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Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

This Emerging Technology Making Inroads within Specific Supply Chain Processes

If seeing is believing, then manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities throughout the supply chain can expect to be taking a closer look at the latest wearable technology emerging as a viable competitive advantage in operations: smart glasses leveraging augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a term often used interchangeably with virtual reality and mixed reality, but each means something different, says Dr. Randy Bradley, assistant professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business.

“Augmented and mixed reality maintain an existing physical reality, but add a digital element to create a value-added mix of real and virtual,” he explains, “as opposed to virtual reality, which completely immerses the user in a computer-generated and simulated environment.”

More specifically, AR takes advantage of the wearer’s natural view of physical objects and perceptions of surrounding sounds, Bradley continues. “It then enhances them with an overlay of digital information—such as text or simulated screens—while enabling the reflection of both synthetic and natural light off the physical objects. Mixed reality brings virtual and real worlds together to create new environments with digital and physical objects and sounds, as well as their data, coexisting and interacting.”

Just as hand-held barcode scanners, voice-directed picking headsets and mobile devices—such as smart phones and tablets—enhanced worker mobility and productivity in a variety of areas, so too will AR smart glasses, says Ron Kubera, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MHI member Lucas Systems.

“Within the four walls of operations, distribution centers across the board are adopting technologies that provide visual information to workers within current processes,” he says. “With the transition to Android operating systems as a mobile computing platform, we’ve already seen users adopt tablets, smart phones and watches in their operations. I think adoption of smart glasses is going to accelerate over the next 18 to 24 months because of the visual component they offer alongside other hands-free technologies, especially multi-lingual voice-direction and speech recognition.”

By Brian Reaves

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