If you’re exploring smart glasses for a business use case for the first time, welcome. The goal of this article is to get you quickly through the basics, so that you can focus on searching for the technology that you actually need.
Just like most new technologies, smart glasses have tons of potential, but not everything is quite ready for prime time yet. What can you use right now, that will help you improve processes that are costing you time and money? If you’re looking for smart glasses to be used in healthcare, maintenance, transportation, field services, education or remote collaboration, you’ll be thrilled to know that for most uses, smart glasses are ready for your use right now.
Anytime you see a pattern of confusion, it’s a good idea to address it. That’s the purpose of this article. For instance, people hear the term “augmented reality” all of the time, but they don’t really have a clear understanding on how AR differs from virtual reality, or vision sharing solutions.
One of the first questions we ask potential customers is why they’re looking at smart glasses for their company. Very often, the response is something on the lines of: “We’ve been looking into augmented reality for a while, and we’re ready to implement a solution like Xpert Eye”. The next words out my mouth are that we are not really an augmented reality solution, which usually creates an awkward moment of silence, until I clarify the difference. So what are the differences?
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, or Vision Sharing “See What I See”?
Virtual reality, usually using a headset or helmet, creates an artificially designed environment that you can interact with. Coming from the 80’s era of video games, I can clearly remember playing Halo on my new Xbox for the first time. I was about ten hours into the game, in the dark, and freaked out by what was going on in the game. Now imagine you’re surrounded by everything in the game, like you’re really there. That’s virtual reality, and the kids in your house, the old ones and young ones alike, are going to love it.
Some of the most common uses of VR in business are in design, and training. For example, a manufacture like Ford can design a product, and experience using it before they actually build it. In training situations, a trainee can learn how to accomplish a high risk task before doing it in real life. It’s amazing technology, but ideally for companies that have huge budgets and large teams to implement it into their ecosystem.
For those first few months, a significant portion of my day was spent yelling at the millennials in the office, who kept leaving to go look for Pikachu on someone’s front lawn. Home to one of the largest student populations in the world, you literally couldn’t walk around the Boston area without seeing dozens of people using the app, day or night. I remember my friend Alex, a millennial from my days at Apple, posting on Facebook that he had walked over 35 miles the first weekend the app came out!
In business, companies are using augmented reality in smart glasses to bring data up in the viewer of the glasses that the wearer can interact with. Imagine a repair person walking up to a piece of equipment in a factory and looking at a special QR code stuck on it. The scanner in the glasses sees the QR code, and pulls up the repair instructions that the worker can scan through and complete a task with.
Like virtual reality, AR is a more involved process that requires more start up costs and infrastructure, but it’s very cool for many uses. Typically, augmented reality only works in Wifi, so it’s not ideal if you need to use it outside of a closed environment.
“See what I See”, Vision Sharing Solutions
Vision sharing, or “See What I See” smart glass solutions allow a remote observer to see a first person perspective of what someone else is looking at. With smart glasses, you add the benefit of being hands free, which is essential for many use cases. It’s this first person point of view that allows the glasses wearer and remote observer to collaborate in a way that you can’t do without smart glasses.
An example of this, would be that the glasses wearer might be a newer field service technician that doesn’t know how to fix a specific piece of legacy equipment. Instead of making a second appointment to come back, or sending the expert to the site, the expert on that equipment can log into a browser from anywhere in the world and walk the technician through a set of instructions to fix the problem.
The expert can do this without having to travel to that location, and in cases where your experts are needed in multiple locations on a regular basis, they can stay centrally located so that they can help several technicians in minutes, not hours, or days. This allows better allocation of the experts’ time, and that time saved can significantly impact downtime rates, travel costs, and customer satisfaction levels. Here’s a great example of how vision sharing is used:
Some solutions will even allow you to take a picture, and have both the observer and glasses wearer collaborate by annotating that picture in real time to confirm how a task should be performed. This collaboration can be a key contributor to long term retention rates, especially when used in training scenarios.
Vision sharing can be the easiest and most practical way to currently use smart glasses effectively. Costs and capabilities vary and it’s important to know if you really need hands free or not, because that will determine if you really need a smart glass solution to begin with. Vision sharing also offers the fastest return on your investment of the three, and can be used right out of the box without building a huge infrastructure around the program.
By Richard Gerardi