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Dr. Brian Laughlin with Boeing
7th April 2023 • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie
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On this week's Industrial Talk we're onsite at IoT Solutions World Congress and talking to Brian Laughlin, Ph.D, Technical Fellow, Advanced Visualization at Boeing about "Applying Augmented Reality to solve today's manufacturing challenges".  Learn about the Augmented Reality along with Dr. Laughlin's unique insight into the manufacturing future of AR on this Industrial Talk interview! Finally, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2023. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!


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Welcome to the Industrial Talk podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go


IoT solutions World Congress:


right. Right. Yeah. Well, maybe it'll be


Oh, what the teacher said X XR. See, I don't know what that is. You do. All right. You have to get conference. By the way,


I got in yesterday, jetlag like crazy bit to Barcelona is amazing. I haven't had a chance to matter. So I'm excited as


always sort of fly and you do day one, and you're like, Okay, gotta get that sorted. Get that engine sort of rolling a little bit before you start venturing into well, you know, where? Yeah. So with that, give us a little background, who you are. Why you're incredible professional. See how I did that? Well,


thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah.


Good. Tell us background.


So Dr. Brian Lawson. I'm a tech fellow for the Boeing Company.


He says he doesn't have a card. Because I didn't know he was a doctor. No, no, now that I know he's a doctor. Continue. Doctor.


Oh, 30 years of billing coming up this year, my 35th anniversary. I started when I was six. So I'm actually very young. I gotta hit. Continue. It's it's turning gray. So


stand in line. Like, oh, my gosh, go ahead.


So yeah, I've done a lot of different things with Boeing start out as a mechanic on the factory floor, and work my way through a lot of different jobs. And in the in the factory, material planner, capacity planner, tool coordinator, systems engineer. I've done a lot of things. PhD is in human factor psychology, specializing in advanced visualization. So doing a lot of work, but most recently with XR extended reality, which includes a seat, augmented


Milani, guys, come on. So I'm writing down human factor, because I have that as a point that I want to talk about. But then then you have extended reality, I'm still trying to get you've got augmented, right? You got virtual right, then you got extended now.


So extended is kind of an umbrella term that subsumes both augmented and virtual. And you also you'll hear about mixed reality. So there's subtle.


Get the lexicon together. Go ahead. Go ahead. Tell us a little bit about that.


So the real power of it is, you know, we're largely visual animals. And so being able to take things that we're trying to understand we're construction and things like that, for mechanics, in the factory, for example. And being able to make those visual, crosses a lot of problems off the list. It's a much richer way to communicate. And so instead of trying to tell you in very terse text and kind of a volatize fashion, if I can rather show you exactly what it would like to have done, it tends to make the process much easier and less hard on the mechanics in terms of have to imagine all this stuff, do all the gymnastics in their head to figure out what it is I'm asking them to do. So we find some pretty amazing benefits from the use of extended reality. In


fact, how does it How does it differ from augmented where we're, I get it, I see it. I would. Don't Don't slap in front of me a big ol long list of instructions, all written. Right? And whatever, type whatever. Yeah, if you can show it to me, that'd be great. Tell us the difference. I mean, just the subtle difference.


Sure. So there's actually a spectrum of of realities are kind of augmentation by the it's called the Milgram spectrum and On basically, augmented virtuality are pretty much on opposite ends of that spectrum, with virtual reality is completely immersive. So I basically want to replace your version of the world with mine. And I want you very much to believe in this, this world that I'm substituting it with, and I want you to interact with it in the same way that you would in the real world. With augmented reality, I don't want to do that at all, I actually want to have the real world persist, I just want to add digital assets to that world. And then I want you to be able to interact with those ideally as if they're, they're real. So they are dramatically different and almost diametrically opposed in terms of the kinds of use cases that you would use them for. Virtual reality is really helpful when you're wanting to do training, for example, like onboarding, we do quite a bit of work with that. With virtual reality, it's nice because I can, I can put people into potentially dangerous situations digitally, and have them practice doing skills or learning how to do some kind of a procedure, while mitigating pretty much all the risks associated with that. Yeah, it's really powerful. That's powerful. Yeah, it's pretty cool. And then with with augmented reality, I can, the nice thing about that is I can actually provide you with additional using digital assets, I can provide you with additional instructions or information about the task. So one of the really good use case examples that we've done, we did a project at Boeing is on that tanker tanker wiring solution. And we were having issues with mechanics trying to do pre route on the wiring inside the septic seven tankers. And the problem was, well, it's, it's a multitude. But if you think about the process of what it takes to actually wire an airplane, there's a lot of variables.


