Other technologies

How real is augmented reality?

First Quarter 2020 Other technologies

The early morning air was cold when we arrived at the mine for an underground visit. Our hosts were keen to show us the practical challenges of the drilling and blasting operation, and the many ways in which rock fragments containing ore are removed to the surface for processing. At the rock face the drilling process was an eye opener – hot, uncomfortable and hazardous. Knowing where to drill to optimise the blast pattern is a skilled operation. It was apparent that drilling was a manual operation, and there was a lot that could go wrong.

The aim of our visit was to see how augmented reality (AR) might be used to improve the drilling procedures, while enhancing safety. Could an AR display be used to help analyse and superimpose the most efficient layout of the drilling pattern on the rock face for marking the holes? Could a virtual device such as Google glass or Microsoft Hololens be practically used in such a harsh environment? Since then there have been many important developments in AR technologies, and innovations in heads-up displays now make many suitable for use in industrial environments. These displays, together with artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies, promise to be a game changer in the way operators will work in future.

What is augmented reality?

AR is the augmentation of the physical world with context aware visual information that can be used to help operators make better decisions, or help guide their actions. The visual information is usually text, a 2D drawing or a 3D model, object or hologram, which is overlaid onto the physical world. In the control room environment, AR can be seen as an evolution of the human machine interface (HMI). With new augmented reality technologies, we can now move out of the control room and support field operators and maintenance technicians with real-time process information in the field.

The same design considerations that apply to good control room HMI also apply to AR systems. The goal is to provide additional information to improve decision making, not replace human judgement or take away responsibility for decisions or actions taken

Practical applications

In industrial manufacturing, there are many practical examples of AR applications. The business goal is to reduce costs, improve productivity and enhance safety.

In complex assembly or maintenance procedures, augmented reality can help with a visualisation of the right way to assemble or disassemble a piece of equipment. The display can provide quick access to visualisations of the task at hand based on 3D models that provide a technician with step by step instructions.

AR technologies can be used to inspect items of equipment in the field for quality control purposes. The actual item can be compared with a reference image and AI techniques used to indicate a pass/fail when any defects are detected.

Human experts can remotely assist field technicians with complex tasks by monitoring the work being done through a camera and providing guidance on complex procedures. This can be particularly useful where expert skills are scarce and not located on site.

AR systems can identify elevated safety risk to warn people working in the field. This can be determined by a visual analysis combined with data from the DCS/scada and IIoT devices and the maintenance/work permit systems.

The location of people can be tracked through IIoT devices and this information presented on an AR display to improve coordination and productivity of teams in the field. This could be particularly useful in highly regulated or hazardous plants, as well as for supporting rescue operations.

The HMI dilemma

Since the system as a whole needs to take into account human behaviour and this can introduce several design challenges. There is a real risk of a human placing too much reliance/trust in the system and not paying sufficient attention to the whole environment. The system ideally needs to recommend rather than instruct the operator.

In closure

The growth of AR technologies will result in more and more industrial manufacturing applications becoming mainstream. Areas such as expert support and complex assembly/maintenance are the most likely to see early adoption of systems, particularly where there are many identical repetitive but complex tasks to be performed.

Gavin Halse.

Caution is advisable, as with any emerging technology. Start by becoming familiar with exactly what technology is available and find out what the vendors are working on. Look for practical case studies in your industry that can guide you away from making expensive mistakes. In deciding on AR investments, always be led by the business priorities and do not get carried away by hype.

For more information contact Gavin Halse, Absolute Perspectives, +27 83 274 7180, gavin@gavinhalse.com, www.absoluteperspectives.com


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Cable carrier systems for extreme applications
Third Quarter 2020, Bearing Man Group T/A BMG , Other technologies
BMG’s extensive portfolio of Tsubaki Kabelschlepp cable carrier systems and safety cables includes S/SX steel cable carriers for heavy mechanical loads in harsh environments, including corrosive conditions. ...

Control of dust and spills in conveyor systems
Third Quarter 2020 , Other technologies
BLT World’s contact-free Airscrape conveyor belt skirting system, developed by Scrapetec, eliminates dust and spills on belts and transfers and minimises maintenance requirements of conveyor systems. ...

Simplify your gearbox checks
Third Quarter 2020 , Other technologies
Instead of time-consuming down days to check gearbox oil levels in your plant or mill, Lubrication Engineers (LE) suggests visual on-the-run maintenance checks. Mark Jones, lubrication reliability ...

Condition monitoring for bottling and canning
Third Quarter 2020, Bearing Man Group T/A BMG , Other technologies
BMG’s Light Materials Handling division has introduced a new condition monitoring system, which has been developed to automatically monitor the coefficient of friction of bottling or canning lines, ensuring ...

State-of-the-art customer portal for Konecranes
Third Quarter 2020 , Other technologies
Investing in cranes and lifting systems for a plant or factory is one of the biggest financial undertakings that a company considers. Issues such as operator performance, safety management, maintenance ...

Simplify your gearbox checks
Third Quarter 2020 , Other technologies
Instead of time consuming down days to check gearbox oil levels in your plant or mill, Lubrication Engineers (LE) suggests visual on-the-run maintenance checks. Mark Jones, lubrication reliability ...

Loctite gasket sealant pen
Third Quarter 2020 , Other technologies
Bearings International (BI) offers optimal solutions for virtually all adhesive and sealant requirements in the form of the Loctite brand of adhesives, sealants and surface treatments. An example is the ...

SMC brings Industry 4.0 solutions to South Africa
Third Quarter 2020, SMC Corporation South Africa , Other technologies
SMC’s wireless valve banks can now communicate wirelessly in IoT applications.

Enabling the smart factory
Third Quarter 2020, Schneider Electric South Africa , Other technologies
Smart manufacturing practices making use of connected technology hold the power to improve efficiency and optimise factory operations. However the increased use of IIoT comes with the threat of a cyber ...

Transformation lessons from the world’s first shared smart factory
Third Quarter 2020, Rockwell Automation , Other technologies
Creating a breakthrough business in the digital economy needs a fearless and inventive approach. It pays to be different and so businesses need to think about what they are doing to push the boundaries. ...