Augmented reality – how far have we come?


Smart helmet

A recent article in Wired got me a tad excited – have we finally hit the tipping point with augmented reality (AR) and shifted across into the pragmatic, valuable use of AR in the workplace?

The product highlighted in the article is the “smart helmet” – the description reminded me of Superman – being able to see through walls! It’s an industrial application – a building site example – it allows you to view” the guts of a building before your eyes – structural framing, plumbing, water, electrical, networking cable” – fantastic!!

“It gives someone access to this world of information that is normally hidden,” says DAQRI CEO and Founder Brian Mullins. “In an industrial setting that can mean more efficiency, better safety, and making the right decisions at the right time. It’s all about registering real information in the world in a context that makes sense.”

The example traces the stages of construction and how the helmet can present appropriate data, in context, to the needs of various workers. The sophistication described feels almost like a sci-fi scene from a movie. However, this is now a realistic possibility. So when can we expect this to become mainstream, the norm across industrial contexts?

While I was reading this article, I was reminded of an article I had used in lectures – back in the early 2000s – to stimulate the imagination of my students. Sadly, it only exists in print (and I still had a copy), which I’ve now scanned (for personal use). In 2001, the article describes the extensive research that was producing virtual environments for immersive experiences. It talked about digital avatars, holographs, wearable computers, retinal scanning visors, and – wait for it – see-through walls!! Everything they were describing and experimenting with then, is pretty much what we’re still getting excited about now!

From 2001, Microvision’s Nomad retinal scanning device – market price US$10,0000.

The question has to be asked: What’s stopping us? Or why haven’t we moved beyond prototypes into production? This was 2001 – in technology terms – that’s a loooooong time!

I’m still excited by the Smart Helmet, but I’m equally disillusioned with the rate of progress.

Reference: The Future Training Room by Jeff Barbian, Training Magazine, September 2001, pp.40-45


This post is part of a series from the Ripple Effect Group team: Friday Faves