AR smart helmet for worksites of the future / by TI

The Daqri Smart Helmet uses augmented reality to superimpose data and work instructions in front of the wearer’s eyes so they appear as interactive floating 3D holograms.(photo grabbed from Reuters video)

(Reuters) — U.S. company Daqri wants to kick-start a new industrial revolution with its augmented reality smart helmet, saying it will help increase productivity and enable a wide range of functions, even in the most challenging environments.

Aside from being a safety hard hat, the Daqri Smart Helmet uses computer vision to recognise and decipher the wearer’s surroundings. It then overlays relevant information in real-time as floating, interactive holograms. These relay data and work instructions to the wearer through the protective visor; all the while keeping their hands free and attention focused on the task.

“What it gives the wearer is a holographic overlay on top of the world which they’re seeing through the transparent visor on the helmet. So, if you’re looking at something, if you’re trying to do something, it superimposes potentially data, relevant work instructions, contextual information about what you’re actually working on; in front of your eyes,” Daqri’s Paul Sweeney told Reuters.

Augmented reality (AR) has generally struggled to find its place away from video games, such as the popular smartphone-based Pokemon GO. Alphabet Inc.’s much-heralded Google Glass gadget was greeted with enthusiasm among tech aficionados when it was first unveiled in 2012. But the device, which allows users to access e-mail messages on its eye-level screen and to record video with a tiny camera, quickly ran into problems. Some mocked its awkward appearance, while others expressed concern it could be used to make video recordings surreptitiously. Google stopped selling Glass to consumers in 2015.

However, Daqri says focusing AR technology to specific industries elevates it from a novelty into a viable tool.

“You can see where walls would go, you can see where electrical utilities will route through the building, see where water pipes will run. And, therefore, understand in context exactly what’s going to go where. And the power of that is potentially saving millions of dollars in cost overruns, the need to re-work different pieces of work during the actual construction phase itself. It also greatly simplifies the compliance part of the project where you can guarantee you’ve built to plan for the actual customer,” said Sweeney.

Two years in development, the Smart Helmet weighs slightly more than a kilo (approx. 2.2 lbs) with a battery life of four hours, though Sweeney said this can be changed quickly. He said: “We have the ability to swap out a battery mid-shift without any loss of performance. The concept is that this will be a tool that the worker wears for their full working day.”

Sweeney added that the firm has a number of “early engagements” within the mining sector, but declined to name any specific clients.

Rob Quigley, solutions development lead at Daqri, said the smart helmet is packed with state-of-the-art technology: “You have a lens either side so we can do stereoscopic vision, so that means the worker actually sees digital content in 3D in stereo as they move round their environment. We have a temperature camera, we have depth camera, we have a forward-facing fish-eye lens camera for computer vision. And we have the Intel LR200 for taking video and pictures as well as some depth-sensing capabilities.”

To acknowledge a message that pops up in-vision or to select a different application, the wearer simply moves their head until a pointer hovers over the desired holographic button. Pausing for a moment ‘clicks’ the button to activate it.

“It’s the equivalent to your mouse-click in augmented reality. And as you look at different digital content it’s a way to interact with it – to open up a new application or to close one or to open up some data-visualisation application or something like that, or to acknowledge a work instruction step and proceed to the next one,” added Quigley.

Daqri launched a developer edition of its helmet in October 2016, costing $15,000 USD. This includes a software suite to create content, for which the company will also provide training. The full production version is due for release later this year, though no price has been announced.