AUGMENTED REALITY IS TAKING THE WORK TO A NEW DIMENSION

SWEDEN Special computer glasses enable you to see the reality around you, at the same time as virtual objects are added to supplement the image. Is this how work will be performed in the future?

Magnus Strömbrink, research engineer at Research & Development offers a foretaste of the future in Vattenfall's research laboratory in Älvkarleby, Sweden.

"The technology is called augmented reality, and it will potentially change how work is undertaken, including that of service technicians," he says.

Hologram images spice up reality
The popular mobile game Pokémon Go introduced millions of people to augmented reality (AR). Players of the game see the reality around them through their smartphone, but with new objects added. What is added are computer generated Pokémon figures which turn up in the surroundings.

The model of Lilla Edet power plant in Swedenis supplemented with virtual information that is visible when Magnus Strömbrink wears the computer glasses.

The principle is the same for the glasses that Strömbrink and his colleagues are using in their pilot project. The team of researchers has built a demonstration platform based on the physical model of the Lilla Edet hydro power plant that has been erected in the laboratory in Älvkarleby. When the observer looks at the model through the glasses, hologram images are added to supplement the picture.

"Despite moving around in the room, the computer generated objects remain absolutely still. It is possible to walk around looking at them from different angles," says Strömbrink.

The technology can be used to, for example, visualise bridges or other buildings that are not yet built and to see what they would look like in reality.

Manuals will become redundant
The technology can also be used to obtain information about what the user is viewing.

"Say that a service technician is wearing these sort of glasses and he directs his gaze at the pump that he is going to examine. Information about the pump's performance, design, service status, etc. could then appear in the glasses," says Strömbrink.

The glasses augment reality with both images and information, and provide in-depth understanding of how things work, or what a prospective building would look like in practice.

"Or perhaps an exploded drawing that shows the pump's design three-dimensionally. If the service technician is unsure of how to carry out the measures that the service entails, he can connect with colleagues who can also view the same image and give advice. The technician can have both hands free while working," says Strömbrink, predicting the end of all manuals.

However as of yet neither the technology nor the graphics are perfect.

"All I can say is that the technology will become cheaper, better and easier, which will pave the way for a completely different level of realism – and certainly new applications," says Strömbrink.

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