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Practical Overview of Augmented Reality (AR) for Worker Development, Safety and Skills Retention

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Global industry, including steel, faces parallel crises of worsening shortage of skilled workers with accelerated retirement rates of skilled trades holding critical knowledge. Add to these challenges the evolution of communication preferences from written words to digital imagery. State-of-the-art augmented reality (AR) systems are proven to ease these challenges. This paper will provide data of the challenges along with a practical overview of current AR technology, evidence of how AR has and can ease challenges of skills, available time, retaining knowledge, safety and bridging generational challenges, amongst others.

DEC 2022 I IRON & STEEL TECHNOLOGY I AIST.ORG | by Eric Almquist –The evolution of technology has impacted our lives at home and work. The pace of technology advancements has accelerated with some key milestones marking periods. The world has entered one of these periods, commonly called “Industry 4.0,” referring to the fourth Industrial Revolution (Fig. 1).

Augmented reality, or AR for short, is a specific technology considered to be the human-machine interface (HMI) of Industry 4.0. Futurists and digital device companies envision people using AR to interact with their digital devices in ways most have seen only in movies; seeing a layer of digital information projected over reality, augmenting it — hence the name. AR may seem like science fiction to those who have not experienced it, but since 2016 real AR tools for industry began appearing. By 2017, software and hardware had emerged to become a real business tool for manufacturing to ease real and worsening challenges. AR will revolutionize frontline worker jobs over the next decade, just as the desktop PC has revolutionized office worker jobs since the 1980s. Of particular interest is AR’s ability to capture and digitally record the workflows and practices of experienced subject matter experts (SMEs) tradespeople and, from there, to enable less experienced workers access and use those expert workflows. AR can help optimize safe practices by providing easy access to detailed but cognitively connected safety training, lockout/tagout/try-out procedures, and opportunities for training with equipment. AR even allows practicing these workflows without having the actual equipment, but projecting 3D model holograms of the equipment as practice surrogates.

This article is available online at AIST.org for 30 days following publication.

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