers found that the basic premises underlying many advanced electronic products like the mobile phone and even GPS were dominated by male thinking. Not much has changed: The women who were kind enough to share their experiences with me on Facebook and LinkedIn pointed out numerous “sexist flaws” in wearable devices. Their complaints resonated with my own: Hands too small to reach the grips on a VR controller; glossy or elastic headset straps that don’t work for certain hair types; HMDs that sit heavy on the nose bridge or cheekbones; losing the full immersive experience when looking down (being able to see beyond the visor, like breaking the fourth wall); lenses that prove their makers are unaware of the existence of mascara; face makeup smudging and dirtying HUD screens in general; un-adjustable smart bands that slip off the wrist; a lack of female avatars; having to take out braids, ponytails and topknots to put on a headset, and more. Again, this isn’t every woman’s reality with wearables; neither are men immune to discomfort while using wearables. Not all wearable devices exhibit gender bias and those that aren’t very gender neutral weren’t designed intentionally so.

I was unable to find any in-depth scientific research or ergonomic studies specific to XR and wearables for this article, probably because the tech is still emerging. Even so, it’s recognized that technology has long been designed by and for men; and there are enough women having ergonomic issues trying to use wearables and XR to, at the very least, start a conversation. As a new training medium, XR is going to be crucial for filling millions of vacant positions in the workforce. A new wave of technology is an opportunity to examine old workplace tools and processes favoring a certain type of worker and empower all types and shapes of workers. Take manufacturing, where women are one of the largest pools of untapped talent according to Deloitte. Emerging tech like automation and robotics should be used to reduce barriers of entry for women in manufacturing, as should new remote work platforms allow women to work more flexible hours from anywhere in the world. XR should serve as a means of professional training and visual guidance, preparing women for new careers in unfamiliar industries; and exoskeletons should enable them to perform on a more even playing field as their male colleagues, taking on moving, lifting and technical roles traditionally seen as “men’s work.”

All-inclusive wearables:

Women are the least likely buyers of consumer VR, which doesn’t bode well for the consumer market or for companies hoping cool new tech will attract both male and female millennials to fill out their workforces. The answer, however, isn’t to develop an attractive headset that, while less capable than the original, is small enough to fit around a woman’s head; nor is it to offer something like VR training or exoskeletons as an option for workers knowing the tech’s design puts some women at a disadvantage. As women are nearly half the labor force, organizations and enterprise wearable and immersive solution providers must consider hardware and user experience issues unique to female workers.

Field services, manufacturing, utilities, and other sectors struggling to recruit new members to the workforce should make tackling gender inequality in the workplace a priority, from the very tools used on the job to the policies that support employee wellbeing. In addition to paying attention to the needs and experiences of the existing female workforce, enterprises should consider women who haven’t yet entered the workforce, young women beginning to use AR/VR in their education, women forced to change careers due to the skills upheaval expected across business and industry, and women who might never think to take on traditionally male jobs like material handlers, machine operators, etc.

Going forward, hardware and software designers should adopt a more mindful approach to developing solutions for the modern and future workforce, considering the female experience at every stage of the design process, asking for and listening to women’s feedback, and even setting up all-female usability tests. What are the unique requirements of female workers? For example, women tend to wear makeup; how does that affect sharing devices among workers? XR brings sight, sound and touch to the workplace in a new way; do smaller hands, shorter fingers, long nails, different hairstyles, varying levels of visual acuity, even a higher voice have any effect on the mode of interacting with the device? It could be as simple as making a headset more adjustable and developing VR simulations where women can see themselves in the avatars; or it may be more complex, requiring customization of solutions for different user groups.


When it comes to work, AR and VR are essentially career development tools for the next generation of workers, which is why it’s imperative that women feel comfortable using the technology. Hands-free is the future: From delivering just-in-time information and immersive training to collecting biometric and environmental data for increased situational awareness and augmenting workers’ strength; there are applications for wearable technologies that we haven’t even begun to consider. While the current focus is on the business problems of today, there’s opportunity in wearable and immersive tech to make industry not only inclusive of women but also individuals previously ineligible for some or all kinds of work like the physically and vision-disabled. But first, the hardware needs to be built so everyone can use it and the user experience designed to be equally accessible to everyone.


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

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

photo credit: Philicious Photos 2018-05-12 05 via photopin (license)

Enterprise Wearable & Immersive Tech 2018: Magic Leap, Exosuits and VR Training, Training, Training

This year was going to be the year of augmented reality, but by the end of 2018 market analysts were pointing to 2020 or 2021 as the “golden year” of AR. While wearable technologies, including wearable XR, didn’t exactly “blow up” this year, the technology did further entrench itself in enterprise—the number of companies in the evaluation stage rose significantly, several large deployments made headlines, and solution providers continued to partner and expand their products to more platforms. Magic Leap finally dropped to mixed reviews and BrainXchange published its Definitive Guide to Adopting Wearables, AR and VR in Enterprise. Going into 2019, the industry eagerly awaits HoloLens 2 and Glass Enterprise Edition 2, as rumors swirl around the possibility of AR glasses from Apple and/or Facebook in the near future. Read on for a recap of the major developments that took place in 2018:

Enterprises that made the news for using wearables:

In 2018, major retailers got more serious about XR in hopes of competing with Amazon and improving the shopping experience. Walmart was very active, beginning with its acquisition of VR startup Spatialand in February. Just three months ago, the company revealed it’s putting 17,000 Oculus Go headsets in Walmart stores for employee training. In March, Macy’s announced it would use VR to sell furniture in 50 of its stores. The pilot, which used an iPad and HTC Vive powered by Marxent’s 3D Cloud Service, showed that VR increases average order value by 60%. And this year, Lowe’s extended its use of mixed reality to employee training and rolled out more XR experiences aimed at solving customers’ challenges.

