Some products don’t fail because they are a bad idea or get bad press reviews. They fail because people don’t quite know what to do with them. That’s what happened with Google Glass.

Since then, a new generation of augmented reality technologies has emerged with a wide range of productivity- and performance-enhancing applications for hands-free internet communication. Smart technology with a purpose. And manufacturers, utilities, software companies and design firms are taking notice. A March 2017 Research and Markets report forecasts the global market for smart glasses will grow to 22.8 million units a year by 2022. 

Today’s smart glasses typically fit somewhere in this spectrum: 

Assisted reality (AR) glasses — like the original Google Glass — display information on one lens that augments the user’s field of view.  Users control the information using voice commands, a touchpad or handheld controls. AR glasses are now being used on project sites to simplify everything from material check-in to asset management. They have the potential to become next-generation safety glasses, helping to eliminate many job-site safety risks.

Mixed reality (MR) glasses and headsets are more advanced and interactive than AR glasses. By displaying information to both eyes, MR enables users to interact with both the glasses and the environment around them. The term “mixed” comes from the blend of assisted and virtual reality. Among other things, MR can enhance communication. Design team members in different locations could use this technology, for example, to view and mark up a holographic 3-D project site placed in their room via MR glasses. Far-flung individuals can see each other’s comments as well.

Virtual reality (VR) headsets are familiar to anyone who is or knows a gamer. This technology places users in a computer-simulated environment, which they interact with using hand gestures and by walking around. In industry, VR solutions have been used to provide training to workers before they enter high-voltage and other environments where on-the-job conditions are not conducive to on-site learning.

Prices can vary dramatically, with the simplest AR models beginning at $600 or less. Advanced MR and VR devices can run $5,000 a pair or more, depending on the application and software programming requirements. These prices, however, can be expected to drop as smart glasses gain more widespread use. 

Given the applications now emerging, they may be worth every penny.

 

Wearable augmented reality technology is opening our eyes to opportunities to enhance project performance, increase productivity, improve safety and more. Discover some industry-changing applications.

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Zachary Wassenberg works in substations and augmented technologies, focusing on transmission and distribution engineer-procure-construction (EPC) projects. He spearheads investigation and implementation of augmented and virtual reality technologies in the utility and construction world.