Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality and how they could impact workplace health and safety.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are hot topics across many industries right now. A growing number of organisations are now seeing the benefits these relatively new technologies can bring in the medium to long terms.

In a recent report published by the Capgemini Research Institute 82% of companies currently implementing AR/VR say the benefits either meet or exceed their expectations.   

There is often confusion around these technologies: – What is AR/VR?

The Franklin Institute has created easy-to-understand definitions: –

  • Augmented Reality adds digital elements to a live view. This is usually achieved by using the camera on a smartphone or specially created glasses. Examples of Augmented Reality experiences include Snapchat lenses and the game Pokémon Go.
  • Virtual Reality implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. VR devices such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard can transport users into several real-world and imagined environments e.g. into the middle of a squawking penguin colony or even onto the back of a dragon.

Is anything about to change?

Technology is changing at a rapid rate.  VR/AR technologies are no different.

The Capgemini Research Institute highlights companies like Ford that use VR to capture human movement during equipment assembly. As an example, motion sensors can re-engineer movement to decrease the risk of injury and increase productivity. As a result, Ford has reported a 70% drop in employee injuries.

What about the application of AR in workplace health & safety?

The opportunities for improving workplace health and safety through the use of Augmented Reality are growing. As well as training new industry recruits, there is a world of possibilities for how it might be used. Some examples include:

  • Heavy equipment operators could be alerted to hazard scenarios based on risk algorithms before they are exposed to the risk.
  • Risk assessments can be done in real time using algorithms based on hazard experience data.
  • Staff can be alerted to known hazardous areas through connected eyewear.
  • Procedures manuals could become a thing of the past. Instead, staff will use an iPad to view a piece of plant or equipment and see applicable procedures, risks and hazards in real time.

The use of AR in the workplace is growing; surgeons now employ it as a learning tool by using lenses and patient ‘dummies’, companies such as Walmart use AR to train employees during hands-on experiences without the risk of costly real-world mistakes, and designers can show complex designs to clients, to cite just a few examples.

Key Takeaway Points

  • AR/VR is now readily available and emerging at a rapid rate.
  • Immediate applications can improve workplace health & safety.

References 

Capgemini Research Institute – Augmented and Virtual Reality in Operations, 2018

[LinkedIn, “Toms River MUA – Esri ArcNews – 2019,” January 2019

The Detroit News, “Virtual Technology Streamlines Ford’s Manufacturing,” July 2015.

https://www.business.com/articles/best-augmented-reality-uses/, Jun 24, 2020

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