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Assisted Reality Glasses and Voice Picking

Bob Bova   |    
March 8, 2021

2020 has shown the entire supply chain universe that if there are technologies that can assist with increased productivity, workflow throughput and process optimization, you had better be paying attention to them. While there are many types of technologies out there that are claiming to be a significant improvement in all these areas of the warehouse and the distribution center, one solution has evolved in the last four years to provide much needed clarity regarding usage of vision empowered glasses for warehouse operations. What was originally presented as Virtual Reality picking has now productivity morphed into Assisted Reality picking, and that is making all the difference for companies to explore and install the vision component in their distribution centers.

What is Assisted Vision versus Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality vision devices were being hailed about four years ago as the future of work and play. Showing digital virtual objects was supposed to move the needle on workflow improvement and optimize productivity. When used on the DC floor, there were multiple gating issues: you need to SEE around you for safety and the virtual renderings were not as helpful as the actual part/case/product itself. When Microsoft, Google and other manufacturers started to realize the ineffectiveness and safety hazards due to the weaknesses discovered, they stopped marketing to the industrial space.

Assisted reality safety glasses are technology that is a thoughtful, productivity improving, workflow integratable solution that IS the answer for companies that want to add a vision component to their warehouse technology for picking, and many other applications as well. Assisted reality shows actual pictures and videos of products, providing an excellent platform for training, accelerated productivity metrics and process explanation inherent to best practices in any organization. A perfect example of this technology is the Zebra HD4000, their heads-up display.

The Zebra HD4000 integrates only those components required to deliver assisted reality functionality — a display, camera, head tracker and microphone — there’s no battery, processor or WiFi or cellular radio required. The device connects directly to a Zebra mobile device eliminating the need for an additional power source. It also provides a base of operations for integration with voice enabled applications that also reside on the device. This powerful combination of device driven technologies provides a technology platform for vision and voice AUTOMATION that the DC’s can use. Additionally, these glasses are safety glasses, able to withstand drops while providing eye protection for the users.

Useability

When augmented reality glasses were introduced, conceptually the idea was very interesting. Being able to virtually show optimized picking routes, how to fix equipment, provide virtual pictures of location and products all seemed worthy of investigation. In actuality, an over the head device that was all encompassing around the head made no sense. Workers couldn’t see through the devices, they were obstructing vision, and the images weren’t particularly sharp or accurate. They were heavy, with a battery life that only lasted an hour. Plus, they would get hot. Imagine wearing that around for an entire 8-hour shift.

The Zebra HD4000 Heads up display is light, battery free and many people forget they are even wearing them. They are standard safety glasses with a USB connection to the Zebra mobile device. This allows for ease of integration, voice enablement and a real visual of location, product images and voice commands.

Voice and Vision, Truly Multimodal

Many companies have embraced device-based voice picking and exploited the benefit of voice automation for any application in the warehouse. Now these companies can add the Zebra HD4000 heads up display and utilize all of its functionality right out of the box. There are few caveats: You must be using a Zebra TC 5x or 7x series of handheld or the 6000 series, all of which run on Android. The HD4000 plugs right into the mobile device and is ready to integrate with the application’s AccuSpeechMobile voice interface. AccuSpeechMobile has integrated the HD4000 into its standard software products, allowing for integration of all the heads up displays capabilities combined with the voice interface on the device. Customers familiar with the AccuSpeechMobile SDK find it seamless to add the HD4000 to their already voice automated workflows. Integrating voice and vision driven processes where they can have the strongest impact drives strategic decision-making regarding training, process acceleration and improvement.

Multilingual

Today’s warehouse employees speak multiple languages and multinational corporations have facilities around the world. But a picture is worth a thousand words in ANY language. Today’s voice picking solutions provide multilingual capability on the device, and now with the Zebra HD4000 heads up display, images of locations, products, sku numbers can all be projected in the worker’s field of vision. This capability eliminates errors, provides visual confirmation of location as well as shows images of what is supposed to be picked and in which quantities. So, in these times of high picking requirements, a solution designed for worldwide use is accessible just by choosing the local language and showing images of products. Today’s integrated vision and voice systems are designed for multilingual deployment for new warehouses, established facilities or for the burgeoning micro fulfillment, smaller warehouses.

Best Use Cases for Voice and Vision Integration

As voice and vision integration is relatively new, the question has come up from many customers and prospects as to what the best scenarios for deployment are. The most compelling implementation we see at this time is for faster, streamlined training of new employees. With the difficulty of the distribution centers and warehouses in finding employees combined with the unrelentingly high turnover currently the norm as well, the ability to augment training by being able to see and hear locations, products and vocally inputting data has shown training time cut from weeks to days to get to a solid picking rate. This acceleration of workers being productive when demand spikes have become the norm is a real-life example of how powerful an assisted visual technology like the Zebra HD4000 can be. This deployment of multiple cutting-edge technologies also enforces the company’s commitment to their employees by having them use the best solutions available and giving them the skills to use them for potentially more lucrative volumes and promotions.

Time for a Test Drive?

One of the strengths of device-based architectures for voice and vision is the ability to have it tested on your applications, on your network. By seeing (pun intended) the features and benefits specific to your workflows, the case for adoption becomes much more focused on the actual challenges you may be facing. By requesting a proof-of-concept or POC from AccuSpeechMobile and testing the Zebra HD4000 heads up display, your organization can get a look at what is possible today, and how this combination of technologies can serve you well in the future.

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