Augmented Virtually Becomes Reality Soon Anyday


I don’t like shaming my children, so I won’t say which one likes to watch “The Bachelor,” “Undercover Boss” and any number of cooking reality shows. We have only one television-and yes I’m re-thinking the wisdom of that-so in the interest of compromise I have tried to watch several episodes of these shows. Quality time, right?

Wrong. I was awestruck at my dumbfoundedness. “Do you really think this is reality?” I would ask her after watching an attractive, yet cringe-worthy segment of “The Bachelor.” Her: Shrug. Me again: “That’s as scripted as CSI or anything, just not as good. They are coaching these people between segments. They are augmenting reality.”

A few weeks ago, I got to see what augmented reality really is and could be. Opening the second day of Accenture’s International Utilities and Energy Conference in Miami, Ben Holfeld stepped up on the stage with a smart helmet and set off a whirling, flying smart camera just to wake us all up. Moments later, Holfeld, who is Accenture’s technology delivery architect, connected us through a live feed with his firm’s new Innovation Centers in Sophia Antipolis, France and Houston.

Our guides there showed off some of the capabilities in virtual reality. In France, an Accenture researcher put on her smart helmet and two joysticks acting as hands to give us a glimpse into how virtual reality can go 3-D, working on a pretend, but realistically rendered piece of equipment. This type of simulation can avoid dangers typical of large equipment during the early training stages.

In Houston, we saw the potential link between energy companies and 3-D printing capabilities. Many producers work in remote areas where the supply chain is stretched a little thin. The scanning potential would allow them to recreate a piece of equipment nearby in a relatively short period of time and for only a margin of the previous cost.

These potential field options have connections to the electric grid, too. Analytic software tools like predictive maintenance and sensoring surely are changing how the sector captures efficiencies. These are not just toys; they are tools, too.

“I feel like we’re at an incredible time in history,” Jay Shetty, a popular video blogger and former monk, said in Miami.

Others noted this, too. We have technologies evolving at a breakneck pace and an up-and-coming generation-the oft-misunderstood millennials-which gets it. They just need a little patience, training and encouragement along the way.

This issue of POWERGRID International offers glimpses into this brave new world, as well as simply working out the problem in the here and now. Geospatial, customer engagement, energy efficiency and workforce development for the future are some of the industry questions getting some answers in this month’s issue.

The future is now and it’s a little daunting. But it’s not nearly as scary as some reality TV shows.

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