More secure and effective logistics

Smart logistics solutions

Toyota Material Handling Europe are testing augmented reality to create an effective working environment, using Epson's Moverio BT-200 smart glasses

More information means better safety

Boris Ahnberg works as Core Team Developer at Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE) in Mjölby. The plant develops and manufactures almost 60,000 forklift trucks each year, which are sold to stores and businesses with large warehouse premises.

Logistics is a core area, in which the company is continually working to develop and improve for their own forklift drivers and for customers, by implementing new technology.

"Despite the fact that traffic rules are imposed in various warehouses, most drivers rely on eye contact and a general understanding of the environment," says Ahlberg. "Naturally, incidents do not need to occur – however, the more informed drivers are of their surroundings, the more effectively and safely they are able to work."

Real time information without distraction

Comprehensive information and data is available to drivers to keep them continually informed about what is going on around them. Therefore it has become an important question for TMHE - how can this information be communicated to drivers, without distracting them from their work?

Boris became aware of Moverio BT-200 smart glasses when he discovered the collaboration between the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Epson. The cooperation was based on engineering students' research into the possibilities of augmented reality (AR) and the development of applications for Moverio BT-200. Boris then contacted Epson and Linköping University to develop a relationship.

The main objective at an organisational level was to measure and see how well AR technology functions at the moment and to carry out an assessment for the future. Engineering students Mikael Pettersson and Martin Stengård took on the assignment and with their Masters thesis, "TruckAR – The Impact of Augmented Reality Support in Warehouse Trucks", developed an AR environment for Moverio BT-200 for TMHE in just 20 weeks.

Added value for drivers

During the first part of the thesis work, Mikael and Martin studied how an AR solution in the smart glasses would be able to add value for forklift drivers in various situations. They then developed a model, first at a conceptual level then more finely calibrated, with input from the drivers who were involved in developing the application.

The work resulted in the conceptual application TruckAR, an application where drivers take in and read information with the help of the smart glasses, without losing focus on what is going on in front of them. Several functions were implemented, among them "Tooltip", which helps the driver to identify a pallet and its contents and where it is to be sent, by looking at it. Another function is "X-Ray", which alerts drivers to a potential traffic situation outside of their field of vision.

A positive future

Boris and the forklift drivers who tested the concept anticipate a positive future for AR technology and were very pleased with the evaluation they received from Mikael and Martin.

"It has been an exciting opportunity for us and we look forward with great interest to following the technical development in this area, in order to continually evaluate how we can implement this in our company," concludes Ahnberg.