- H-E-B Grocery Company recently tested out a pilot program to see how productivity was affected when employees wore augmented reality glasses, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.
- The Texas supermarket chain partnered with Vuzix Corporation, an East Coast smart glasses manufacturer, for this project. According to Vuzix, the glasses help reduce errors when utilized on a large scale.
- H-E-B warehouse workers were able to pick up packages and scan them just by looking at the label, as opposed to using a handheld device. Machine repair technicians were also able to fix problems on the fly with assistance from a remote teacher, or with visual cues projected on the machine.
If H-E-B can shave minutes off the average time it takes a repair technician to fix a machine, or seconds off how long it takes a factory worker to scan a package, it can add up. That kind of improved efficiency then translates into greater profits down the road.
While Google glass was something of a flop when it was released to the public in 2014, that didn't foretell the end of the road for augmented reality (AR) glasses. The Pokemon Go craze in recent years used that same AR technology to project characters in real life settings. Updated smart glasses do the same thing, but swap out adorable cartoons for useful tech information.
In this pilot project, Vuzix outfitted various employees with AR glasses, ranging from repair technicians to warehouse workers. They were also used in noisy areas to check the audio quality.
Neither H-E-B, nor Vuzix, released firm data on how the glasses affected efficiency. However, when workers assembling wind turbines at a GE Renewable Energy factory in Pensacola, FL tested similar glasses, the company reported a 36% improvement in productivity the very first time the technician used them.
Some may question if using smart glasses could eventually lead to cutbacks, as machines replace humans. An argument for the opposing point of view is that they can create opportunities for workers who may not have the time or money to get college degrees or job training needed for many available manufacturing jobs. AR glasses, when used efficiently, can bridge the knowledge gap to allow a worker to follow instructions projected in front of them. Essentially, they're the Cliffs Notes to becoming a skilled worker.
H-E-B may see the value in smart glasses and know that the investment today can pay off with increased efficiency for years to come.