Like a version of Google Glass for business, a new Motorola headset-mounted, wearable computer aimed at making it easier for remote field workers to do their jobs in precarious locations will be offered for sale in the first half of 2013, bringing a true hands-free computing option to enterprise workers.
The new HC1 headset mobile computer, which allows workers to give simple voice commands or use head movements to operate the computer to complete their tasks, was unveiled Oct. 22 by Motorola Solutions.
The ruggedized devices also allow optional video streaming so that workers in dangerous situations, such as an electrical worker up on a power transmission pole, can broadcast hands-free images and video of a broken component without having to let go of the tower and put his or her life in jeopardy, according to the company. Workers will also be able to use the HC1 to view business-critical documents and schematics in difficult working conditions where traditional laptop computers would not be usable.
While the HC1 is a wearable computer that will allow its users to perform a wide variety of tasks hands-free, it differs from Google Glass—Google’s own headset-mounted computer—in that it is aimed squarely at enterprise users and isn’t being offered as a device for consumers, said Nicole Tricoukes, business innovation manager for Motorola Solutions.
“We focus on government, defense, telecommunications and public safety markets,” said Tricoukes. “Plus, the technology is different for business users, to solve complicated problems. It is durable and features high resolution and can be used by workers to map schematics or view documents. It offers a Windows-type of environment, just like looking at a laptop screen.”
These kinds of workers in the past have typically used ruggedized laptops to do their work, but that sometimes isn’t possible, said Tricoukes. “It’s very difficult to bring that kind of heavy equipment, a ruggedized laptop, up on a scaffold. And outside, their screens can be hard to see.”
Those problems are not found in the HC1, she said, because its high-quality optics and micro-display capabilities give users a clear view of a 15-inch laptop screen without having to carry it with them.
The optional video component means that a special camera can be snapped in place to permit remote experts to see what workers are doing and offer their assistance in making repairs or troubleshooting, said Tricoukes.
“You can have an expert over your shoulder who doesn’t have to be there,” said Tricoukes. “You can let them take a look. You can snap a photo, annotate it and send an image” to others.
Those kinds of features are garnering interest in the devices in the health care field, particularly in next-generation trauma care, she said. “The ability to play a video of an incident like an aorta trauma, and being able to review that before surgery, is something that hospitals and trauma training centers are interested in.”
Motorola Solutions began envisioning the product several years ago, then built a series of prototypes and worked with industry representatives to see what worked best and what they needed in such a device, she said.
The HC1 uses standard Bluetooth and WiFi to allow the device to connect with any smartphone, laptop, tablet or hotspot to send data back and forth.
The devices are expected to be offered for sale in the first half of 2013 starting at $4,000 to $5,000 each, before discounts, said Tricoukes.
Motorola Solutions originally was connected to Motorola Mobility, which was purchased this past May by Google. Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility were split up several years ago.
This past July, Google’s own eyewear mounted wearable computer project, Google Glass, created a buzz in the IT world with its futuristic and cool features. Google Glass test versions today include an Android-powered display, a tiny Webcam, a GPS locator and Internet connection node built into one side of a pair of glasses. The glasses use a side-mounted touch-pad that allows users to control its various functions and they are able to display a wide range of views for their users.