AR at work: Four of the best applications for Google’s Glass Enterprise

After experiencing somewhat of a flop with its initial consumer-focused release, Google Glass has returned with Glass Enterprise Edition. Partnering with several businesses, and across a variety of industries, Google has refocused the device on fulfilling more industrial applications. While the actual changes to Glass are fairly minimal – essentially the core components have been upgraded to reflect the four years since initial release – the main shift is in the intended audience for the device.

It’s probably fair to say that the aesthetic didn’t help with the consumer launch of Google Glass, but – probably more overtly – the device didn’t find the necessary audience because the asking price was far too high for the actual functionality offered. The audience for a high-cost consumer augmented reality (AR) device wasn’t, and probably still isn’t, particularly huge.

Bringing Glass to industry, however, makes a lot of sense; Google is far from the first to see the benefits that AR can offer to industrial applications. Below, we profile some of the best ways the new Enterprise edition is likely to be used.

Google Glass is bringing augmented reality to healthcare

Partnering with Augmedix, a company providing a remote documentation service for doctors, Glass allows doctors to double the amount of time they spend interacting with patients, according to Glass client and health system Dignity Health. Principally, this is done by cutting down on the amount of time spent documenting; rather than the doctors having to spend time typing up patient records and notations, they can instead trust to the remote scribe program to handle it while they focus on actually helping their patients.

This is potentially only the start, though. Doctors require access to vast amounts of information and the healthcare process can often become bogged down by administration and documentation. Augmedix takes the pressure of some of that documentation off doctors, but Glass could be put to further use if it was access all those records as easily as it adds to them. Rather than a doctor having to pore through documents, they could instead be easily pulled up directly in their Glass. By streamlining doctor’s interaction with records, Glass could allow them to better focus on and help their patients.

Manufacturing may be the best use of Glass Enterprise

Manufacturing possibly offers the best case study for how Glass Enterprise can help to improve an industry, with the foremost example probably being the work that has gone into the partnership between Glass and GE Aviation. Approaching how to increase the efficiency of a business that handles the complex and specialised maintenance of aeroplanes, Glass partnered with Upskill to provide a custom AR software package known as Skylight.

Whereas mechanics would previously have had to stop to consult computers or sift through enormous manuals, Glass Enterprise can put all that information right in front of their eyes. More than just stopping them from going down a ladder to read the required information, though, the Glass/Skylight combo can pull up videos, animations and images so that a mechanic can see exactly what they need to be doing. According to GE, the introduction of Glass both reduced errors at key points in the assembly and overhaul of engines, and improved its mechanics’ efficiency by 8–12%.

Glass is bringing augmented reality to logistics

Image courtesy of Ubimax

The principle advantage that Glass offers is the ability to free up the hands of workers and provide real-time information, often with additional visual formats. This has been put to use in the logistics industry with DHL and its supply chain process. Increasing the business’ supply chain efficiency by a reported by 15%, Glass helps the company fulfil orders by letting workers know in real-time where items need to be placed on carts for shipping.

Across industry, Glass Enterprise can create a constant flow of information that is easily available to workers and can turn a warehouse environment, for example, into a far more efficient workplace as hands-free technology keeps workers constantly updated. By combining Glass with Ubimax’s Vision Picking solution xPick, companies are able to speed up their processes and reduce error rate simply by making it so that all the information that could possibly be required is always available and directly sent to the worker’s eyes.

Glass Enterprise could help the military and emergency services

Image courtesy of US Army illustration

Perhaps a distraction in the middle of an emergency situation, AR nevertheless offers a wide variety of helpful applications to those in both the military and emergency services. In both cases, the advantages offered by a device such as Glass are focused around being able to expand the information available to a user at any time. Even if just for training, having more information available to a user in a more dangerous field such as the military can only be a good thing.

As with other industries, the transformative aspect provided by Glass is the ability to provide users with vast amounts more information than they may otherwise have and keep them updated in real-time with new knowledge and instructions. Providing strategic overlays and ensuring that users in dangerous lines of work are kept provided with the most up-to-date information available could make some form of Glass Enterprise a crucial tool to those in the military and emergency services.

However while the US military in particular is making use of AR, there are no specific Glass partnerships around yet. But watch this space: a Glass Battlefield Edition may not be far away.

US Army considers using augmented reality for mission planning

The US Army is pondering the use of augmented reality to assist with mission planning, with a research project currently underway to determine what benefits the technology could bring.

The research, which is currently being undertaken by members of the Cognitive Science Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), involves soldiers learning a mock mission route using a 3D model of a city. AR could prove a better tool than the traditional 2D maps soldiers currently use for mission planning.

“Our goal is to evaluate mobile AR as a promising candidate technology to improve mission-planning operations,” explained NSRDEC research psychologist Aaron Gardony.

“Soldiers are members of a team, but they are also multi-faceted individuals with unique preferences and aptitudes. For example, some may easily visualize three-dimensional environments from two-dimensional maps, but others may learn better using 3D imagery.”

Soldier or not, while some people can easily translate 2D renderings into 3D, for many it’s a challenge to visualise a flat plan as a fully fleshed out space, which is why AR could be very beneficial to day-to-day Army operations.

“In contrast to the one-size-fits-all approach 2D representations provide, we believe AR-based mission planning using interactive 3D maps and models could allow individuals to tailor their planning experience to their own preferences and those of their team members,” explained Gardony.

“Doing so could improve cognitive performance at both the individual and group level, leading to improved mission-planning outcomes and, ultimately, enhanced mission effectiveness.”

When viewing the model in AR, the soldiers can pan, rotate and zoom the city view, allowing them to ‘see’ the route in the manner that best suits them.

Images courtesy of Aaron Gardony, NSRDEC Cognitive Science Team, via the US Army

The researchers are trialling AR by tasking soldiers with learning the urban route before walking the real-life version from memory.

It is hoped that the researchers will be able to quantify any benefits that AR provides, and so make a case for the technology becoming officially adopted by the US Army for use in real-world missions.

“This study takes a novel step in evaluating AR for mission planning/route learning,” said Gardony.

“Positive results could provide a basis for future fielding of these technologies to improve mission planning and justify future research examining its impacts in other military contexts.”