Training, of course, was a huge application area, with banks and even restaurants employing XR to recruit and train the next generation of workers. Among those using AR/VR for training were logistics company DB Schenker, telecom giant Verizon, and hotel chain Hyatt. Honeywell also announced plans to use XR to transfer skills to millennials and revealed the new Honeywell Connected Plant solution for industrial field workers, which combines the RealWear HMT-1Z1 with Honeywell’s Movilizer platform.

In aviation and aerospace, Lockheed Martin’s space division received attention for its use of MR headsets and software by Scope AR to build spacecraft faster, as did Bell Helicopter for using HTC Vive to drastically accelerate the helicopter design process. Meanwhile, Boeing and Delta Air Lines have been testing exoskeletons to augment employee safety; and both companies joined the exoskeleton advisory group X-TAG launched by Sarcos Robotics in March.

The auto industry’s adoption of wearable and immersive technologies showed no signs of slowing down in 2018, from Porsche’s new Tech Live Look system to Ford’s Immersive Vehicle Environment Lab (FiVE). Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Audi and Mazda all drank from the XR Kool-Aid; and RealWear’s HMT-1 was the device of choice for pilot programs at Lexus and Volkswagen. In addition to using XR for vehicle design, Ford also rolled out the EksoVest to 15 of its plants to reduce injuries.

Hardware announcements:


After years of secrecy and hype, Magic Leap finally released its first developer kit in August for $2,295. At its first developer conference in October, the company spoke of a few upcoming enterprise-facing apps; and in November, Magic Leap announced a creator fund to encourage designers to develop apps for the Magic Leap One. The company’s direction is unclear.

As usual, Vuzix was incredibly busy in 2018, demoing the first Amazon Alexa-enabled smart glasses at CES; launching the first commercial release of Vuzix Blade; receiving its largest M300 order to date from AMA XPertEye as well as a follow-up order by SATS; partnering with Plessey Semiconductor to increase the processing power of future Vuzix smart glasses; and completing pilots with companies like H-E-B.

RealWear had a great year, which included the unveiling of the intrinsically safe HMT-1Z1 at AWE USA; the release of RealWear Foresight cloud platform at EWTS 2018; and an announcement in October that Colgate-Palmolive is rolling out the HMT-1 across 20 facilities. Epson announced Upskill’s Skylight platform for the new Moverio BT-250 ANSI Edition; and, in a move to expand its audience, launched the Moverio BT 35-E Smart Glasses, which can connect to popular output devices for new enterprise applications. Toshiba upgraded its software engine to create Vision DE Suite 2.0, and expanded the partner program for its dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses to include Atheer’s AiR platform, Ubimax’s Frontline application suite, and ACS’ Timer Pro. HoloLens got a major software update, and Microsoft introduced new enterprise mixed reality applications like Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout.

In other hardware news, Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon Wear 3100, a new low-power chipset designed for smartwatches; as well as the Snapdragon XR1, the first chip specially made for standalone XR devices with accompanying reference design. Kopin announced the Golden-I Infinity, essentially an attachable smart screen that turns any pair of eyewear into an AR display.

In the virtual reality space, HTC targeted enterprise with the debut of the Vive Pro VR Kit intended for work applications like training and design. In November, the company launched Vive Focus, a standalone HMD for enterprise, as well as collaboration tool Sync. And in July, Oculus began shipping Oculus Go for Business, a bundle including not only the headset and accessories but also an extended commercial warranty and dedicated support, for $299 each.


In 2018, Gilbane, Bosch Power Tools and KPE Building all adopted Triax’s Spot-r system to detect falls, track the location of workers and equipment, and improve safety on the job. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Gear S3 smartwatch continued to make inroads into the enterprise: Samsung partnered with DataXoom to provide LTE data coverage for custom-developed smartwatch applications; worked with Viceroy Hotel Group and hotel operations platform ALICE to create a smartwatch solution for the hotel industry; and teamed up with HSBC to test the Gear S3’s impact on customer service in banking.

Exoskeletons have arrived. In addition to Ford’s rollout of the EksoVest this year, Hyundai began testing exoskeletons to aid workers with repetitive overhead tasks and two new exoskeletons came onto the market: Comau’s MATE for repetitive tasks and the LG CLOi SuitBot for heavy lifting and tool operation. We also learned that Sarcos Robotics’ Guardian XO and XO Max exoskeletons are coming out in a little over a year; and on the haptics side of VR, the HaptX Gloves Development Kit debuted, offering touch feedback and natural interaction in VR training and design applications.

Software developments:

In 2018, the platforms we know (and love) matured and expanded to a broader array of devices: In March, Scope AR announced ARCore support for its Remote AR application. Soon after, the company merged Remote AR with its WorkLink application, creating one new AR platform offering real-time remote assistance and smart instructions. Scope also revealed it achieved 99% faster completion rates for some of the tasks in Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing operations.

