The advantages for AR remote assistance for offshore and marine

The offshore and marine industry is vital for the world we live in. Thanks to this sector we’re able to use natural resources such as oil, gas and wind. Procuring these sources of energy is not an easy task. Many ships, oil platforms and windmills are located in challenging locations where water and wind reign supreme.

In the midst of all this are many hardworking professionals who have to cooperate round the clock. Fortunately there are many technological advancements that can be used to enhance efficiency and create a safer environment for the workforce. One particular innovation that will revolutionize the way offshore and marine industries operate is AR remote assistance. In this article we will delve into the possibilities of augmented reality for this sector.

The challenges of the offshore and marine industry

Humans are a species that fare best on land. We’ve spent thousands of years battling the waves of the sea. Just look at the accomplishments of the intricate waterworks in The Netherlands. Without all this ingenuity a large part of this nation would be at the bottom of the sea. However, there are many rich resources located offshore.

Energy from water and wind, oil and gas are located in the places that are least suitable for humans. Still, with large ships, oil rigs and windmills we are able to mine for these energy sources. This involves reliable hardware, sophisticated software and knowledgeable personnel with the right skills. Teamwork is very important in this industry, and that’s where offshore and marine comes in play.

The basics of augmented reality

In very simple terms augmented reality places a digital layer over reality. For instance an arrow on a camera based navigation system, or GPS information that is displayed using smart glasses. There are many devices that can display AR content, and many more applications. For instance video games such as Pokémon GO, a game that uses a combination of location based software and a digital overlay.

Maybe your kids have played it, maybe you have walked around in the park searching for a fluffy cartoon character. This application might seem frivolous, yet the possibilities reach far further than entertainment. Pokémon GO is based on another augmented reality game named Ingress, a location based app that uses physical locations to display specific information. This is in broad strokes the same technology that is also used for industrial purposes.

How does AR Remote assistance work?

When working offshore the number of employees working on an oil rig or other location are limited. Ships and platforms can only hold a limited amount of people and can carry a limited load. The rest of the environment is water, and lots of it. With AR Remote assistance several experts in different fields can be ‘present’ in digital form without actually being there.

An employee can establish a wireless connection with a colleague in another location and ask for specific information. This allows for a more versatile approach to performing tasks. Instead of deploying many specialized people to one location, it’s possible to let a more general technician visit the site with live AR Remote assistance.

The importance of augmented reality

Smartphones have contributed greatly to the way offshore and marine industries operate. Every person can contact colleagues in different locations with a tap on the screen. A limiting factor is vision. Instead of showing a situation the employee will have to explain it in words. This ‘translation’ takes time, and can lead to miscommunication.

With visual support from a camera the issue can be visualised for a more clear view on the situation. This goes both ways; a remote expert can feed the worker with additional information and data about the situation for a better solution in a shorter time frame.

Mobile solutions

Smartphones or tablets can be used for AR Remote assistance, these solutions are best suited when multiple people are present at the location. With smart glasses it’s possible to assist an employee remotely with hands free operation. The frame is equipped with a camera, microphone, speakers and a micro-computer that allows for advanced interaction while keeping both hands free for other actions.

The assistant can view the situation from a first-person perspective and feed the colleague vital information. This could be a photo, video, manual or even live notes on screen. This content is contextual, for instance an arrow indicating the correct lever or operation that is required.

Mobile AR headsets like the Realwear HMT-1 vary from small frames to full AR headsets with the option to scan 3D environments in real time. In some cases an internet connection is required. There are several wireless solutions, also for offshore operations where regular connections are not available.

In challenging situations there’s a need for advanced solutions. AR Remote assistance helps tackle issues for the offshore and marine industry.

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