Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, believes that it will have an impact that could rival the smartphone. The rise of Augmented Reality (AR) represents a completely new way to engage with the world around us, and has the potential to unlock amazing benefits for the maritime industry.
AR apply audio, video, graphics, GPS and other data, and integrates it all into the user's environment. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), which immerse users in new and exciting digital worlds, AR overlays digital information on top of the real world – in real time. The result is an enhanced perception of reality.
The possibilities of this technology are almost endless. Researchers and engineers all over the world are working on pulling graphics and data out of screens, and finding ways to integrate them into the real world. For the maritime industry, AR has the potential to help navigators increase both efficiency and safety.
Picture yourself standing on the bridge. With AR-enhanced binoculars, or headsets (which could eventually look like a normal pair of glasses), navigators will be able to place information from back-of-bridge planning stations, the ECDIS and other information systems directly in their field of vision. Examples of such information could include speed, tidal information, buoyage, weather data, guides to major port entry and fuel usage. In situations where the weather is foggy, safety would be maintained by giving navigators a clear view, with information that keeps them on track with sailing route, marine traffic, distance to land, depth, navigational hazards etc. It will be almost like having a navigator with Superman’s X-ray vision!
NAVTOR believes AR could become a powerful tool for enhancing navigators’ situational awareness. The company has therefore joined the Norwegian project Maritime Augmented Reality (M-AR) as a project partner. Together with leading industry players in the Norwegian maritime industry, the project will explore the numerous potential benefits AR could unlock for e-Navigation.
If the potential benefits become an actual reality, time spent on glancing from one stationary display to another could be eliminated. Instead, all information could be made available in the navigator’s line of sight. This would enable the bridge officers able to move around on the bridge, and make the process of planning, organizing and monitoring a voyage easier, safer and more efficient.
The concept of autonomous ships is a hot topic nowadays. However, one cannot deny the fact that until the day comes when ships may be able to sail themselves, the most important technology on board will always be a skilled human navigator. Augmented Reality could therefore play a significant role because it enhances the already existing technology that is the human brain – thus bridging the gap between the digital instruments and the real world.