AMA and Proceedix partnered to deliver a comprehensive solution for industrial sites with multiple use cases for smart glasses. Atheer revealed the “world’s first Augmented Reality Management Platform,” a cloud-based, device-agnostic solution aimed at helping companies tackle challenges related to change, connectivity, talent and complexity. Upskill unveiled Skylight for Mobile as well as support for Microsoft HoloLens, allowing customers to leverage the Skylight AR platform across multiple devices and experiences; and RE’FLEKT built a new standard enterprise operating system atop REFLEKT ONE. With an extensive partner program, the new system enables workers to use visual (AR) guidance as an out-of-the-box integration. In June, RE’FLEKT also launched Sync, a software solution designed to further simplify the transformation of existing technical documentation and CAD data into AR applications.

Interesting research:

A number of reports and studies circulated in 2018. Notable among them were AREA’s ROI report, calculator and case study; an ABI Research report predicting that the AR hardware market will eventually diverge according to differing enterprise and consumer requirements; and research out of the University of Maryland indicating that people learn and retain information better through immersive experiences.

EPRI continued to study the potential benefits and risks of equipping utility workers with AR devices; IDC relieved worries about declining VR headset shipments, pointing out that commercial pilots are picking up; two-thirds of respondents in a Capgemini survey said they believe AR will be more applicable to their organizations than VR; and a joint report by PTC and Aberdeen showed that AR adopters have best-in-class factory operations, service and training.

Into 2019:

I think we can safely predict that VR training will be huge in 2019 and expect to see more see-what-I-see applications for smart glasses and hopefully more content-creation solutions for non-AEC organizations. In the new year, I’d personally like to see more peer-reviewed, scientific research on the health effects of wearables on different user groups, including prolonged use of XR HMDs and exoskeletons. And with the arrival of Magic Leap and a storm of rumors about upcoming consumer devices from Apple and Facebook, I think 2019 is finally the year to talk about consumer-facing AR/VR applications in enterprise.


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

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


Image source: ZDNet

All the News Out of EWTS 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMA Partners with Proceedix to provide advanced remote assistance solutions

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

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

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

Upskill launches support for Microsoft HoloLens

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

Three trends to watch in enterprise wearables

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

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.

Where are the simple but effective wearables?

Remote collaboration via smart glasses, Virtual Reality training, design visualization with HoloLens…These are incredible applications of wearable technologies in enterprise today. While a VR headset is definitely more exciting than a connected wristband, an unassuming wrist-worn device equipped with the right sensors could have tremendous value in the workplace. But where are such simple wearables?

No stranger to employee backlash, Amazon is currently taking heat for a pair of patents awarded to the company. The patents – for wristbands that use ultrasonic pulses and haptic feedback to track and guide a worker’s hands in relation to inventory bins in a warehouse – have raised concerns over employee privacy and workplace surveillance. This is not surprising to anyone who follows the enterprise wearable tech space—privacy has been one of the major challenges holding back widespread adoption of wearables in the workplace. Nevertheless, enterprises are managing to work around the issue today by being transparent, allowing opt-in, and taking the security of workers’ personal data seriously.

To those criticizing the employee-tracking wearables as invasive, Amazon insists the technology would be used to track inventory and not individuals. But can you really track one and not the other using a wearable? Yes, the devices would help workers by freeing up their hands and making them more accurate, but they would also provide insights on personal performance as a byproduct. We know that when it comes to smartphone apps, consumers are willing to give up some measure of privacy for discounts and other benefits. The same holds in the workplace—if workers see the benefit, they’re more likely to support adoption.

Should Amazon one day employ the devices described in the patents, employees’ wearable data could be viewed anonymously—a solution some companies have explored in order to collect workforce productivity and efficiency information without invading privacy or sparking fear among workers of the wearable data being used to penalize them. Of course, this requires a degree of trust between employer and employees (which might be difficult for Amazon given the company’s history of strained relations with its workers.)

What I take away from the Amazon story is the concept of simple but effective wearables. Monocular (Assisted Reality) smart glasses are proving effective in many real-life use cases and could be viewed as relatively simple compared to AR/VR headsets, but I’m talking even simpler and more invisible. Simple smart bands, not fitness trackers but rather inconspicuous wristbands that pack a big punch (advanced sensors) and deliver significant results. These kinds of wearables – no-frills devices without screens or buttons or any method of user interaction at all – seem to be missing from the market today.

The simple but effective category of enterprise wearables includes bracelets, patches, and possibly items of ordinary clothing equipped with sensors and haptic technology and aimed at very specific outcomes for improving workers’ lives on the job. Imagine a customizable or modular smart band: You decide what needs to be tracked to achieve your objective – maybe it’s the missing human piece in a greater IoT scheme – and the appropriate sensors are embedded in the device.

There are use cases of enterprises using a variety of minimalistic wearables, mostly the products of smaller companies and startups, to target risk factors for employees in the workplace. In those cases, some biometric (ex. fatigue, body temp) or chemical in the work environment was measured via wearable. Sometimes the same wearable beeped, lit up or vibrated to warn the wearer when a threshold was crossed.

