You’d have to be completely disconnected to have missed the recent buzz about Google Glass, the most widely discussed iteration of the emerging technology known as “wearable technology.” But you’d have to be a little bit clairvoyant to know why and how it’s so important. One Indiana machine shop is providing some practical perspective on that vision.

Google Glass is a combination computer and display, camera, touchpad, microphone, email, and Internet connection, all consolidated into an eyeglass frame –- with the aim of creating a “ubiquitous computer” that users can take (i.e., “wear”) anywhere, giving them all the information and functionality available in a tablet or smartphone, in a hands-free and accessible form.

If you wonder how that combination finds a role in machining operations, think of MTConnect, the manufacturing technology industry-standard for exchanging data between shop floor equipment and software applications. Its use for machine monitoring and data analysis has been growing steadily since 2008.

The current advancement is being developed at Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO), where the implications of Google Glass are coming into view. The Plymouth, Ind., manufacturer of open gearing and precision-machined parts for heavy-duty industries including mining, off-highway vehicles, marine, and aviation, has devised a package it calls MTConnect + Google Glass, deploying the wearable application to monitor machining operations.

ITAMCO has released MTConnect + Google Glass, as a free Glassware application.

By using Google Glass together with MTConnect, ITAMCO operators will have a view into manufacturing processes that so far has been “unattainable,” according to the shop. The users will be freed from laptops and hand-held devices, able to traverse the shop floor to collect and report machine data supplied by MTConnect, and to access the Web for more information.

ITAMCO identified a specific advantage of MTConnect + Google Glass: the combination will maximize the potentialities of “augmented reality.” AR generates composite views of the machining operation for the operators/wearers, combining the real situation with a virtual image generated by the computer, with additional information too, e.g., sound, video, graphics, GPS data, or manufacturing data from MTConnect.

Google Glass extends MTConnect's view into machines, providing intuitive and user-friendly access to manufacturing data, the machine shop/app developer contended.