How smart glasses are changing the world of work

How smart glasses are changing the world of work

Without the “flower gesture”nothing works. Anyone who works with the Hololens data glasses must reach out, form a fist and open it again. What looks like a” flower gesture ” is the signal for the glasses to start. Then a female voice conducts the spectacle wearer. He is supposed to make a forklift in need of repair fit again with the help of the Hololens.

All this is not a computer game, the forklift is real in front of the user. The highlight: While the glasses project arrows and all sorts of other aids in front of the technician’s eye, the environment, including the forklift, is always visible. The glasses show where the person has to touch in the machine, which part he should replace and where he better not reach, because otherwise there is a risk of electric shock.

The Swiss company Zühlke has developed the app for the Hamburg forklift manufacturer Jungheinrich. It is one of the first applications for Microsoft’s Hololens to be offered in Switzerland. The example shows how the real and virtual worlds are increasingly merging.

Virtual Reality and Augmented reality have been around for some time. But the makers of the Hololens speak of another reality: mixed reality. The application with the forklift is evidence of how the digital revolution is creating new business models, including new professions and ways of working.

Quick and safe repair

Although mixed reality technology is still in its infancy, the application examples are manageable. But the technology works and shows where the technological journey is going. Whether e-learning, industry, medicine or aviation: data glasses are on the rise.

No wonder the supporters of mixed reality technology talk about an industrial revolution. With regard to the use of smart glasses, especially in industry, the word revolutionary is not even exaggerated. Because the Hololens is an independent Microsoft computer that you wear on your nose-controlled by gestures, looks or speech. There are no annoying cables.

Rather, the device has cameras and sensors and a connection to the Internet. The glasses can display virtual objects (3D holograms) through projected light points in the field of view, with which the viewer can interact. The Microsoft glasses were first introduced in the USA in January 2015, but developers in German-speaking countries only received them in winter 2016. They currently cost 3299 euros – in addition to the cost of apps.

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Companies like Jungheinrich expect a lot from technology. The aim is for service employees to repair a forklift quickly and safely. This saves time and money. The reading of thick manuals is no longer necessary, the relevant information can be transmitted directly to the spectacle screen.

Technology companies such as Zühlke create the apps needed for such smart glasses applications. These projects not only create new tasks for people who wear the hololens, but also new activities for developers who build software applications for smart glasses.

Measuring staircases four times faster

Thyssenkrupp is also convinced that the Hololens is anything but a technical gimmick. The company uses the Hololens for its employees in the maintenance of elevators. Hololens is also already in use in the business with stair lifts, which are installed in existing stairwells of private households, for example.

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In the past, the staircase was measured and photographed for an installation of a stair lift. From the pictures a computer model was created, on the basis of which the stair lift was built. “These production processes are now four times faster than before,” says Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Elevator.

It works like this: a technician stands in the stairwell, puts on the glasses and scans all the steps with them. Then he can transfer obstacles such as heating pipes into the program and immediately create a visualization. Through the glasses he sees not only the previous staircase. The Hololens projects the new stair lift construction just above it. He can promptly transfer this data to the factory, where the construction of the stair lift begins.

In the past, a lot of manual work was needed when photographing alone, reports Schierenbeck, including errors in production and installation. Custom work is extremely important in this business, because stair lifts are usually very individual.

Severely limited visual field

Thyssenkrupp has already installed stair lifts with Hololens technology in more than 100 households in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Companies such as Jungheinrich and Thyssenkrupp are pushing the use of data glasses and highlighting several advantages: On the one hand, uniform standards could be created in the workflow that increase efficiency.

The value added will be increased. In addition, the products and services could be better presented to customers. On top of that, thanks to the glasses, the employees would be offered modern workplaces.

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However, there is still a long way to go before more people wear such glasses at work. This is not only due to the fact that only a few applications exist. It is also questionable whether many people actually enjoy having such a minicomputer constantly on their nose for a longer period of time.

However, there are advantages for experts:” Although the Hololens in the current version has a severely limited field of vision, it is currently the best product on the market in terms of mixed reality, ” says Daniel Gremli, co-founder of the virtual and augmented reality service provider Bandara in Zurich.

Meanwhile, the competitive pressure is increasing: In the industry, everyone is looking forward to the US start-up Magic Leap. The company is collecting more and more investor funds and comes close to a valuation of six billion dollars. The money has also been provided by large companies such as Google and Alibaba.

Not as cool as Hololens yet

Although Magic Leap has not yet presented a product, but all observers expect a big bang in the coming months in terms of mixed reality glasses.

In addition, the trend for many gadgets is clearly in the direction of augmented reality, this technology is almost equal to mixed reality. For example, Apple has ensured that AR applications are very easily possible with its new operating system iOS 11. “This means that in one fell swoop, hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users suddenly have an AR device in their hands,” says Gremli.

This is not as cool as Hololens glasses, which can be operated without having to hold the device in your hands. “But these customers are fixated on the new technology and may soon be interested in mixed reality glasses.“

This article was first published under the title “How data glasses change our working world” at the Swiss “Handelszeitung”.

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