You don’t need a fancy wearable to track employees’ health on the job, just a form factor that can house the right sensor(s.) A simple body-worn device could track a worker’s location in real time or measure the user’s form and movement while performing a task. The objective might be to ensure employees stay confined to safe zones or have clearance to be in a certain area, to optimize the flow of workers throughout a job site or busy airport, to decrease repetitive motion injuries, or to locate workers in case of an emergency.

What about a smart band that acts as a key in lieu of card access to a secure area, or that turns on a piece of equipment? Similar applications are popping up in the travel and hospitality sector, and might provide a layer of security, safety and convenience in a wide range of industries. Which tasks – like clocking in and out of a shift – could be taken out of workers’ hands and made mindless with a basic wearable? And why are there few well-known wearables of this type on the market today? Perhaps we’re not yet ready for implantable chips capable of the same, but Amazon’s employee-tracking wristband is not an ominous sign for the future of work; rather, it is a model more wearable companies should be pursuing.


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.


Image Credit: Amazon/USPTO

Wearable Technologies 2017: Year in Review, from Glass Enterprise Edition to ARKit

2017 brought us the public reveal of Google Glass Enterprise Edition and a jumpstart to consumer AR adoption in the form of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Augmented and Virtual Reality made further headway in enterprise, especially for design collaboration, assembly instructions, and training. Worker safety wearables cropped up on job sites while exoskeletons pulled their weight in automotive plants. And smartwatches proved to be a useful tool for employee productivity in several workplaces including restaurants and airports. Here’s a recap of the best use cases and biggest developments from this past year in wearable technology.


A number of enterprises made headlines for their use of wearables in 2017

The most covered use case – and among the most mature use cases out there – was AGCO’s use of Google Glass Enterprise Edition. At the manufacturer’s Jackson, MN factory, employees have been using Glass Enterprise Edition with Proceedix software in assembly and quality assurance for some time now. AGCO was actually one of the companies that worked with Google behind the scenes to improve upon the tech giant’s original smart glasses device.

(Watch Peggy Gulick of AGCO speaking at EWTS Fall 2017 (Video) and read our interview with her here)

Another Glass user, GE Aviation, gained attention this year for a successful pilot of Upskill’s Skylight platform. In the pilot, GE mechanics used Glass EE along with a connected torque wrench to increase efficiency in assembly and maintenance. Other aerospace companies have seen positive results with smart glasses, including Boeing (also using Skylight) and Airbus (using a Vuzix smart glasses solution developed with Accenture.)

Automakers’ use of wearable tech, including AR/VR and exoskeletons, was widespread: Ford expanded testing of Microsoft’s HoloLens headset in vehicle design, and is exploring how to use showroom space more effectively and enable customers to shop at home using Augmented and Virtual Reality. Ford is also testing exoskeleton technology to reduce the physical strain of assembly work, as are BMW and Audi. Other automobile companies looking at AR/VR in the design process and dealership experience include Volkswagen, Porsche, and Jaguar Land Rover. PSA Peugeot Citroën is using smart glasses for remote support.

Outside the manufacturing plant, wearables could be found in several airports around the world. Both Cincinnati International Airport and San Diego International Airport tried out Samsung Gear smartwatches—housekeeping staff at CVG used the watches with Hipaax’s task management platform, while SAN employees used the devices to respond to IT issues. SITA Lab with Helsinki Airport tested HoloLens for visualizing the airport’s operational data; and Singapore’s Changi Airport introduced Vuzix smart glasses to its ground crew.

Many enterprises began AR/VR programs for design collaboration and employee training this year. On the design side, medical device company Stryker used HoloLens to design operating rooms; and Lowe’s believes VR can help customers with their home improvement projects (Lowe’s also tested exoskeletons.) And a wide array of companies tested or are using VR to train workers, including Walmart, UPS, Fidelity Investments, Farmers Insurance, and even KFC.


A number of developments in 2017 indicated that enterprises can no longer afford to ignore emerging technologies like wearables and XR. The ecosystem both consolidated and matured, giving us better devices and software; and the largest tech companies entered the game, dropping hints of big plans to come.

Familiar Faces:


First, a bit of housekeeping: Intel axed its Recon Jet line of smart glasses and the frustratingly mysterious Magic Leap secured another $502M of funding.

Google Glass 2.0 or Glass Enterprise Edition arrived (check out the specs.) Google also introduced an updated Daydream VR headset; a new SDK for its AR-enabled Pixel phones (ARCore,) and several tools for creating AR/VR content (ex. Poly.)

Vuzix was very busy in 2017: The Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses are now supported by PTC’s Vuforia platform and Blackberry’s UEM software. In addition, Vuzix teamed up with Toshiba on a custom, tethered version of the M300. The company launched the developer kit pre-order program for the sleek Vuzix Blade AR glasses; and to cap off the year announced VUZIX Basics, a platform of out-of-the-box, easy to use applications for its growing line of smart glasses.

DAQRI added enterprise AR smart glasses to its product line. The device, which costs $4,995, began shipping in November. DAQRI also worked with Trimble to integrate Trimble’s Mixed Reality application suite with the DAQRI Smart Helmet. Another entrant came from Six15 Technologies—Darwin is the company’s first smart glasses built for enterprise, derived form Six15’s military-grade Tac-Eye line (view the device specs.) Darwin Developer kits began shipping over the summer, with pre-orders for the Mentor variant beginning in January 2018.

