Shaping Smarter Cities: Engineers Are Attaching to Augmented Reality

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Engineers are realists. They take dreams and make them reality. A number #2 pencil, a calculator, or simply an Internet connection is all we need to get the process started.

Engineers also want to improve things, make things work better, run more efficiently, and save time or energy. They do this by using our brain power to create something greater than what already exists. They want to change reality and make it better; in other words, They want to augment reality.

Well, there is a new technology that is helping transform a previous reality into a new reality. Augmented Reality (AR) projects computer-generated images and superimposes them into the user’s Field Of View (FOV), altering the real world to provide an enhanced visual sensory interface.

Over the last decade, the ubiquitous mobile phone has become part of most people’s everyday life. Within the past several years, a primary focus in selling mobile phones has been related to the visual display. “How can users best visually experience the media they consume?” is a question that all manufacturers are constantly addressing as they work to stay abreast of marketplace demands.

Mobile electronics are generally held in the palm of the hand, requiring one to shift their eyes from reality to the portable device in order absorb new information. We are all familiar with the common problem of people driving without paying proper attention to the roadway because they are looking down and focused on their phone’s display.

AR technology might soon change these realities by placing the display directly in front of our eyes through a headset or specialized set of glasses. Instead of visual devices being connected to us by one holding in their hand, in the future it may be residing directly upon our heads.

Think this is merely fantasy or the stuff of science fiction? At present, many companies are working on these issues including DAQRI. DAQRI is an Augmented Reality company that has produced a wearable Smart Helmet designed for augmenting industrial applications.

What if it were possible to transform industries to make them safer and more efficient by making information more transparently visible and accessible for the workers involved in the production processes? AR headsets allow users to employ mobile electronic computer information with a quick, direct visual connection between someone’s vision and their mind. This frees the hands and body so that additional tasks can be worked on simultaneously—augmenting productivity and heightening awareness.

AR may be just the tool to seamlessly connect workers to their environments and provide new, insightfully relevant information to improve, adjust, and monitor various industrial conditions. Adding another layer of contextual information to improve interaction provides a potential new level of improvement to processes such as training or assembling complicated and/or dangerous components into full systems.

The future may one day require people to connect with AR. In order to do this, they require electronic solutions that keep them detached from external physical connections, while ensuring all internal electronic connections of the AR device are reliable, robust, and secure.

One company who is making this happen is Molex. As a leading provider of electronic components and solutions, Molex is putting innovation to work solving complex customer challenges, including AR. Molex solutions allow engineers the freedom to be detached from physical constraints, while allowing their electronic designs to stay attached, ensuring that every electrical connection is simply solved.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is an industry standard method for engineers to connect, communicate, and power computers with mobile electronics like AR headsets. Molex leads in this area by providing the latest Type-C Solutions that have greater current capacity than previous generations, thereby significantly reducing charging times (Figure 1). USB Type-C Solutions are rigorous, standing up to the most severe mating attempts.

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The Molex Nano-Pitch I/O Interconnect System benefits new high-performance applications by delivering robust, small form factor, high-speed and multi-protocol interconnects ideal for internal solutions (Figure 2). Providing four/eight transmit and receive lanes plus control/management, its x4/x8 connectors are 42/80 circuit, 0.50mm pitch, metal shell SMT/DIP products. They are available in both right angle and vertical versions and include mating cable products that offer positive active or passive detent latches for both right angle and straight-out cable exit styles. The Nano-Pitch I/O Interconnect System helps maximize next-gen Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe), Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and Solid State Drive (SSD) benefits while minimizing space utilization and cost to deliver the most value to the end user. If you’re like me, you are starting to see the connection.

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If you are an engineer, you cannot afford to ignore reality. However, the future is coming. With the future will come augmented reality and the ability to have computer information displayed hands-free directly before our eyes. With this technology, we will be able to make improvements in the safety and efficiency of the industries that drive the production of our designs. Attach onto the future of augmented reality and ensure that all your designs stay securely connected—and keep dreaming of new realities.

Written by Paul Golata:

Paul Golata joined Mouser Electronics in 2011. As a Senior Technical Content Specialist, Mr. Golata is accountable for contributing to the success in driving the strategic leadership, tactical execution, and overall product line and marketing direction for advanced technology related products. He provides design engineers with the newest and latest information delivered through the creation of unique and valuable technical content that facilitates and enhances Mouser Electronics as the preferred distributor of choice. Prior to Mouser Electronics, he served in various manufacturing, marketing, and sales related roles for Hughes Aircraft Company, Melles Griot, Piper Jaffray, Balzers Optics, JDSU, and Arrow Electronics. Paul holds a BSEET from DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL; an MBA from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA; and a MDiv with BL and PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

First appeared in Mouser Electronics’ “Bench Talk for Design Engineers” site.