I See What You See
Smart glasses, which incorporate augmented reality (AR) technology to overlay additional visual information, are currently showing their true value by enabling companies to remotely monitor systems, mentor staff and have eyes and ears on site, says Team Forward CEO Steven Wright. “We recently worked on a manufacturing plant project in Cape Town, which was established and commissioned by the lead team in New Zealand, via a team of 12 people on site, using 12 pairs of head-mounted tablets. The ‘I see what you see’ capability allowed them to commission the plant without setting foot in South Africa.”
Wright says that being able to deploy an expert remotely across several locations is a huge time and cost saver. “You can have one expert sitting off site who can talk on-site teams at multiple locations through repairs, put schematics and diagrams in front of their eyes and even draw pointers to show them what to do in real-time.”
Anthony Eva, bizAR Reality operations and creative director, says that AR training using headsets such as the Microsoft HoloLens has been used in overlaying 3D models of machinery into the real world. “These glasses understand 3D space, allowing information to be portrayed in the real world, giving a 3D instruction manual to the user. This has allowed companies to take on-the-job training to a new level.”
Eye on the market
Eva says that while the technology initially struggled to take off in the public space because of privacy concerns and technological limitations, its use is growing exponentially in industrial applications. “The consumer space is picking up again, too. New smart glasses are being developed by Apple and Samsung, and Huawei is creating glasses that act as an interface with your phone.”
Device cost is coming down, with decent base hardware starting at around R20 000 – a price tag that could potentially be quite easily offset by cost and time savings. While all the devices currently on the market in South Africa are imports, Wright says he also struggles to find programmers to write specific software for the devices to localise for particular applications. “The standard software is great because these companies have been refining it for years, but it would be wonderful to find more proficient locally based programmers who could produce local solutions too.”
Is it time to get a smart watch?
The perfect smartwatch doesn’t exist … yet. But these come close.
Fitbit Charge 4 (+-R2 999*). With built-in GPS, Fitbit Pay and Spotify controls added to the sleep-tracking, waterproof and heart-rate-measuring Charge 3, the Charge 4 has a battery that lasts up to seven days (with sparing GPS use) and will relay basic notifications from your phone.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (from R8 995*). The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 tracks a remarkable amount of health data while adding smartphone-level productivity in a stylish device that resembles a classic watch. The rotating bezel is a nifty navigation tool, but two-day battery life isn’t enough for everyone.
Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar Edition (from R17 999*). This is one of the best multisport watches around. It’s got a host of sports features and supplements a 21-day battery life with solar charging for an additional three-day boost, meaning you can head off on a three-week expedition without your charger.
Apple Watch Series 6 (from R8 999*). Series 6 adds features such as blood oxygen monitoring and an upgraded chipset to speed it up and make it more efficient. The long-awaited native sleep-tracking functionality isn’t as thorough as many had hoped – and a roughly 18-hour battery life means inevitably having to charge up before you go to bed. But the addition of Apple Fitness+ ups its appeal for fitness fans.