I, when you when you was talking about working from the floor on up, and you'd be a part of that whole, whole process, all I could think about, it's all the cables in the I don't know how you guys do it? Oh,


you know, I've been fortunate to be a mechanic earlier in my life. And I'm in awe of these folks. Like, uh, you know, people think, Oh, those, those mechanics, you know, that, that a lot of times they don't think about how art isn't, how deeply technical craftsmen level of work that these folks do, I have a very deep respect for these folks. And they worked really hard every day, to build the best planes in the industry. So really proud of them as well. And I understand what it takes because I did that firsthand. So I'm the ultimate user champion for these folks. But with the particular the tanker wiring, in particular, the problem that these folks have, you know, you think about the process, you know, once upon a time we had these things called phone books, we would try to look up a phone number, you know, and I don't know about you, but always seemed like the phone book with some of the remote from the phone. And so it open up the phone book, and I would go to and find the number. And then what what I do, I've read it out loud, start repeating it, right. And the reason why we do that is what you're using initially, as it was called your iconic memory, it's a few milliseconds, it's very fleeting. If you look at something and look away real quick, if you pay really close attention to see kind of this almost negative image, yes, that it fades very quickly. That's called your iconic memory. So we kind of know this intrinsically we. And so what we do is we crush that. And what you do is when you read it, you say it out loud, what your starting is called a phonetic loop. So you say it out loud, you hear it, you say it out loud. And if you continue to repeat it before that the amount of time it takes to decay, which is about roughly six seconds, right? Then you can maintain that in your what's called your working memory. However, if your kid comes up and says, Hey, Dad, and it exceeds that timeframe, now what I have to go look it up again, because it's decayed. I've lost that. Right? So if you think about something as simple as remembering a seven digit phone number, for example. That's hard enough. But the folks that are wearing these airplanes, they have to think about the tools that they're going to use that to think about the location of the plane. They're looking at a multitude of standoffs, for example, to hang wiring. So to think about what position relative to the standoff, what position on the standoff is it, there's just a whole bunch of things. So it makes that the phone number remembering, you know, process, frankly, is an embarrassment, relatively speaking, it's so much more intricate and involved. And they have to do this right is critical. And so the nice thing with augmented reality is instead of having them do all these mental gymnastics to try to remember these things, and the way that by the way, that the way they do this, traditionally, is a print off this big old long plotter paper. It's a drawing, right? And it'd be bad enough if it was one contiguous drawing. I'm not kidding. They're 20 Plus foot long times. And they have to go through and instead of one contiguous drawing, it's a bunch of chopped up sectional views. So they take a highlighter and they go through each of these different views, and then mark the ones that pertain to what they're gonna do. There's no room to put this on the plane. And so they cut it up into a book and they walk onto the plane, and they flip back and forth really quickly as they look around and kind of build this mental image and kind of this road met with this plan of how they're gonna do this wiring. So you think about all that, then it's noisy in the in the plane, they have to manage the tools, they have to manage the wiring harness itself, there's people walking around, there's just so much going on. So take all that. And instead of that, we can actually take the drawings, and they put on a headset HoloLens headset, and we initialize the headset, and they look up, and they can just see the wiring harness floating above. And then they simply connect the dots. And it's absolutely amazing. When they don't have to do the mental gymnastics to do that job. The performance came up,


I was just gonna say that just that simple fact that it just, I don't have to feel it. We look, we look, we look to make sure that it's right. Yeah, you know, there's there's no way in that in that use case. How do you ensure the the augmented side stays up to date? So your the, all of a sudden, I'm dependent on this, right? And that That better be right. Yes. It's like GPS, right? Don't ask me to read a map? I can't do it?


That's a really good question. So when we initialize the system, we actually pin it to, to to the real world, right. So we have certain points. And we actually have developed some techniques, where we can make it more exacting, we can actually locate it see this point here, this point where we physically touch it with a particular it's almost like a Faro arm, those are. So when we initialize, we give it the exact points that we know where that location is, and then set the model to that, right. And then through a series of processing, it uses a technology called slam stands for simultaneous location mapping, the more kind of over sampling that we do have that the better the fit tends to be for that model in the environment. So sometimes you'll have aberrations, you'll have little, you know, things that can happen. It's not perfect. But it's incredible how much better it is, through the use of those things.


