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AR Hardware Not Ready for Primetime in Industrial Field Service, Study Finds

Study by University of Technology, Sydney, and Retriever Communications Observed the Maturity Level of Augmented Reality Software and Headsets for Industrial Use

Retriever Communications, a global provider of mobile automation solutions for enterprises in the industrial space, announced the results of a study it commissioned with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) sharing deeper insight into the design of industrial-grade augmented reality (AR) software and hardware.

The goal of the study was to identify heuristics that will aid designers and developers in the creation of hands-free technologies for field services in the industrial space. The joint study revealed that AR hardware is not ready to be implemented widely into industrial workspaces due to the following deficiencies:

  • Headsets cannot be worn in the field for long periods of time
  • Headset battery life is limited
  • Difficult to use outdoors due to the glare created on the screen from the sun

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As AR technology continues to evolve, there is a strong potential in the use of augmented reality to make field technicians more effective in their work and supported in their capabilities. While the following guidelines, developed on the basis of the study, enable developers to build applications that have higher adoption rates, the study also revealed that further work is necessary to ensure effective use in practice.

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The key results of this study are the seven design heuristics:

  1. Design for hands-free use so that field workers are able to access data while using their hands for manual work and communication
  2. Allow workers to use their preferred device (mobile phone, tablet, headset or PC) when communicating with a (remote) augmented reality application user
  3. Ensure that augmented reality technology integrates with and complements existing practices
  4. Minimize information overload to prevent interference with situational awareness
  5. Design for comfort when an application is intended for continued use
  6. Provide technicians with convenient and accurate ways to provide input
  7. Data entry should be structured so that it is gathered in a way that makes sense to end users rather than be based purely on back-end database structures

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“Retriever Communications is excited to partner with UTS to take a deeper look at the current state of the use of augmented reality software and headsets in the industrial workspace,” said Mary Brittain-White. “As these technologies continue to be adopted, we realize they need to be thoroughly tested in order to ensure industrial field workers are properly supported. We’re confident that once more resources are implemented into fine tuning these devices, AR headsets will not only make work easier, but it will be safer as well.”

This study was led by Associate Professor Andrew Johnston who notes “that the seven heuristics identified during the course of this study are meant to provide some high-level guidance for application developers. As the development process for augmented reality will continue to evolve, it’s vital that we focus on the real-world needs of end users to ensure software meets the needs of field workers.”

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