AI+AR Mixed Reality Innovates Maritime Shipping
Japan’s JRCS, a company mainly involved with maritime logistics and the production and sale of electronic equipment for the shipping industry, in collaboration with Microsoft Japan has created the JRCS Digital Innovation Lab. This forward-looking initiative aims to demonstrate possible uses for augmented reality in the future and explore ways AR (augmented reality) and AI (artificial intelligence) might enhance the efficiency of shipping operations worldwide.
JRCS demonstrates how Microsoft’s HoloLens could be used in the near future to pilot autonomous ships. The concept video shows a group of ‘captains’, all outfitted with the HoloLens, piloting ships remotely from a virtual reality style tabletop.
Dressed in futuristic uniforms reminiscent of old ‘sci-fi’ movies, the three captains are shown at a “virtual command center” using the HoloLens to do everything from checking weather conditions, to navigating the course of several autonomous ships at the same time, along with managing the internal systems of these ships with simple hand gestures.
The JRCS narrator explains the plan to help solve anticipated maritime crew shortages and improve the quality of transportation by introducing the onshore virtual command center.
The suggestion is that digital captains will interface with multiple autonomous vessels on a 3D map, communicating with each other, along with remote captains viewed through the HoloLens as avatars; these digital captains can see information such as routing and weather data along with topographical information, ensuring the safety, accuracy, and efficiency of the vessels. By interacting with a vessel’s automatic identification system, a captain can communicate with artificial intelligence to confirm the fuel efficiency is optimal and avoid any stoppages on the route.
Up until a few years ago, this technology had only been imagined, but with the advent of companies such as Uber, Tesla, Samsung, Huawei, Volkswagen, Baidu, Volvo and Apple massively investing in autonomous technologies, it now seems feasible and realistic that similarly automated (albeit, human-assisted) vehicles will begin to navigate the seas.
Nevertheless it will be a while before this ‘HoloLens-meets-drones ships’ vision of the future will come to fruition and JRCS says it could be 2030 before the virtual command center service is operational. By then, it’s likely that driverless taxis, AI and AR will be ‘passe’ and as common as smartphones and digital assistants.