ODG unveiled the R-7HL, smart glasses optimized for use in extreme or hazardous environments. The company’s R-8 smart glasses, priced under $1,000, are aimed at early adopters and “light” enterprises, while the R-9 ($1,799) targets commercial enterprises. Meanwhile, rival Epson introduced the Epson Moverio BT-350 to be shared among multiple users and the Moverio Pro BT-2200 to be worn with safety helmets in industrial settings.

Microsoft created the Mixed Reality Partner Program to welcome more systems integrators and digital agencies to develop experiences for the HoloLens, and expanded sales of its Mixed Reality headset – now certified for use as basic protective eyewear – to new European markets. Microsoft also acquired social VR app AltspaceVR in October and Windows 10 now powers VR headsets from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.

In January, RealWear announced its Pioneer Program giving over 50 industrial enterprises early access to the HMT-1, its rugged, head-mounted Android tablet. In March, the company released the device to a limited audience of around 65 companies for pilot programs. RealWear also partnered to integrate Librestream’s Onsight platform and HPE’s MyRoom Visual Remote Guidance (VRG) solution with the HMT-1.

In Virtual Reality, Oculus launched the $900 Oculus for Business bundle, allowing companies to buy headsets in bulk with warranties, a full VR commercial license and dedicated customer support. HTC reduced the price of its Vive headset and admitted it is working with enterprises to extend the device’s use beyond gaming. In an unexpected play, Hewlett Packard debuted the HP Z VR Backpack PC, a VR-capable PC in backpack form for enterprise VR applications.


APX Labs remade itself in 2017, first by changing its name to Upskill to better reflect what its solutions do for enterprises. The company also acquired Pristine and released the next generation of its Skylight platform, which offers an improved user interface, more scalable AR solution, and lower cost of ownership for customers.

Atheer acquired Mixed Reality app maker SpaceView, expanding its solutions to new markets; and released updates to its AiR platform including full encryption, taskflow reporting and Vuzix M300 support. Ubimax, another enterprise wearable software leader, announced Ubimax Frontline—a complete end-to-end solution integrating the company’s xPick, xMake, xInspect and xAssist applications.

New players:

Nymi closed a deal to deploy the Nymi Band in an enterprise setting for the first time. Wearable device management company Augmate returned with Augmate Connect, an IoT device management platform using distributed ledger (blockchain) technology. Lenovo showcased the New Glass C200, smart glasses designed for enterprise, at CES 2017; and also formed Lenovo New Vision, a joint venture focusing on AR smart headsets, with Kopin. And Olympus entered the fray with the EyeTrek Insight EL-10 smart glasses designed to attach to existing eyewear.


Given juicy rumors of Alexa-embedded smart glasses from Amazon and an AR headset from Apple as early as 2020 (Apple’s latest startup acquisitions Vrvana and Finisar are AR-related and Apple supplier Quanta just partnered with Lumus;) it’s even clearer going into 2018 than it was a year ago that every company needs a wearable strategy. To put it bluntly: If you’re not piloting and familiarizing yourself with wearables including AR/VR headsets, you’re already behind.


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.


photo credit: pennlibtrl PennImmersive Techs Open House via photopin (license)

What Enterprise can Learn from the Red Sox Smartwatch “Scandal”

If you haven’t already heard, the Boston Red Sox were caught using an Apple Watch to steal opposing teams’ pitching signs during games. There’s no question that cheating is wrong. Rules are rules. But what this story highlights is just how disruptive wearable technology truly is.

There is no industry that won’t feel the impact, that won’t be forced to somehow transform, innovate and ELIMINATE–eliminate old technology (when a wearable is the superior form factor for the task,) old systems (that don’t work in a heads-up display or on the small screen real estate of a smartwatch,) old processes and procedures (that wearables can optimize,) old job positions (some jobs are going to become obsolete while new ones are created or extended,) and last but not least old rules.

This is a new era of enterprise mobility, removing shackles (for lack of a better metaphor) that we weren’t really aware of until we experienced truly hands-free and truly advanced – and sufficiently miniaturized – sensor technology. It’s not just that we need to update our mobile device management rules and strategies to account for that increased mobility, increased security risks, etc. We also need to update the rules to account for new capabilities. We cannot deny that wearables are augmenting human beings by preserving rules that punish them for taking advantage of those new capabilities. Should we really stop people from leveraging the rich information provided by wearable technologies to improve their lives, jobs and performance? In a way, banning smartwatches in baseball games – if the MLB were to go down that road – is forcibly keeping the sports industry outdated or behind the times. And I’m not so sure that’s a good move in the long run.

What are your thoughts?


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: Phil Grondin Fenway Park via photopin (license)

Consumer Wearables That Could Work For Your Business

For this article, I went shopping—online, that is. I’m an enterprise wearables expert, and I must admit I don’t know much about consumer wearables. I work out regularly but don’t own a fitness tracker, and haven’t worn my Apple Watch in months. But I suspect there is enterprise potential in many of the wearable devices available to consumers today, so I did some web browsing.

