Shell Launches Augmented Reality Remote Assistance Device
Shell Pioneers AR Remote Assistance for the Oil and Gas Industry
Shell has selected a RealWear augmented reality hands-free wearable hat for its new AR remote assistance for field operators. The new augmented reality technology will connect the onsite Shell workers with the operations experts based in Shell’s office. The oil company chose RealWear’s hands-free hard hat to help it in instituting the digital transformation of its remote assistance efforts.
The new remote assistance deployment will see Shell connecting its frontline field workers with its back office expertise by using an AR hard hat. This will be a hands-free augmented reality wearable that is equipped with a built-in computer with micro-display, a camera and which is voice controlled. The AR setup will enable Shell’s workers working remotely in the field to send back videos and pictures back to the office in real-time while also receiving over-the-shoulder assistance remotely from the operations experts in the backoffice when carrying out tasks such as repairs or working on sensitive equipment from anywhere in the world.
Shell has partnered with Honeywell for the deployment of the RealWear AR helmets. These are the first wearable devices to be certified for use in hazardous environments that are prone to risks such as explosive gases. Shell has already tested the hands-free augmented reality devices and plans to deploy them in 24 operational sites globally.
The RealWear device is an industrial hands-free AR-powered knowledge transfer platform that is designed for frontline workers. Shell selected the head-mounted RealWear HMT-1Z1 platform as the vehicle for digitally transforming remote assistance tasks in its operations. Shell will deploy 40 AR remote assistance hats via Honeywell across 24 operational sites in 12 countries including China, US, Russia, Austria, Germany and India among others.
The voice-controlled RealWear-1Z1 has a micro-display which will indicate images to users as if they are looking at a 7-inch screen. The head-mounted device also allows field workers operating in restricted ATEX Zone 1 C1/D1 to work with the wearable device in high-risk environments, thereby helping minimize risks to both health and safety hazards.
With remote assistance deployment, Shell’s field workers will be able to get real-time assistance through a video call which will enable an expert based in the back office to see the working environment through the eyes of the onsite worker and provide over-the-shoulder assistance on equipment repair and troubleshooting. Experts will also be able to remotely interact with the field staff’s screen that will be visualized on their HMD.
Remote assistance is one of the most practical and sensible deployments of AR in high-risk environments in heavy industries such as mining, oil extraction, civil engineering works and construction. The use of voice command and augmented reality is expected to become more common for field staff in the oil and gas industry and other sectors where remote assistance is a common feature of the day-to-day operations. Through its Shell Digital Realities center of excellence, the oil and gas giant is currently working on adopting augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality for its global business operations.
In the past few years, Shell has been heavily investing in these immersive technologies and trying to adapt them to its operational and training environments via its Digital Realities group. The latest deployment is a testament to Shell’s success so far in leveraging and deploying these tools for its operations.
Last year, the company announced its partnership with EON Reality in developing a new global immersive training program called the AVR Platform which could be easily scaled across multiple industrial facilities, joining the trend of global companies that are now embracing virtual reality training.
The development of an immersive training platform will enable the oil giant to deploy “digital twins” in recreating any training environment and placing it inside a module that can be delivered on-demand and in multiple languages.
The rapid deployment of the comprehensive AVR Platform virtual training platform streamlines and breaks down the barriers faced by a multinational corporation such as Shell in rapidly training its workforce to meet the requirements of the exacting operational environments that they usually work in. It can be rapidly deployed across the globe and reduces the manpower required to carry out such large scale training operations.
The kind of operational training carried out by Shell across its global operations also lends itself easily to virtual reality rendering. The oil and gas giant is currently on an ambitious digital transformation trajectory that is heavily anchored on augmented reality and virtual reality, technologies that Shell sees as key link to its ambitious digital transformation, helping it visualize both data and operational environments and making these environments tangible to its operational staff.
The global market for augmented reality and virtual reality is projected to hit $20.4 billion in 2019 and $192.7 billion by 2022 according analysis by Statista, the German statistics and consumer survey portal. International law firm Perkins Coie which also advises and represents market leaders in AR, VR and MR recently released a 2019 survey report which shows that startup investors are currently quite bullish about the prospects of the extended reality technologies. According to the report, 90% of startup investors now believe that these immersive technologies will become as ubiquitous as mobile devices by 2025. These startup investors also rank manufacturing and the industrial uses similar to those to which Shell has deployed its AR remote assistance hardware as the areas that will be the fourth most relevant for immersive technologies to sprout and take off, after gaming, healthcare and medical applications, and education.
Experts at Accenture Labs also expect extended reality technologies to be critical to future enterprises. Augmented reality applications such as Shell’s hands-free wearable hat are at the frontier of innovation in extended reality applications and serve as the spear-tip of what is expected to be an avalanche of mass adoption and deployments across all industries in the not so distant future.
According to an Accenture Labs report, immersive learning is already providing plenty of benefits to industries that have high-risk working environments such as construction, manufacturing, mining and energy among others.