Smart AR helmet for the 21st century worker

Smart AR helmet for the 21st century worker

Technology News |
At the Paris edition of IoT world, a futuristic helmet was on exhibit at the Intel booth, laden with outward-facing optical sensors. The shiny see-through visor hinted at augmented reality (AR), although the wearer, DAQRI's Territory Manager Kevin Coleman seemed to be looking around as if immersed in a virtual reality setup.
By Rich Pell

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Coleman was sporting the DAQRI smart helmet developer edition, an augmented reality solution specifically designed for industrial use cases, hence the whole integration into a hard hat, albeit a futuristic looking one. DAQRI is a US startup founded in 2010 by CEO Brian Mullins with a vision to promote and expand the use of AR beyond smartphones. In its early days, Los Angeles-based DAQRI was not a product company but mostly focused on application development.

“Brian wanted to unlock the usage model of AR in a way that could do much more than what was being done at the consumer level. His vision was to bring AR everywhere including the industry, hence the B2B products”, told us Fabrice Etienne, Marketing Director for the company. “Around 2012 and 2013, we started working on the smart helmet” he added.

The smart AR helmet packs an impressive list of sensors and electronics. A front-facing Intel RealSense Camera LR200 (480×360 resolution at 60fps) provides real-time depth information in the 0.4 to 4m range. This is complemented by a wide-angle AR tracking camera (640×480 running at 100fps behind a 166° diagonal fisheye lens) and an RGB 1080p HD camera running a 30fps for taking snapshots or sharing a live video-feed of what the wearer sees.

A FLIR thermal camera can also be switched on to read either relative or absolute temperatures, in the -20° to 120°C range. The infrared thermal vision can be switched on and off, as a transparent overlay (but not at the same time as the regular contextual AR function).

It allows workers to survey their environment at a glance, to take temperature measures for predictive maintenance (often parts heat up before they break or that could be a bad electrical connection that dissipates heat) or to identify high pressure leaks unseen by the naked eye but potentially dangerous to walk by.


From the inside, the wearer gets to scroll through menus and select icons or functionalities hands-free, thanks to a little pointer dot that can be directed on the transparent stereo display by simple head movements. The see-through display is powered by two LCoS optical displays with a 44° diagonal field of view and a resolution of 1366×768 pixels.

Movement-tracking sensors include a 6-axis IMU, a tri-axial gyroscope, a tri-axial accelerometer and a tri-axial magnetometer. A barometer/pressure Sensor and a temperature sensor complete the offering.

The sensory fusion and AR feed on the helmet visor are powered by an Intel Core m7-6Y75 processor dual-core running at up to 3.1GHz and an Intel HD Graphics 515 unit. The battery-powered helmet connects externally via BLE or WiFi (both integrated on Intel’s Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 module).

Last but not least, the helmet is equipped with speakers on both sides, as well as four beam-forming mics on each side for active noise cancellation, so the worker can discuss particular technical issues with remote experts even when the environment is noisy.

In a demo DAQRI is running, the wearer is looking at a wall with a complex pipe system, following a scenario where a worker is sent to a specific part of a factory to service the system.

Wherever the worker looks, the RealSense 3D camera reconstructs and recognizes the shape of the installation and matches it with the known 3D CAD rendering or blueprint of the factory.

“For maintenance on large outdoor machines or down mining holes where there would be no immediate connection, we can upload the CAD data and our app onto the 64GB solid state drive embedded in the helmet” explains Etienne.

In the demo, connected with the factory’s database, the helmet pulls in the data flow from the sensors and overlays the pressure and temperature data on the pipes and valves it has identified.

Then, the helmet helps pinpoint the issue and shows the wearer how to redirect the fluid to a different set of valves in order to service a failing filter. Operating the interface hands-free, the wearer can then search through the factory’s inventory and check if replacement parts are available in stock or order them directly.

Etienne wouldn’t reveal much about the company, except that it has had one investor since the beginning and 200 employees spread across its headquarters in Los Angeles and three European offices, in Ireland, the UK and Austria. On its website, DAQRI has about 40 job positions to fulfil, mostly of the engineering type, meaning it is hoping to grow quite fast.


Etienne describes the smart helmet developer edition (offered at $15,000) as the only truly industrial AR product available on the market today. “A lot of AR solutions are either very large or consumer-oriented and not powerful enough for industrial use cases” he says.

“Early on, we talked to several big companies to understand what would work for them. No cables for health and safety issues, an easy to wear and to use design, that does not require a lot of training, and all the functionalities of AR integrated in a hard hat”. “We have customers in Europe, the Middle East, America, big companies like Vinci in France, Mortenson Construction in the US, Siemens in Germany who want to use our technology as a competitive advantage”.

The helmet is available as a developer edition since the end of last year, and it is going through certification to double up as a safety hard hat. But isn’t it heavier than a regular hard hat?

“There is a difference in weight” admits Etienne, “but key for any helmet comfort is weight distribution. In fact, wearing it, it doesn’t feel heavier than a regular helmet” he says.

“With the Intel Core m7-6Y75 processor, the helmet has a lot of processing power, at least double that of other AR solutions on the market. What you can bring to the user is much faster and smoother AR”, said Etienne, talking about differentiation.

Citing a case study done for Mortenson where the company would install all the fittings in a hospital, “we mapped all their CAD work in the building, they could see exactly where all the installations would fit, as overlays over blank walls. The amount of data you need to process would crash any other AR glasses, or it would be refreshed too slowly and the view would be too scattered to be usable. With the smart helmet, you get a large field of view, wider than anything else on the market, with no obstruction which is important for safety.”

Etienne wouldn’t comment on a final product price, but the finalized AR helmet should be available in full production during 2017.

DAQRI – www.daqri.com

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