Industrial Wayfinding using Augmented Reality: Part I
DI’s Director of Consumer Experiences Matt Johnston takes a look at using AR to navigate industrial environments.
The use of augmented reality as a method to enhance wayfinding has been an extremely popular application of this technology. Electronically supported wayfinding applications have progressed from nomadic devices from companies like Garmin, to navigation systems embedded in our vehicle’s infotainment system, to our mobile phones. These wayfinding solutions have dramatically enhanced our ability to navigate unknown territory while evolving from stored digital maps to real time crowdsourced wayfinding that include traffic and construction updates providing the most efficient route to our destination.
An overlooked aspect of these applications has been the ability to navigate while on foot. No longer confined to roadways, we are able to leverage these applications for use cases well beyond those reliant upon motor vehicles or even public bike paths. This seemingly mundane feature greatly expands the use cases beyond general consumer use and has potential for the industrial and warehousing environments.
However, these applications were not particularly designed for the industrial use case. Heads down viewing on a mobile device does not promote optimal situational awareness in environments where a focus on safety is of utmost importance. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, slips, trips and falls cause 15% of all accidental deaths and the National Safety Council (2013) reports costs associated with falling from the same level is the second highest cause of disabling workplace injuries.
If you were to peruse YouTube, or websites of some augmented reality development companies, you may view a conceptual video or prototype of how AR may be used to enhance wayfinding in public spaces, industrial settings and warehouses. All of the same information you find on your mobile device or infotainment navigation system in your vehicle can be put in a heads up display. Imagine an industrial or construction employee walking through a large facility that requires wayfinding support navigation and in their field of view is the equivalent of what you see on these devices meant for the general consumer. There is a reason automotive companies lock out certain features when you are driving: it is unsafe and a distraction from your primary task. This is no difference in the industrial setting. Maintaining heads up is great, but not if the information designed to support you is not considerate of your environment, your primary task, and designed with the inherent risks of the job in mind.
There are numerous heads up and mobile phone concepts available to view. Inevitably, you will find some where the users are navigating an airport, busy street or shopping mall barely paying attention to other people in their environment. Near misses are abundant, but in an industrial environment, near misses are not trivial occurrences. Conveniently, these industrial concepts omit many of the realities of the workplace such as vehicular traffic, physical hazards and potentially unsafe weather conditions in outdoor use cases. These videos display pristine warehouses, a lack of forklift movement and little to no other personnel. The concepts are visually streamlined, but if you dig deeper you realize they may not be designed to optimize the safety and performance of the worker. Rather, they simply showcase functionality.
Stay tuned for Part II of the blog post, diving into how human factors is vital in developing AR solutions.
Design Interactive has been optimizing human performance at ludicrous speed since 1998. We develop innovative, engaging augmented and virtual reality training solutions and create biosignatures of human emotion, cognition and physical state that empower consumers. To learn more about how we can leverage technology to improve your business processes, contact us here.