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Smart glasses, we are testing different solutions

Smart glasses, we are testing different solutions

As expected, in this period our remote maintenance service Help4Tech has had a significant increase in demand. The difficulties to travel related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to reduce travel costs for companies have induced several companies to turn to us to test this service, not only for remote maintenance, but also for installation and validation activities. In the Help4Tech package, SPAI also provides smart glasses, whose model must be carefully chosen in order to best meet the customer’s needs. We talk about it with Francesco Zanini, SPAI testing technician.

At this moment on the market there are several proposals for smart glasses; what factors do you consider when testing a model?

“First of all, let’s start distinguishing the two main types of smart glasses; those that overlap the image taken by the camera over the entire field of view (for example Epson or Microsoft Hololens) and those that project the image taken in a section of the lens (North or Real Wear). From a technological point of view, the former are much more advanced and they really go towards the concept of augmented reality. However, they have some limits in visualizing at best the contrasts between the surfaces when the colors are very light, but it is a problem that can be solved. At the moment we have decided to use this type of glasses. Anyway, when we evaluate a smart glasses we start from considering the activities for which these glasses are used. The technician who works with us through the Help4Tech service must often intervene in spaces that may be narrow, working for long periods of time, with hands free and without obstacles. Starting from these assumptions it is clear that the first fundamental aspects are ergonomic and comfort. We need glasses that hold the position (do not slip down), as light and sturdy as possible. For example, I have tested a pair of glasses that are technologically very good but with a conformation that continuously brought them down on the face. So I thought of attaching them to a helmet and this expedient solved the problem. However, with that helmet, I would no longer be able to intervene on the bottom of the machine due to the lack of space”.

From a technological point of view, apart from the type of display, what are the other aspects to consider?

Today the smart glasses are used by the technician to frame the part of the machine on which to intervene, see the information we send and listen to the instructions provided. Augmented reality is not yet used at the moment. Potentially augmented reality offers much more functionalities but it requires very fast and fluid connections, still difficult to find in companies, in addition to this the costs are very high, because each machine we work on is different from the previous ones and therefore for each of them should be done every time a work of images mapping and that would be very expensive. We currently use software that allows us to add elements such as arrows, shapes or writing to a photograph of the machine that we show to the operator wearing the glasses in real time. In its simplicity it is a very powerful tool indeed. It is not virtual reality but at the moment it is the most effective solution. Besides this, in the choice of smart glasses we evaluate the quality of the image, then the resolution of the webcam, the audio, the display mode of the information with its controls and the battery life“.

At which models are you currently directed?

“The most used model is the Epson Moverio BT350, a choice dictated by the companies themselves. This model, in fact, is easily configurable and simple to use. During our tests we also evaluated very positively the Real Wear, more advanced from a technological point of view than the Epson, but more difficult to use and set up, which has held back many companies”.

Will you continue testing other models?

“Surely, this will be a growth sector in the following years and several hi-tech companies are launching themselves in the production of these media, just think of Google which has just acquired North start-up. We will continue testing smart glasses, also in order to extend the proposal to our customers, with different price ranges”.