In the summer of 2016, Microsoft made history by releasing HoloLens. This spatially aware device was the first of its kind. Capable of understanding the surrounding environment through an array of sensors, HoloLens projects holograms with such precision that they appear fixed in place, much like physical objects, so you can walk around and interact with them. The ability of HoloLens to show holographic projections that feel, look, and behave like real objects creates a whole new niche in the market: the mixed reality, where the physical world blends seamlessly with virtual ones.
HoloLens is more than a device; it is a sophisticated platform that developers can utilize to create new breeds of applications. Until HoloLens, many such ideas were science fiction, but HoloLens has let them spawn to life.
vGIS is an application that was born of the technology introduced by the HoloLens platform. vGIS uses the capabilities of mixed reality to create GIS-powered applications that can be applied in a variety of areas. The first of these industry-specific products was vGIS Utilities—a system that delivers accurate and stable in-the-field visualizations of utilities and infrastructure. vGIS lets you “see” buried pipes, lines, and cables in real time.
After deploying the vGIS application in real-world situations, the team behind vGIS discovered several shortcomings. Being a first-generation device, HoloLens is much like the original iPhone—a device positioned to revolutionize the world yet still raw and with a lot of room for improvement.
One such area is personal protective equipment (PPE). Most work sites mandate all personnel to have appropriate PPE. HoloLens is certified as protective eyewear. However, it was not possible to wear a hard hat while using HoloLens, and the hard hat is a “must.” Most job sites do not permit any personnel without hard hats, and a missing hard hat is often cause for termination.
Rather than wait for someone else to deliver a hard hat solution, the vGIS team developed its own device that has been in trials since the summer of 2017. By the time Microsoft announced that it was working on a similar device to be released in 2018, the vGIS solution had already tracked hundreds of hours of active field use.
The vGIS hard hat attachment adheres to the following philosophy:
- Reliable, durable, and sturdy
- Flexible enough to allow for adjustments (e.g., accommodating glasses and different head sizes)
- Non-intrusive (does not require any HoloLens disassembly and does not void the warranty)
- Should not modify the hard hat in any way that would disqualify the hard hat as PPE
The vGIS team joined forces with Birdstone Innovations Inc. (Toronto, ON) to design such a solution. Version 1 of the attachment is detailed below.
All parts can be 3D printed or sculpted using molds.
The only modification that is required for HoloLens is the removal of two screws that affix the support band to the HoloLens device.
Then, the same screws and hinges that are used to secure the original support band are employed to connect the adapters.
Two inserts are placed in the standard hard hat slots.
And two large bolts are used to secure HoloLens in place.
Now, the testing part. No animals were harmed in designing the product.
The HoloLens adapter works splendidly. The installation process takes under two minutes, and no factory warranty is voided in the process. HoloLens can be reverted to its original state by simply removing two screws and replacing the attachments with the original supporting band.
The adapter relies on the hard hat’s supporting structure, which distributes HoloLens weight much more evenly across the user’s head. This makes using HoloLens over a longer period a much easier exercise than with the stock supporting band.
Version 1 of the attachment has undergone more than 200 hours of field testing. The resulting Version 2 of the attachment has a much slimmer and more elegant profile while providing greater flexibility. Pre-production Version 3 is in the works.
If you have any questions about the attachment, please contact the vGIS team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for our next add-on announcement; when it comes to fighting the bright light that renders your HoloLens unusable outdoors, the vGIS team has the answer to that field problem as well.