DAQRI Smart Helmet Brings Augmented Reality to Heavy Industry
Ian Wright posted on January 07, 2016 |
Wearable AR technology for the workplace is coming this year.
The DAQRI Smart Helmet. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)

The DAQRI Smart Helmet. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)

Although their expertise is often in high demand, engineers can’t be everywhere at once.

That used to be the case, but the next generation of DAQRI’s Smart Helmet (DSH) aims to change that.

Unveiled at CES 2016, the DSH is powered by a sixth-generation Intel Core m7 processor and Intel’s RealSense technology. As an industrial-grade human-machine interface, the DSH makes augmented reality (AR) practical in the workplace for the first time.

Inside the DAQRI Smart Helmet

At first glance, the DSH looks like something Robocop or Judge Dredd would wear, though Iron Man might be a more fitting comparison.

It may not look tough, but both the DSH’s face shield and the hard helmet itself are ANSI-compliant. The outer shell is injection-molded plastic. The inner shell is a cast aluminum and carbon fiber composite.

The DAQRI Smart Helmet with its docking/charging station. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
Front exploded view of the DAQRI Smart Helmet with its docking/charging station. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
In addition to the Intel processor, the DSH utilizes multiple cameras: high-resolution, low-resolution and infrared.

A 13MP HD camera is used for photo and video capture, AR applications, 2D target recognition and tracking and object/color recognition.

Two infrared cameras are part of Intel’s RealSense technology. Combining them with the HD camera as well as an infrared laser projector allows the device to infer depth by detecting reflected infrared light.

The low-resolution camera works in conjunction with an industrial-grade inertial measurement unit (IMU) to calculate the helmet’s relative position in space. A second, commercial-grade IMU is included for additional applications.

The DSH’s four-microphone array includes integrated power, volume buttons and an audio output jack to accommodate protective headphones.

Rear view of the DAQRI Smart Helmet. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
Rear exploded view of the DAQRI Smart Helmet. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
By far its most impressive feature, the DSH’s photonic display system is an AR HUD that, according to DAQRI, has been ruggedized and tuned for industrial environments.

The company’s patented lensing technology is designed to synchronize focal distances between the physical world and the data displayed on the HUD.

In addition to these features, the DSH has two USB 2.0 expansion ports for adding other sensors or accessories (e.g., flashlights, gas sensors, etc.) and a docking/charging station for stowage, charging and data transfer.

Check out the video below to see the DSH in action:

A demonstration of the DSH interfacing with a bioreactor. (Video courtesy of DAQRI.)

Augmented Reality in Manufacturing

At this point, you might be wondering whether this futuristic helmet would really contribute anything at a construction site or on a factory floor. DAQRI seems to have anticipated such skepticism, engaging in case studies with various companies.

Three applications in particular serve to highlight the potential of the DSH.

1. 4D Work Instructions

Suppose you have a complex manufacturing process with a high cost of failure. One way of minimizing errors would be to write a manual. However, instruction manuals are notoriously difficult to write and they introduce the potential for costly miscommunications.

In contrast, workers equipped with a DSH can see augmented instructions that automatically adjust to the surrounding environment. For example, a worker’s attention can be drawn immediately to a pressure gauge displaying a reading outside the expected range.

An AR view from the DSH. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
An AR view from the DSH. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
DAQRI tested these “4D work instructions” with a bioreactor process for Vinci Energies. It was able to simplify the process by connecting the DSH to backend systems and configuring it to provide data visualization and control of the bioreactor process.

2. Thermal Vision

What if Predator had given up on hunting and decided to settle into a nice production engineering job instead? He probably would have found his heat vision in high demand: think how much easier it would be if you could tell at a glance whether your equipment was overheating.

In addition to providing depth information, the DSH’s infrared cameras can be used for just that: persistent passive thermal monitoring of industrial equipment. By overlaying thermal data onto the HUD, users can visually scan for unsafe or out-of-tolerance thermal anomalies.

POV of the DSH Thermal View. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
POV of the DSH Thermal View. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
DAQRI field-tested this feature of the Smart Helmet at a hot rolling mill for Kazakhstan Seamless Pipe (KSP) Steel. Configuring the DSH to provide data visualization delivered “control-room level” data to workers no matter where they were.

According to DAQRI, introducing the DSH increased worker productivity by 40 percent and reduced factory downtime by 50 percent.

3. Remote Expert

We all know how frustrating it can be to try to explain something complex to someone over the phone.

(If you don’t, try offering your IT services to your most elderly relative.)

There’s a poverty of information on both sides: you can’t see what they’re seeing and they can’t see things with your expert eye. How much simpler would it be if you could just reach across the distance and point to the thing you’re talking about?

A novice uses the DSH to let an expert see what he sees. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
A novice uses the DSH to let an expert see what he sees. (Image courtesy of DAQRI.)
DAQRI’s case study for this aspect of the DSH came from the Hyperloop project. It focused on a novice operator working with a robotic welder used for very specific spot welding in construction.

Using audio and telestration (i.e., drawing on the worker’s HUD) cues, the expert was able to relay instructions to the novice worker. This suggests that companies investing in the DSH could scale up with a less-experienced workforce and still be able to close skills gaps.

According to DAQRI, the DSH will be available for purchase Q1 2016.

Check out the video below to see the DSH being made:

For more information, visit the DAQRI website.

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