Consumer wearables fall into several categories, including brain-sensing headbands and smart jewelry. I searched for devices in each category that might be useful in enterprise settings. Keep in mind that I have not tried many of these wearables myself but assuming they deliver on what they’re advertised to do, here’s what I found:



Myo by Thalmic Labs

Myo is an armband that lets the wearer control other connected devices using gesture and motion. With SDKs available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, developers have a lot of freedom to build applications for Myo, beyond just controlling a smartphone or delivering a presentation. For instance, surgeons in Spain are using the device to navigate medical records while in the O.R. Think of it as a touch-free mouse for your technology.

RE-vibe by FokusLabs

RE-vibe is an anti-distraction wristband that uses gentle vibrations at strategic intervals to keep the wearer attentive and on-task. The technology “encourages mindfulness while studying or at work.” I can only picture RE-vibe entering the workplace as a personal device, not as an employer-provided wearable. Those of us sitting at a desk right now have certainly struggled to focus after a restless night (and with all the political news taking over our Twitter feeds.)

Steer by Creative Mode

Like the SmartCap, this wrist wearable is designed to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. Steer detects changes in heart rate and skin conductance, establishing a baseline when the user first puts on the device and giving a warning – first a slight vibration, then a gentle shock – when those metrics fall to a certain degree below that line. The shock increases serotonin, cortisol and other hormones to keep the driver awake. Steer could be used as an alternative to SmartCap by companies interested in avoiding fatigue-related accidents on the job.


Myo offers control, RE-vibe helps you focus, and Steer keeps you awake and alert—all potentially useful at work. TouchPoints offer stress relief in as little as 30 seconds, which would undoubtedly appeal to many workers. These stress-relieving, wrist-worn “neuroscientific wearables” work by reducing physical sensations and shifting “fight or flight” to alter the body’s stress mechanism. Work is often stressful—you might take a break or practice meditation, or you could use TouchPoints for fast relief right on your wrist.


Patches and Clip-ons

Wearsafe by Wearsafe Labs

Wearsafe is “a modern-day, mobile panic button” that can be clipped onto any piece of clothing. By pressing it, Wearsafe uses the wearer’s smartphone to instantly send an alert to friends and family. Wearsafe Labs’ website has an enterprise section, because “safe employees are productive employees.” In its pitch to employers, the company describes Wearsafe as a “safety service designed to connect and protect your staff” in case of an accident, incident or crisis. The dashboard Wearsafe.help combines alert management, dispatch aid and incident reporting.

Lumo Lift by Lumo BodyTech

Lumo Lift is a “posture coach and activity tracker.” Once you connect the device to the Lumo Lift app on your phone, you attach it to your shirt and set a target posture; every time you slouch thereafter, Lumo Lift vibrates to tell you to sit straighter. Lumo does market its product as a tool for corporate wellness programs, noting that back pain is a top reason for missed workdays and doctor visits as well as a leading cause of disability claims. The company already counts Facebook, ExxonMobil and Nestle among its customers.

Upright GO and Upright PRO by Upright Technologies

This wearable posture trainer also vibrates to correct the user’s posture, but it’s only meant to be worn (attached to the back with an adhesive) for short “training sessions” of up to 60 minutes a day. Users can review their progress on the connected app, and hopefully improve their posture over time. As stated on Upright’s website, 86% of U.S. workers sit for the entire workday, increasing their risk of obesity, musculoskeletal problems, and diabetes. Employers might consider investing in the Upright PRO or the newer Upright GO (simpler, single-sensor device) to help employees reduce back pain.


Smart/Connected Clothing

There are many smart clothing products out there including socks and high-fashion pieces, but sensor-equipped exercise clothes clearly dominate. These garments track motion, heart rate, body temp and location; monitor air quality and UV exposure; and even pay for things. I don’t see why similar technology could not be incorporated into standard work uniforms. There are smart construction vests and other PPE designed for industry, so why not smart nursing scrubs or maintenance uniforms?

AiQ Smart Clothing

This company makes a range of smart clothing items, including an electronic heating garment that keeps wearers warm (ThermoMan;) clothing that lights up to provide visibility in dark surroundings (NeonMan;) and anti-radiation textiles (ShieldMan.) There are certainly enterprise use cases for tracking or regulating workers’ body temperature and keeping them safe in dark or nighttime conditions.

Lumo Run by Lumo BodyTech

Lumo also makes a device that clips onto running shorts—not exactly smart clothing but what it does is monitor cadence, ground contact time, pelvic rotation and stride length. The accompanying Lumo Run app supports real-time coaching, sending feedback to the user’s headphones. A similar feature in enterprise might give a worker advice for moving with “good ergonomics” in real time, right in her ear.  

Samsung NFC suit

According to Wareable, you can purchase this smart suit in Korea under Samsung’s wearable brand The Human Fit. The connected business suit allows the wearer to do things like unlock his phone and digitally swap business cards. I don’t see this idea catching on in America but wearable-enabled networking (perhaps activated by a handshake) is something I can get behind.

There have been efforts to monitor workers’ movement on the job, from their posture (see above) to how they lift heavy items. There are many form factors for gathering biometrics; and though it may be more accurate to take some measurements from one part of the body over another, work clothes and uniforms are prime, underdeveloped real estate for wearable sensors.


