Augmented Reality in logistics and service
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Augmented Reality (AR) describes the computer-aided extension of human perception of reality. From the users point of view, the real and virtual worlds merge with each other. The advantage: Through the use of cameras, sensors and high-resolution displays, which usually are built into commercially available smartphones, virtual aspects (text modules, additional information as images, videos) of real situations or places can be displayed to the user. In intralogistics, AR is used, for example, in the pick-by-vision type of picking, in which the AR information is provided via data glasses.
The first attempts to provide the user with additional visual information to the real world were made by electrical engineer Ivan Sutherland in 1968. He developed a kind of data glasses, which, however, had to be connected to a computer that still filled an entire room at the time. The glasses projected simple digital patterns onto the wearer’s eye. The development of the technology was slow at the time, partly because there were no practical applications. This changed in the 1990s when Tom Caudell and David Mizell presented one of the first commercial augmented reality applications for Boeing.
Intralogistics, Production, Service
No matter whether intralogistics, production or technical service: More and more augmented reality applications are now integrated into industrial processes. The challenge: In the world of consumer electronics, there is no obstacle to picking up the smartphone or tablet in everyday situations. In industrial environments, on the other hand, operators often need both hands for the task before them, which is one reason why more and more companies are turning to specialized and above all sturdy data glasses. These are usually controlled via gesture, swipe and voice command. The respective data glasses are also usually linked to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
Application areas of Augmented Reality
- Stock management
- Education and training
- Digital games
AR in intralogistics
Augmented Reality is used especially for the picking type Pick-by-Vision. During the picking process, the picker receives information via his data glasses (Look-Around-System – see different data glasses in use), which is decisive for picking: goods to be picked (description, article number), unique coordinates of the storage location and storage compartment, quantity to be picked.
Current data glasses, for example, those of the manufacturer Vuzix (Test (German source), are additionally equipped with a scanner module. The user activates this scanner with a gesture, swipe or voice command, which will cause it to automatically scans the user’s field of vision and thus records a barcode, for example. The data collected in this way can be forwarded directly to the warehouse management system (WMS) or the host via the integrated WLAN module. If the internal warehouse processes and associated hardware and software allow it, inventory management can be carried out locally in real-time. However, this adjustment in real-time is also possible with classic MDT devices, which generally also have WLAN modules.
Navigation within a distribution center should also be mentioned. This allows even untrained personnel to be deployed in a targeted manner. Challenge: Navigation has to be realized via local positioning points. Satellite systems such as GPS can lose accuracy due to structural conditions (metal, wood, concrete) and internal influences (shelves, goods, liquids). Furthermore, the local coordinates (storage location, storage compartment) cannot be mapped via the GPS system.
Additional advantages AR
- High quality and accurate picking through self-explanatory visualization; picking errors are automatically reduced.
- Parallel display of different information possible.
- Increase in performance by reducing the dead time.
- Older generations have difficulties with new technology.
- Power supply – as a rule, a battery pack provided for this purpose must be worn.
- Eyeglass wearers need lenses with prescription strength.
- Risk of health impairment during intensive AR use (dizziness, headaches).
- Existing end devices are not always suitable for industrial use.
- Technical functionality: WLAN and Bluetooth can be operated together on the 2.4 gigahertz band However, this causes interference with the Bluetooth transmission. Different frequencies (2.4 and 5 gigahertz) provide a solution.
AR data glasses: monocular and binocular
Monocular see-through data glasses
The most well-known see-through data glasses are the Google Glasses from 2014. In this system, information is first projected onto a prism (mirror) via a projector integrated in the spectacle frame. The prism in turn transmits the additional AR information to the retina of the eye.
Monocular look-around data glasses
In industry, so-called monocular look-around data glasses are generally used. They are equipped with only a small display (no prism) which only shows the required additional information. The right eye perceives the real environment through conventional sight glasses (The following video also shows an example of the video circuit – see ‘binocular data glasses’).
Binocular data glasses
For service and maintenance purposes, binocular data glasses are used in addition to monocular systems. In the case of binocular end devices, an expert can give remote support to the user of the data glasses via live stream for difficult or specific tasks. The wearer of such a system can view machine components in detail and take instructions from the video stream.
The industrial segments of logistics, production and service increasingly rely on so-called wearables, i.e. devices worn on the body. Data glasses promise enormous potential, mostly in conjunction with smartphones, -watches or tablets. This has been proven to accelerate individual processes and detect system errors more quickly.
When using AR solutions, additional digital information such as videos, images and text modules are projected onto the respective display for the user. This supplementary information enables users to carry out both specific and everyday processes in an optimized and time-saving manner, also via remote guidance from an expert.
Further information on the topic of extended perception of reality can also be found under the article Smart Data.