SME Tech

AR device heads you in the right direction

With the Epson Moverio Pro BT-2000 Smart Headset, ST Logistics has seen a productivity increase of about 10 per cent. A pop-up alert appears on the headset when there is a new task to be done and then augmented reality arrows guide the user towards t
With the Epson Moverio Pro BT-2000 Smart Headset, ST Logistics has seen a productivity increase of about 10 per cent.ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM
With the Epson Moverio Pro BT-2000 Smart Headset, ST Logistics has seen a productivity increase of about 10 per cent. A pop-up alert appears on the headset when there is a new task to be done and then augmented reality arrows guide the user towards t
A pop-up alert appears on the headset when there is a new task to be done and then augmented reality arrows guide the user towards the item concerned.ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Epson headset provides fast and accurate way to locate goods in ST Logistics warehouse

At the ST Logistics warehouse in Buroh Crescent, you may spot workers whizzing around the 100,000 sq ft space in a reach truck on the way to pick up goods, while donning a futuristic-looking headset.

They are testing out an augmented reality (AR) notification and navigation system, using the Epson Moverio Pro BT-2000 Smart Headset.

The user will get a pop-up alert when there is a new task to be done - usually retrieving an item - and then augmented reality arrows guide the user towards the goods.

"When I first tried it on, I thought it was really cool," said logistics assistant Rizal Johari, 25.

He said that the AR system helped to reduce the number of wrong picks, as it pointed him towards the precise location of each item. "Also, the arrows tell you if you're heading in the correct direction," he said.

ST Logistics spent six months and a five-figure sum developing the system last year. The system has not been implemented, being in its proof-of-concept phase.

The traditional way of fulfilling an order is very manual. When an order comes in, workers collect a printed "pick list" from the office, and then set about finding the goods in the facility, which has 36 rows, each stacked four tiers high.

With the headset, they can be alerted to new tasks on the go, minimising the usual back-and-forth, and are less likely to get lost or make mistakes.

"We have seen a productivity increase of about 10 per cent," said Mr Max Ma, deputy manager at ST Logistics' strategy and technology office. "Workers don't have to walk back to the office to collect each pick list, and the headset also helps them navigate the environment."

The setup comprises a Google Tango tablet mounted to the front of each reach truck, which is wirelessly connected to the warehouse management system. The tablet has sensors and cameras to help it map and track its position in the environment. Tango is Google's augmented reality system.

The tablet is connected to Epson's industrial AR headset. Unlike consumer AR glasses such as the Epson Moverio BT-300, the Moverio Pro BT-2000 is dust-, water- and impact-resistant and has a head band so that the glasses can be flipped up when not in use.

Mr Ma said that while the AR system works well, it will be a while before ST Logistics adopts the headsets for everyday use, for one simple reason - comfort to the users.

"While the younger workers found the headset easy to get used to, the older workers could wear it only for a little while, before feeling giddy," he said.

"In future, if there is a headset that is more ergonomic and provides a better user experience, then we are likely to adopt that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'AR device heads you in the right direction'. Print Edition | Subscribe