From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine
Matrix-like Download Capabilities May Not be too Far Away; Looking at Bar Codes Instead of Scanning Them
SCDigest Editorial Staff
Are you familiar with the fast-growing concept of "augmented reality?"
A new report from DHL's Trend Research group covers the basics of AR and then takes a deeper dive into emerging or potential applications in logistics.
What is augmented reality? The report says AR involves "the expansion of physical reality by adding layers of computer-generated information to the real environment."
Not mentioned in the report, but perhaps the most commonly experienced form of AR today is the widely used yellow stripe displayed in pro and college football games to indicate the first down mark. That yellow stripe is of course not really on the field - it is added to the real video view of the game field by computer generation.
There are thousands of other real or emerging applications, some of them quite amazing. In the Matrix movies, characters can simply download a new "app" into their heads to learn something new, such as how to pilot a helicopter. Now, car makers and others are developing AR apps where a consumer will look at a part in an engine say through a cell phone camera, and instructions on how to test or replace the part will instantly appear alongside it.
Indeed, "scene recognition" is a generally critical aspect of AR technology, whether that is identifying a particular product on the store shelf so that additional information can be displayed on its make-up, or recognizing where an order picker is in a distribution center to confirm he or she is at the right location.
There are a wide number of devices that play in the augmented reality space, including smart phones and tablets, special headsets, smart glasses, stationary kiosks and more.
Although really a form of virtual reality, not augmented reality, as another example of where this is all heading, DHL reports that a company called Yihaodian in China is getting ready to open up a series of virtual supermarkets that will be located in "blank" public spaces (e.g., train or subway stations, parks, and college campuses).
"While the naked eye will just see empty floors and walls, people using an AR-capable device will see a complete supermarket, with shelves filled with digital representations of real-world products. To buy products, the user just scans each product with their mobile device, adding it to their online shopping cart. After completing their AR shopping tour, the user receives delivery of the products to their home," DHL says.
DHL cites a number of actual or potential AR apps in logistics, starting with order picking. It notes that companies such as Knapp, SAP, and Ubimax (and we would add Softeon to that list) are in late stage testing for AR systems that involve a head-mounted display (HMD), a camera, and a wearable wireless terminal.
"The vision picking software offers real-time object recognition, barcode reading, indoor navigation, and seamless integration of information with the Warehouse Management System," DHL notes.
The key benefit of these systems is that they are "hands-free," meaning an order picker doesn't have to carry and deal with a device such as a traditional radio frequency (FR) terminal, which reduces productivity versus a hands-free approach. That hands-free technology is key to the ability of Voice systems to drive productivity gains in order picking and other DC applications, but AR might deliver and even larger advantage by automating the product and location identification process.
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