Charles Murray

September 16, 2014

2 Min Read
Video: Google Glass Moves to the Factory Floor

Factory floor engineers may soon be able to operate machinery and monitor equipment status simply by tapping their eyeglasses.

At last week's International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Beckhoff Automation allowed booth visitors to control the velocity of an industrial robot by swiping a finger across the touchpad of Google's latest ubiquitous computing platform, Google Glass. Beckhoff representatives said the technology (featured in the video below) may serve one day as a simple way of gathering information and correcting machine status without having to be onsite.

"It's all about using your preferred format to get information," Shane Novacek of Beckhoff Automation told us. "It doesn't have to be Google Glass. It could be a smartphone or a smartwatch or whatever the user prefers."

Google Glass communicates with a cloud-based web server that provides the status of a machine controlled by the company's TwinCat software. The web-enabled glasses project information -- such as status signals or dialog messages -- on a heads-up display in the wearer's field of vision. Users can confirm or reset machine status simply by swiping a finger across a touchpad on the side of the glasses.

Beckhoff engineers say the advantage of the technology is its mobility. It "can be used without any limitations to our sensory perception or our physical movements -- and there are no wires or cables to contend with," the company writes in its in-house automation technology magazine, Beckhoff PC Control.

Beckhoff engineers said the Google application was a straightforward process using the company's standard products. The only real development step was the creation of an HMI for Google Glass.

"This is just one example," Novacek told us. "If Apple or Samsung comes out with some other type of web-enabled device, we already have the tools in place to implement it."

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About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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