ABB Introduces Augmented Reality for Remote Technicians

ABB's Ability Remote Insights system will allow field service technicians to carry out tasks and communicate using augmented reality.
ABB Remote Insights will use augmented reality to train technicians and remotely assist them with repair, maitenance, and installation tasks. (Image source: ABB) 

ABB is introducing augmented reality functionality into its Ability suite of digital enterprise solutions. ABB's Ability Remote Insights service will give field service technicians an AR interface that includes remote guidance, screen sharing, and document sharing to guide them through performing specific tasks. ABB says in addition to improving the performance of technicians working in remote locations in terms of speed and efficiency, the system will improve response times and extend asset lifecycles.

The AR system can also be leveraged for training purposes and to improve worker safety, the company said.

“With this technology, an ABB expert can guide remote field service personnel through a sequence to replace a part, for instance,” Michael Kerley, research & development manager for pulp and paper quality control and web imaging systems at ABB, said in a press statement. “The high-level remote support technician can see what the local user sees via the AR device and guide them through the service action.”

ABB is supplying the AR software and says its system will remain hardware agnostic. Ideally the system will be used in conjunction with an AR or mixed reality headset such as the Hololens, Google Glass Enterprise, or Vuzix AR glasses. The clear advantage here is allowing workers to have both hands free for working and to use hand gesture controls to navigate the Remote Insights interface. ABB says the system can also work on smartphones, tablets, or other wearables as well however.

Traditionally an automation company, ABB has been at the forefront of implementing AR, mixed reality, and virtual reality into its enterprise product offerings. ABB's primary focus in bringing these technologies into the enterprise space has been in playing up the remote access and collaboration applications enabled by AR and VR.

Back in 2016, ABB demonstrated a proof of concept that used AR to remotely control and configure factory robots:

The AR hardware space also looks to be falling in line with ABB's ambitions. Google has pivoted its Google Glass into a strictly enterprise product. And Microsoft has promised a number of new features in its upcoming Hololens 2 including lighter weight, a wider field of view, and eye tracking capability, to make it a more attractive tool for enterprise users.

There are even smaller companies entering the AR hardware landscape. Earlier this year New Jersey-based ThirdEye Gen debuted its X2 Glasses, calling them the lightest available on the market. The X2 Glasses also come equipped to handle 5G connectivity, which is sure to feature ever-more prominently in smart factories.

ABB has said it plans to implement ABB Remote Insight into multiple industries and is currently working with “several field service organizations and industry groups in developing further augmented reality applications that will provide enhanced service delivery using best-in-class tools, tailored to meet customer needs.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

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