Glassholes in the Workplace

Smart glasses may not have won over the hearts of consumers, but they may have promise in pharma manufacturing

By Karen Langhauser, Digital Content Manager

When Google unveiled Google Glass to the world in 2012, selling prototypes to qualified candidates the following year, and finally to the general public in May 2014, they probably aspired to achieve a lot of things, but I'm guessing coining the term "glassholes" was not on their list.

As the potential intrusion of privacy overshadowed the allure of new technology, people — and legislators — started hating on Google Glass, banning the "surveillance devices" from restaurants, theaters, casinos and behind the wheel. As purveyors of privacy clashed with technophiles, the term glassholes was born.

But smart glasses may have found a home in manufacturing, and new technology is promising to bring augmented reality into the biopharma plant specifically.

Epson — best known for their printers — took a different, more targeted approach to smart glasses with its Moverio product. While bulkier and less trendy than Google Glass, Moverio glasses are designed with manufacturing environments in mind. The Moverio glasses create an "augmented workplace," giving workers the ability to view their real-world environment while augmenting it with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video and graphics, all of which can be used in an instructional capacity on the plant floor.

While at Interphex last month, our Pharmaceutical Manufacturing editors stopped by the Apprentice Field Suite booth for an up-close look at how smart glasses (in this case both Epson Moverio or Google Glass) can empower biopharmaceutical-manufacturing operators and engineers. NJ-based startup AFS offers a trio of apps designed exclusively for biopharma workflow and troubleshooting.

The TANDEM app creates a collaborative telepresence, where a remote engineer can see the operator's field of vision in real-time, and assist in troubleshooting without actually being on the plant floor. The MANUALS app integrates with a Myo Armband to provide hands-free access to the latest SOP, batch record or energy control plan workflows, which can be either a fully animated step-by-step AR overlay, or simply a list of text-based procedures — in short, a virtual instruction manual. Finally, the GAUGE app uses computer vision to alert operators that bioreactors are in use, as well as automatically reads and saves analog gauge values, eliminating the need for paper records.

When you are working in an industry where a single batch fail can mean million-dollar losses, increasing efficiency and eliminating human error wherever possible becomes crucial. The (augmented) reality is, you may have to work with a few glassholes if you want to get results.

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