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May 10, 2016
Augmented reality: Instruction manual 2.0
By: Curtis Wilcox

The Accenture Wearable Technology practice moved in 2015 from the lab and has taken up residence in the Accenture Liquid Studio, in addition to standard wearables-focused client delivery work, we’re spearheading proof of concept (POC) augmented reality projects for some of our large enterprise clients. Many employ workers who use their hands to do their job, such as technicians who, instead of working in an office setting, completes the majority of work in remote locations, job sites, and factory floors. The Wearable Technology practice aims to make their jobs easier, safer and more efficient. Examples of these types of workers include technicians on an oil rig or mechanics working on a jet engine, who are required to adhere to steps and procedures, and reference existing documentation.

Using these materials requires trying to work while simultaneously holding the paper or having to pick it up, read it and put it down, which disrupts productivity and could be dangerous. . In other cases, the documentation might be on a legacy computer system, requiring the worker to halt what they’re doing, walk to the computer to view the document, and then resume their task; once more, an inefficient process.

The Accenture Wearable Technology team, located in the Accenture Liquid Studio, has developed a solution that effectively mitigates these issues by using augmented reality (AR). AR is a technology that provides a user with a view of the world around them, while augmenting that view with computer-generated images. Solutions that utilize this technology often use tablets or phones (like map apps or the popular Snapchat facial augmentation feature), but others use smart glasses, such as the much-anticipated Microsoft HoloLens. Accenture’s Augmented Reality Workflow Engine was developed primarily for smart glasses, but can be used on any Android device. The target device is a pair of smart glasses by Osterhout Design Group.

The use of smart glasses provides a way for a user to view the real world in front of them, keep their hands free and also receive visual work instructions. Accenture’s Augmented Reality Workflow Engine uses a target tracking technology called Vuforia. This technology allows a smart glasses application to recognize specific targets in its field of view. When these targets are recognized, the application can generate 3D objects in the user’s field of view. In the case of the Accenture’s Augmented Reality Workflow Engine, the targets take the form of QR codes that are placed in specific locations in the area where the work is being done. When a user, wearing the glasses, looks at the targets, the application generates overlays that highlight certain spots in the work area where the user needs to direct their attention. For example, if a user is assembling a piece of equipment, the first step might be to attach a wire to a specific connector; the application would highlight the connector, directing the user to the correct spot.

In addition to augmented overlays, the solution also provides textual instructions and images/diagrams that can take the place of any paper or computer-based instructions and documentation. The goal here is to allow the user to remain on the job without having to look or move away from the job site, increasing efficiency.

This solution is highly customizable and can be modified easily to suit client needs. Working with one of our aerospace clients, facing the issue of how to enable their jet technicians to work on complex projects requiring two hands without having to constantly refer to a printed or online manual for the next step, the Accenture Liquid Studio team created a solution that helps an installer route a wire harness through a fighter jet and has proven to increase worker efficiency significantly. The team at the Liquid Studios is looking forward to more opportunities to deploy the solution and gather efficiency and time improvement data, especially since different use cases will likely yield a variety of results. However, we are encouraged by results so far, which indicate that augmented reality and wearable technology can combine to create valuable solutions for our clients.

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