Google Glass, the company's augmented reality eyewear, may have been a huge consumer flop, but it's still finding its way into the workflows of professionals. In a report from CIO.com, members of Boeing's research and technology division say they've used the original Google Glass to construct aircraft wire harnesses. Because planes contain hugely messy and complex webs of wires to connect electrical systems, technicians have to manually build them out, a painstaking process based on PDF assembly guide viewed on a laptop screen. With Glass to replace that computer display, Boeing says it reduced production time for the harnesses by 25 percent and cut error rates in half, according to CIO.
Boeing's history with AR glasses dates back to as early as 1995, when it experimented with early head-mounted displays and rudimentary software. Due to battery, size, and network constraints, it wasn't a viable strategy. Now, thanks to lower costs and exponential jumps in computing power, Boeing can use a wire-free device like Google Glass to accomplish tasks. For Boeing, it started with a demo. Jason DeStories, a R&D engineer with Boeing Research and Technology, got a demo designed for harness assembly using the first publicly available Glass units. The team called the software Project Juggernaut, but it wasn't able to pull information from Boeing's databases in real time.
To get an enterprise-grade app for Google Glass, Boeing put out a proposal and caught the attention of APX Labs, the maker of a smart glasses software platform called Skylight. Together, the teams produced a higher-quality Glass app Boeing could hand out to its technicians on the assembly floor. The Skylight app works by allowing a Glass wearer to scan a QR code, which pulls the wireless harness software, and then scan another code to load the assembly instructions. The app supports Glass voice commands, and also lets users stream what they're seeing to another technician in the event of something unexpected.
Boeing wants to put Glass on the International Space Station
The software was only in use with a small number of Boeing technicians, as part of a pilot program that just came to a close. But Boeing is interested in making Glass and similar AR glasses a fixture on assembly floors, and possibly even on the International Space Station. One problem it has to solve is security. "For IT [Information Technology] to say, 'Hey, we're going to let everything work on the network,' we have to make sure we have information security vetted, we have to make sure we know what kind of IT support we're going to need behind it," DeStories told CIO. "These are the questions we're answering right now, and we feel like we're very close to being on a truly connected solution."
There may be some hope for Boeing in that regard, as Google works to build out an official successor to its original Glass platform. The new Google Glass, which has yet to be announced to the public, is said to be focused solely on enterprise work. Photos of the device popped up in FCC filings last year, and it's rumored the new Glass will have a larger prism display, a faster processor, better battery life, and 5GHz Wi-Fi support.