Wearables are nothing new, at least not in the consum- er world. They are often atural extensions of other
smart devices consumers already use daily.
However, wearables have yet to make a big
(sustainable) splash within manufacturing.
Of course, the possibility of incorporating
smart wearables into the manufacturing environment is intriguing. Consider the benefts
of being able to provide workers with work
instructions that go beyond explaining a new
job by visually guiding workers through each
step operation. Not only would the ability to overlay data on an
active production line dramatically reduce the learning curve,
it could prove instrumental in helping workers identify potential
problems in the supply chain before they happen.
Or, the possibility of providing maintenance teams a tool
capable of visually pinpointing a machine problem and then
providing step-by-step repair instructions on a legacy machine.
If organizations can embrace this type of offering today, it could
play a key role in flling the skills gap.
Imagine being able to permanently capture and then convey
that valuable knowledge in a dynamically streamable fashion
including access to notes, voice recordings, directions and
metadata. The potential is endless.
Signs of life?
While these examples have been little more than theory, a
recent introduction from start-up Magic Leap shows promise.
With a focus on changing how users consume digital information
by leveraging machine learning, computer vision, sensors, and
human-centered AI. Unlike augmented (AR) or virtual reality (VR),
Magic Leap’s head-mounted digital lightfeld display applies
advancements in spatial computing that work with the human
eye-brain system to integrate digital content in the physical world.
“It combines artifcial intelligence and computer vision to
From concept to reality.
seamlessly blend digital content into your reality,” says Magic
Leap’s Cathy Hackl. “It’s a lightweight wearable computer that
uses eye tracking and head pose to see what the user sees
with the power to learn.”
What makes Magic Leap different is that its system “senses
your environment by meshing your space. The system also
senses you and allows for digital objects to exist realistically in
your surroundings,” says Hackl. “Content is spatially aware. If I
throw a digital ball and it hits that wall, the ball will bounce back
because it understands there’s a wall there. This awareness
of the user and the space incorporates sensors, Io T and AI.”
Understandably, bringing this product to market required a
mix of cutting-edge optics, spatial light modulation, projection
systems and precision mechanics—along with sophisticated
engineering, manufacturing and supply chain expertise. Magic
Leap teamed up with St. Petersburg, FL-based manufacturing
giant Jabil to bring its concept to life.
This partnership allowed Magic Leap to tap into Jabil’s ex-
tensive manufacturing expertise —including injection molding
capabilities as well as a vast knowledge base in incorporating
optical systems and technologies into end products. Jabil’s
optics expertise spans the globe, encompassing an Optics Tech-
nology Innovation Center in Israel, optics capabilities in Jena,
Germany and advanced active alignment automation in Boston.
Even with expertise and experience, manufacturing new
products—especially emerging technology—always encounters
challenges. In this instance, the biggest manufacturing challenge
dealt with miniaturizing the various technologies involved in a
way that still yielded a device was both wearable and effective,
explains Jabil’s Green Point CEO and EVP Kenny Wilson.
“Creating something that people would use for more than a
few minutes at a time meant that we needed to focus eliminating
potential problems for users,” he says. “The challenge was to
get it to a point where the device would not give users head-
aches or make them nauseous. Weight and comfort were key.”
Creating a test environment for a program like this was also
challenging. “We could not use an off the shelf test suite, it had
to be tailored to this product,” he says. “We spent untold hours
proving it out with practicality and repeatability.”
Functional or flashy trend?
Let’s face it, tech introductions can easily go in either direction. When something cool hits the market, it understandably
gets signifcant attention. And while garnering attention is part
of the battle, staying power is the ultimate goal. Enabling manufacturers to improve training, maintenance and productivity
environments would go a long way in delivering staying power.
“There are immense opportunities, and when people get their
hands on the device, they will instantly think of creative ways to
use it,” says Wilson “But it will take active involvement within
the developer community to expand its usability exponentially.”
Naturally, even with a wealth of applications, content creation
will be an ongoing issue for manufacturers to truly beneft from
the technology. Of course, if the technology truly delivers most
manufacturers will dedicate the time to creating content.
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