Hearables/Wireless Earbuds

The ear has become another popular body part for fitness tracking, as well as for controlling smartphone features, noise cancelling/augmenting, and real-time translation. Those last two applications have real enterprise potential, in noisy workplaces and multilingual work scenarios.

Here One by Doppler Labs

These wireless Here Buds combine “premium audio” for music and calls, noise cancellation, speech enhancement, and Siri/Google Now controls. The user can control how he or she hears the world via the connected app—with layered listening, manipulation of real-world volume and sound, and smart noise filters. Here One is pricey and likely to remain in the realm of personal wearables (there are cheaper noise-cancelling devices out there;) yet if the noise altering features are as sophisticated as claimed, these earbuds could be ideal for blocking unwanted, distracting or distressing sounds at work while “keeping” the noise essential to one’s task.

Did you know that high-level noise, like that from factory equipment or heavy machinery on a job site, can actually damage your hearing? Tens of millions of Americans are occupationally exposed to harmful noise, which not only puts them at risk of hearing loss but also heart disease.

Pilot by Waverly Labs

This “real-time translation hearable” consists of earbuds that translate between two users speaking different languages. In the first earpiece, noise-cancelling microphones filter out ambient noise from the wearer who is talking, while the second earpiece returns the translation to the other person in real time. Speech recognition, machine learning and speech synthesis technologies do the actual translating through the Pilot app. Pilot pre-orders come with free access to Romance languages.

Translate One2One by Lingmo

This AI-powered earpiece claims to translate spoken conversation and written text within 3-5 seconds without relying on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity. The solution uses IBM Watson’s Natural Language technology to help perform the translation, and currently supports English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, German and Chinese. Both the speaker and listener must be wearing an earpiece.

Clik by Mymanu

Marriott is reportedly interested in these wireless smart earphones to help staff at its hotels communicate with guests. Clik uses voice recognition technology to near instantly translate live conversation in 37 languages. On the companion smartphone app, users can download 9 language packs, which can be synced and stored on the buds. Like the previous product, Clik doesn’t require a data connection.

There are plenty of customer service and international business scenarios where in-ear translation could greatly improve communication, service and productivity. Hotel staff might better serve foreign-speaking guests, negotiations with foreign business partners might go more smoothly, and colleagues speaking different languages might be able to better collaborate on projects, etc.


Smart Jewelry

Personal Safety Wearables

Many of the personal safety wearables are designed for and marketed to women and the elderly, but the ones that follow – like Wearsafe – could potentially be worn by lone (travelling) workers such as in-home caregivers and utilities workers.

Nimb Ring

This smart ring works as a panic button, tracking the wearer’s location and sending an emergency alert when pressed through the Nimb app to a pre-managed group of responders.

Apple Watch

With the watchOS 3 update, Apple has added an SOS mode to its smartwatch. By holding down the side button, Apple Watch will attempt to call local emergency services either via cellular (if your iPhone is nearby) or over Wi-Fi. A text message can also be sent to preset SOS contacts after the call ends.


This emerging technology startup recently announced partnerships with several wearable tech companies allowing them to link their wearable products to RapidSOS’s advanced emergency platform.

Smart Rings

The finger is another spot for activity tracking, viewing smartphone notifications, and contactless payments.


According to OURA’s website, our fingers provide more accurate activity tracking than our wrists. This “sleep tracker and wellness ring ” senses arteries in the fingers to provide insight into how users’ lifestyle choices affect their sleep and performance. Employers should be concerned about how much sleep employees are getting, especially in jobs where fatigue might threaten worker safety or lead to costly errors. Should truck drivers, for instance, show up for work when they’re overtired? What about your heavy machinery operators or store employees who need to make a good impression on your customers? Lack of sleep negatively impacts one’s daily performance, slowing productivity and increasing the likelihood of having an on-the-job accident.

NFC Ring

This smart ring can be used to unlock your mobile devices or even your door (if you have an NFC-enabled door lock.) It can share and transfer information such as links, photos and contacts, control smartphone applications, and make payments. As mobile payments become more mainstream, I wonder what will become of our plastic credit cards. What if instead of a store credit card, a retailer offered a store smart ring or another wearable payment method just for use in its stores. Visa has been experimenting with creating different types of wearable payments, including a ring and a wearable sticker; and Tappy Technologies is a company that embeds payment functionality in watches and jewelry. Tappy has its own smart payment ring and also provides its technology to jewelry companies to develop their own products.


Brain-Sensing Wearables

This category appears focused on improving mental well-being, sleep and even dreams; stimulating the mind during tasks; or helping with memory and performance—all of which have obvious implications for our work lives. Most of the devices use EEG technology and are not medically approved.    

Thync Relax Pro

Thync bills its product as “the first consumer health solution for lowering stress and anxiety.” This small triangular device worn at the back of the neck uses low-level electrical stimulation to activate nerves affecting the brain’s adrenaline system. The simulation patterns trigger natural mechanisms that relax the wearer, and improve mood and sleep.

Lowdown Focus by Smith Optics

These smart sunglasses use brain-sensing technology to help athletes and other active users perform well under pressure through “mental training sessions.” The technology measures brain activity and provides cues to the wearer for becoming more calm, relaxed and focused.

