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Augmented Reality: Breakthroughs Just Around the Corner

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By 2018, utilities should see significant improvement in smart glasses, helmets, and other augmented realityaugmented reality devices, concludes an EPRI study.

“In the meantime, it is critical for companies to monitor technology developments, assess potential applications, and consider policy changes to accommodate new ways of working,” said EPRI Technical Executive John Simmins.

While technological barriers remain, innovation is rapid. Near term, the EPRI study predicts improved computational power, reduced size and power consumption, and breakthroughs in devices’ optics, lenses, and sensors. Vendors will introduce new options for connectivity, charging, and security, and ease of use will improve with new software.

Utilities are testing devices for applications such as inventory management, conduits and cables, ergonomics, safety, and weld inspections. EPRI has been involved in several vendors’ efforts to develop augmented reality prototypes that could provide technicians with work information as they perform tasks on substations, power lines, circuit breakers, and other assets. The technician interacts with the data using familiar gestures and voice commands.

Utilities may need to review and update policies and practices that conflict with augmented reality applications. For instance, many companies prohibit employees from using smart phones while driving, operating industrial equipment, and working in environments with sensitive information.

EPRI is also assessing additional worker safety measures to address ergonomics, eye strain, and awareness of the surrounding environment when using augmented reality devices.

Artwork by Kirk Anderson


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