More BMW workers may begin wearing glasses at the vehicle manufacturing facility in Greer – even employees with perfect vision.
These glasses deliver images otherwise not seen, along with features normally associated with a smartphone.
Early reports with quality assurance employees using Google Glass at the BMW plant has officials identifying other opportunities for them in the manufacturing process.
Quality assurance testers have participated in a pilot program using the eyewear when evaluating software in new and existing vehicle models.
“It has the ability to document with pictures and video,” said Jörg Schulte, a project coordinator and mechanical engineering expert at BMW Spartanburg.
The high-tech eyewear uses augmented reality technology to add navigation systems, videos, photos and other materials to what the tester sees. Retail cost for the glasses is in the $1,500 range.
Instead of filing reports by typing, BMW testers communicate findings through Glass’ voice-recognition system.
Another time saver, development engineers in another location previously read the written reports, sometimes containing vague descriptions of malfunctions or concerns. This led to lengthy back-and-forth discussions.
Google Glass eliminates that step by recording video of what the tester sees while completing the 10 to 25 inspections, which vary in amount depending on the make and model of the vehicle. Every two minutes, video capturing the field of vision seen by the quality assurance tester uploads to a temporary digital location. Video showing stubborn problems can transfer to BMW Group plant servers for engineers to review.
“We expect to speed up the entire testing cycle and increase the accuracy of the results,” Schulte said.
This pilot project started roughly a year ago and continues as part of BMW’s version of the German concept called Industry 4.0., aimed in integrating more high-tech computerization to manufacturing.
For Google, BMW’s industrial use of the glasses may help provide a clearer future for the product.
Currently, there is a limited consumer market for the high-end optical technology. News accounts in recent weeks have reported Google employees key to developing Glass no longer work on the product. Industrial use of the augmented reality devices could provide a jolt to reinvigorate future software capabilities.
However, Glass use in the local advanced manufacturing setting still has a few hiccups, such as lengthy video recording draining the battery charge and preferred adjustments on a few apps used.
For now, Schulte sees a future for Google Glass within BMW; however, even the advanced eyewear can’t determine what’s beyond that. He said discussions have included using Glass at other sites, but nothing concrete has emerged.
“This is still a pilot project,” Schulte said. “There are still a couple of issues with Google Glass itself that we think will be ironed out in a few months.”