EPRI Report on Safety Aspects of Using Augmented Reality Technologies

Today AREA member EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) released a report concluding a two year groundbreaking research project on safety aspects of using augmented reality technologies.  This has been posted at www.epri.com.

This report is made available in the public domain.

Program on Technology Innovation: Assessment of Safety Aspects of Using Augmented Reality Technologies – Field Tests with Electric Utility Power Plant Operators and Manhole Workers. EPRI, Palo Alto, CA: 2019. 3002016558.


The project began in September 2017 and is now concluded.

This recently completed project was funded by the EPRI’s Technology Innovation program (first two years) and in this final year it was supported by members of Program 62-Occupational Health and Safety.  In addition, this project received in-kind support of the augmented reality equipment by EPRI’s Program 161 – Information & Communication Technology – John Simmins of Alfred University and Norm McCullough.

Some of the key findings of this report included:

  • A system of hardware, software, and experimental protocol was developed to measure the electromyography (EMG) activity of major neck and shoulder muscles and eye blink rate while two
  • groups of utility workers—power plant operators and manhole workers—used the HoloLens and HMT-1 to conduct common tasks.  In addition, we assessed situational awareness.
  • The extra weight of the HoloLens and HMT-1 did not, in general, increase the EMG activity of the neck and upper shoulder muscles.
  • The HoloLens decreased blink rate 6 to 11 blinks per minute for the manhole workers when they performed two of the tasks: manhole inspection and taping a splice. A decrease in blink rate is an
  • indicator of eye strain, which includes dry-eye syndrome.
  • The power plant operators rated the HMT-1 easier to use and more comfortable than the HoloLens.  The manhole workers rated the HMT-1 more comfortable than the HoloLens.
  • The perceived ratings of situational awareness—that is, the ability to detect objects around the worker and conduct work safely—did not vary significantly between the two AR devices.

An important caveat with these findings is that the tasks were of rather short duration.  As a first of its kind, we have drawn some lessons learned about potential new work.  We recommend that that future studies should be done addressing longer tasks.  Also, AR technologies are advancing and future studies should reflect those advances.  For example, the HoloLens used in this project was 1st gen.

EPRI previously published a literature review on this topic, which was the most downloaded report in 2018 from EPRI Program 62-Occupational Health and Safety.  This report is still available at www.epri.com and remains in the public domain.

The title of the report is: Program on Technology Innovation: Augmented Reality—Literature Review of Human Factors Issues in the Electric Power Industry. EPRI, Palo Alto, CA: 2018. 3002012532.

The AREA team and on behalf of all our members would like to congratulate all those involved in the project and for making this available in the public domain.

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