n‎ > ‎p‎ > ‎


4:27 pm ET
Sep 5, 2014


Augmented Reality Experts Unveil Hardhat 2.0

  • Article
  • Comments (1)
  • Augmented Reality

  • google glass

  • By
  • Don Clark
    • @donal888
    • Don.Clark@wsj.com
    • Biography
      • @donal888
      • Don.Clark@wsj.com
      • Biography
    Daqri says its Smart Helmet can aid workers in many industrial environments.

    Many companies keep prices low to attract the mass market. Others, like Daqri, opt to court a select audience willing to pay for special features.

    The Los Angeles-based startup is betting that industrial employers will spend substantial money on an unusual high-tech helmet designed to help blue-collar workers do their jobs.

    Daqri’s Smart Helmet looks like a space-age hard hat. It has a transparent visor and special lenses that serve as a heads-up display, along with an array of cameras and sensors that help users navigate and gather information about their environment.

    The company has been selling software that helps companies use augmented reality, the technique of superimposing information on real-world objects viewed on a display. In a typical application, a user points a smartphone’s camera at an image that has been set to act as a trigger, such as a newspaper advertisement or objects on a table. The phone’s screen then shows the object with digital information overlaid on top.

    After developing initial applications for markets such as media and consumer products, Daqri found sales shifting in the past couple of years to industrial customers, says Brian Mullins, the company’s founder and CEO.

    A key goal is to give workers visual instructions or cues to carry out tasks and alert them to hazards, Mullins says. One example might be a valve in a production plant that has reverse threading; augmented-reality could show workers a simulated arrow indicating which direction they should turn a handle.

    The helmet’s form factor offers a more convenient hands-free experience than the smartphones and tablets most commonly used for such applications, Mullins notes. Adding cameras to gather information about what workers do can be equally valuable, particularly in gathering data from various kinds of meters or documenting operations to make sure they’ve been carried out properly.

    Early warnings about safety problems or manufacturing issues can generate big savings in some industries, Mullin says, citing the extreme example of catching an assembly gaffe before a satellite is launched rather than afterwards.

    “Quality errors are killer in a space environment,” adds Andy Lowery, Daqri’s president.

    Lowery knows a bit about high-stakes operations, as a former nuclear specialist on U.S. Navy submarines and engineering director for Raytheon’s electronic warfare systems business. Mullins also has a Navy background, having worked on simulators that trained seamen to steer merchant ships.

    The Daqri helmet, which runs Android, requires substantial computing power. It uses two Qualcomm Snapdragon processor chips and can store data gathered by cameras and sensors on flash cartridges. In some cases, Mullins says, the technology may be combined  with smartwatches and augmented reality to help control settings on the helmet.

    Some of the use cases Daqri is targeting have been proposed for Google Glass, the high-tech eyeglasses the Internet giant is marketing for $1,500. But Mullins notes that Daqri has more room to pack in technology and less need to hold costs down.

    Lowery declined to name a price for the helmet before it ships in October. But he acknowledges it will run into thousands of dollars–not unlike a laptop computer with military specs for durability might be priced at several times the amount of a conventional one.

    “We are sparing no expense,” he says. “It’s a worker empowerer.”


    For the latest news and analysis, follow @wsjd

    Get breaking news and personal-tech reviews delivered right to your inbox.

    More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.


    Subpages (2): u y