Brainstation by Neuroverse

Neuroverse has apparently been working on Brainstation, a small oval wearable that adheres to the forehead, for several years now. The device puts the wearer through a series of “brain training games” designed to promote neuroplasticity, or the forming of new connections in the brain. EEG sensors detect certain neural markers to monitor the games’ effects on the user’s reaction times, attention span, memory and decision making. Neuroverse also opened its API for Brainstation VR, a version of its solution that would enable mind control of objects and actions in Virtual Reality and that works with game engines like Unity.


Final verdict: While it’s certainly advantageous to be aware of what’s available on the consumer side – especially if you have a specific EHS or employee well-being concern in the workplace – consumer wearables seem to enter and disappear from the marketplace at a much higher rate than enterprise devices. There are many crowdfunding campaigns and nearly all of the devices have to be paired with a smartphone app. My sense is that the consumer wearable tech market is a bit fickle because it’s still trying to understand the end user. As an enterprise, I’d worry about investing in 500 devices that may not have an ecosystem to support them within a year. Looking at consumer wearables, however, is less about finding actual products to use in your organization today than getting a sense of what wearable technologies are capable of and how wearable companies are attempting to augment and empower human beings.  


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: oooOOC Ringly Launch Collection 01 – LR via photopin (license)

Body-worn Enterprise Wearables: Where’s the Love?

Smart glasses, VR headsets and even smart (AR) helmets have been stealing the spotlight when it comes to enterprise wearables, which begs the question: Why haven’t devices worn below the neck taken off in the workplace?

Perhaps smart glasses for enterprise took off faster precisely because the consumer market did not, because there wasn’t a strong enough consumer demand for – or real consumer interest in – smart eyewear (remember the Glass backlash.) Enterprises, however, expressed a lot of interest – chiefly doctors and field service companies – encouraging the solution providers to re-direct their efforts a la Google. But there is a consumer wearables market, mainly for wrist devices; and while this may be an uncertain market, hardware makers seem to be focusing their efforts where they believe lies the greater or more immediate demand. Of course, this is just one theory based upon one person’s observation. Additional theories are welcome, for this is truly puzzling to an enterprise wearable tech advocate such as myself.

Why are wrist wearables manufacturers overlooking the enterprise? Is there hope for wrist- and body-worn wearables beyond corporate wellness? Smart bands, watches, clothing, badges and other accessories–how can real workers use these devices? Are they only “good for” collecting data; and why does ABI Research believe body-worn wearables are the future of enterprise wearable tech? Furthermore, how should we define this category of wearables? Do exoskeletons count? What about smart patches, ingestibles, and basic body-worn sensors?

What ABI actually predicts is that the enterprise wearables market will soon see a shift from wrist- to body-worn devices; with the latter consisting of head-worn devices like smart glasses and VR headsets, as well as wearable cameras, hearables, smart clothing, and mHealth devices. It’s interesting that the research firm breaks the wearables category down to wrist and body, or the wrist and everything else that isn’t worn on the wrist. But how can this shift occur when to my knowledge the body-worn segment (if it includes head-worn devices) is currently much stronger than the wrist, even when you take into account that ABI considers wearable scanners as wrist devices.

As an enterprise wearable tech enthusiast, I see all wearable tech products through a certain (enterprise-colored) lens, always thinking to myself “How might a field or desk worker use this device?” It can be frustrating to demo a wearable or read about a company whose product – in my eyes – could have great enterprise potential yet the marketing is so clearly consumer-focused. For example, consider a body wearable that monitors posture–there are a number of such devices being marketed to consumers, along with smart wristbands and other jewelry that measure motion sickness or that are designed to enhance the wearer’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. The advertising encourages consumers to wear these devices while going about their everyday lives, and especially at the gym. Wearing them to the office or on the job is not an explicitly mentioned use case, so chances are that an enterprise organization that might really benefit from providing posture- or stress-monitoring wearables to its employees is not aware of all the device offerings out there.

Enterprises are being sold on smart glasses and some are using smart wristbands for EHS purposes (see 3 Great Use Cases of Wearable Tech for EHS), but for the most part smart eyewear is dominating the enterprise wearables discussion. Are smart glasses seen as a more worthwhile investment because they boast many features and can be used in multiple ways within a single organization; while a simple wristband containing sensors that measure various aspects of the wearer’s health has more limited applications? Is it because wristbands aren’t as glamorous as AR glasses? Or because to actually make use of the data from a wristband to detect and prevent work-related health hazards requires data analytics and has deeper privacy implications? Is it a failure to see the potential of these devices, either on the hardware or end user side? Again, additional theories are welcome.

But there is hope for a shift. Consider the Nymi story: The Nymi band is an authentication device that was originally marketed to consumers. The technology uses the wearer’s heartbeat as a biometric identifier for authentication. When we first learned of the device, we saw enormous enterprise potential but it wasn’t for a few years that the company itself noticeably changed course, beginning to more heavily promote the band as a solution for securely accessing devices, applications and physical spaces in the workplace.

My prediction is that more consumer-focused body wearable companies are going to follow Nymi’s example in recognizing and addressing enterprise needs for their technologies. Consumer-like smart wristbands and body-worn sensors, as well as smart clothing in the form of work gear and uniforms, will find their place in the enterprise over the next five years. The enterprise is just too great of a market to be ignored.


About EWTS 2017:

The 3rd annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place May 10-12, 2017 in San Diego, California 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.