Not long ago, the smartphone app Pokémon Go took the world by storm and gave us a taste of what augmented reality (AR) can do.
Although it was phenomenally popular, at least for a short time, Pokémon Go also exposed some limitations of AR technology on the smartphone platform. In particular, AR on a smartphone screen leaves a bit to be desired. Superimposing Pokémon characters on a 5-inch swatch of the real world isn’t really immersive. And larger-screen devices aren’t convenient to carry around while you’re watching the screen.
Outside of games, one of the most compelling applications of augmented reality is the area of field service where enterprises lose billions of dollars a year due to machine downtime and machine failures. In instances such as oil refineries or power plants, the high cost of sending technicians from around the world to service remote locations plus the cost incurred due to machine downtime leaves enterprise field service companies thirsty for a better way.
Enterprise augmented reality software offers field service technicians rich real-time information and guidance through interactive collaboration with experts and digital resources. Having the right information and guidance at exactly the right time enables technicians to solve critical problems effectively and efficiently. By empowering on-site teams to resolve issues via fast, easy and reliable access to AR remote assistance, Fieldbit reduces the need for technician visits and helps businesses realize substantial savings. The result: an increase in first-time fixes, remote resolution, less downtime, and happier customers.
While most enterprises today are using this technology with mobile devices and tablets, some have already begun to enjoy a hands-free, more immersive experience with smart glasses.
Enter: Smart Glasses
The answer for fully immersive augmented reality, and field service AR in particular, may lie in a different form factor altogether: smart glasses. Smart glasses enable the wearer to see superimposed images on the same real world seen with the unaided eye.
The smart glasses platform had a rocky start. The Google Glass project, launched to much fanfare in 2013 and made available to developers only, disappeared in early 2015, seemingly without a trace.
But smart glasses seem to be making a comeback. One of the perceived shortcomings of the original Google Glass product was that it was a solution in search of a problem. The criticism is fair—within the realm of consumer products. However, enterprise users, such as those in field service, have lots of problems that could be solved by a good, capable set of smart glasses; augmented reality smart glasses in particular.
AR Smart Glasses Software
Augmented reality software for smart glasses can take the current state of augmented reality apps to the next level. AR software designed specifically for smart glasses—native apps for smart glasses, in other words—offers a number of advantages over smartphone AR software, such as:
- Hands-free operation—no need for a field service technician to hold a phone in one hand and a screwdriver in the other
- Voice-command user interface
- Integrated two-way voice and video communication—field service technicians can speak with engineers or other subject-matter experts while showing them the customer’s equipment
- Full-field of view to work with
Smart glass technology is still in its infancy and has some way to go, but as more and more real-life applications are found for enterprises, it’s only a matter of time before it takes off. Google has re-launched its smart glasses product as Google Glass Enterprise Edition, and other companies, such as RealWear and Vuzix, offer smart glasses products as well, aimed at the enterprise market.
The Future of AR for Smart Glasses
From a hardware perspective, there is nothing particularly remarkable about smart glasses. The cameras, microphones, displays, radios, processors, and other components are largely off-the-shelf, and any computational heavy lifting can be handled by wireless connection with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, or even cloud computers. What makes smart glasses so amazing are the cutting edge technologies and applications that run on them, and remote support integration with smart glasses is near, if not at, the top of the enterprise wishlist.
In the near future, look for new and innovative applications for smart glasses, driven in large part by the enterprise. The key to success will be ease of use—if the user can accomplish tasks on his or her own, and if the device can do its job without getting in the user’s way, you can expect wide adoption across many industries and professions, from warehouse and distribution to medicine, agriculture, and, of course, field service and remote assistance.
How can AR for smart glasses help your enterprise field service team?