November 23, 2021
BMW, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Ross & Baruzzini are the three companies featured in a recently published Forbes article on how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies will change how businesses operate.
Our Mobility Systems project, HoloRail, led by Megan Huff, PfMP, Vice President, Managing Principal, is a groundbreaking case study on how AR interfaces for train dispatchers can disrupt the future of railway. This Transportation Research Board-backed project examined the usefulness of AR technology as a train dispatcher’s user interface.
What is HoloRail?
Most train dispatchers use multimonitor 2D displays to keep trains and crews moving safely and efficiently across the railway network. However, the bulky equipment limits the layout of controls and ties dispatchers to one location.
HoloRail uses AR technology, which enhances the real world with computer-generated information, enables train dispatching in an interactive 3D environment. Virtual reality typically blocks users’ vision. But with AR, train dispatchers can still see and hear what’s going on around them. HoloRail lets dispatchers see informational panels above trains and get a more holistic view of track layouts thanks to the additional planes of movement the tech offers. HoloRail also enables dispatchers to use head and hand movements to manage track diagrams, alarms, train and station information, and so on.
Why are Tools Like HoloRail Important for Our Future?
The Forbes piece highlights how AR/VR tools can help connect people and processes as we move into the next normal. By imitating real experiences, AR/VR opens doors to new opportunities to bridge gaps that were previously too wide to navigate.
As the article reports, “It’s unlikely that things will return to the way they were before the pandemic, so leaders need to take note of what the future of work entails. Only by adopting new technologies and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible will businesses be able to secure competitive advantages.”
Though the initial HoloRail system is a proof of concept, Megan Huff believes that the widespread adoption of AR technology in the transportation sector is fast-approaching. “About 90% of the dispatchers who used our pilot could complete the test procedures without assistance only after a 10-minute training tutorial on using the equipment and software, and 80% said they felt they could use the platform to complete their job duties,” she says.
“The gesture interface was easier for dispatchers to learn and use than anticipated. AR will change how the control room functions and the everyday work experience for all aspects of the transportation industry.”
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