In the case of airline manufacturing, lean manufacturing, there's no room for flaws. Thank you. Appreciate that. So that. So what you were just describing just to it, is that part of that human factor? Because you're just pulling in that whole? How we because you're bringing up some great points, is that all a part of that


inherently as so human factors is about understanding and kind of studying, what are the capabilities and limitations of the human element in any system. And so with that example that I just gave, and by the way, there's other ways that we use augmented reality we use with tablets, I don't want to, you know, it depends on what the situation is, as to what device is best to use, I don't ever want anybody to think that I'm, you know, holding on some particular device, it's never about the technology. By the way, it's always about the process. The technology simply enabler for processes, good or bad and indiscriminate. So it's really critical that you understand what you're doing, and then work out the correct process to optimize that taking all the garbage out of the process, and then enable that with technology. See, somebody


was telling me about in a conversation here, and it was it was people process in the technology, sort of make sure the people and the processes are all nailed down work that work that and then the technology is, is I can't say easier, but at least it serves a greater purpose. You see where it fits? It's


absolutely true. Yeah, like I said, technology is indiscriminate. So you can take the dangerous part. So in a nutshell, from my opinion, technology, controls, accelerates, and or distributes inflammation, mostly right? If you're lucky, it'll do some combination of those. The problem with it is that accelerate piece, because I can take a really garbage process and speed it up and accelerate part. But it's still the same garbage process. It's just really fast. So I have garbage at the speed of light and not a good, good look. Right? So it's best to go in and first of all, start with the soul of your intention. What are you trying to do? What are you really trying to accomplish? What are you? What do you hope to attain out of this? Once you really understand that then work on the process, make sure that you really focus on streamlining and getting all the kind of garbage parts out of there, all the waste. And then and only then look to technology to control. It's already distributed. If you do that, the really wonderful thing about that is, by the way, you do this with your end user not to or for them.


Okay, I was just yeah, you could see it going on my head. I got Yeah. And that end user doesn't like to go through that detail sometimes. And you have to sit them in that and it's a no, you see this box? Don't gloss over it what you know, and get some detail on that.


Yes. Yeah. That's and that's a really big thing that a lot of times we miss as technologists, we think it's about the technology and it really Never is always about the process. And like you said, the people that's very sage. The big part of this is that end users, we have to make sure that they that we understand we have to go hand in hand on bended knee and be willing to humble ourselves and actually listen to what it is that they need. A lot of times, they'll tell you what they want. That's another thing. People think that gather requirements is really easy. Usually, what you get is what I call desire moments. It's not a requirement at all, it gets a Christmas list of


desire, it's still there, because you're right in there, done that you're absolutely right,


fell in, I'm even subject to that. And I rail about this stuff I talk about, I know better than I'm still human. And so when I go to buy a new phone, I geek out, I look at how, what's the processing speeds? How many? How much memory, you know, without ever stopping and saying, Do I really doesn't really matter that much. What am I trying to do? What's my objective, so it's really important that you do these things with the end user instead of tour for them. And if you if you will monitor that relationship. The really cool thing about that is a lot of times through this process, and by the way, requirements aren't created or, or kind of gathered, they're co discovered, in my opinion. And through this process of again, kind of asking dumb questions, if you will, and working with the end user, not the cool thing is you both learn from that. And a lot of times the end user, because they're very expert at what they do, they don't really know, kind of why often cases they know how they how they've been doing. And so through this process of interrogation, they occur on these little epiphanies, like oh, wow, I really thought about that before. And so there's these little aha moments that occur. And it's very bonding, that relationship that you're building, by honoring them and listening to their story and kind of observing how they do learn. So the really cool thing is, if you do this really well, not only do you nail, because you're observing all the little twists and turns and, and things that you thought were certainly that you find or not. You also build this incredible rapport with your user. So they actually trust you.


Yeah. So yeah, it's fun. Sometimes you just don't even know yet. The problem you're having, and then all of a sudden through that epiphany and like, wow, and that seems simple. It's not, and they tend not to be complex. It's like everybody's like, Poulsen. Where do you where do you see it go? And I mean, I know that that Boeing has, I mean, it just makes sense. That, I mean, I don't even know where you start. I mean, the whole thing of Boeing probably benefit from where do you see it going.


So in terms of the technology or so, I think, is amazing as XR technologies are, and we're very visual again. So it's really enticing to us. It's really appealing. As cool as that is, it's not the complete picture. So I like to think of xr as being a component in my toolbox of things that I can do. Those my goal for me as a human factor psychologist, is I want to protect your your attentional resources, that the single biggest thing that we can bring as humans to a given situation is our ability to attend in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And so my goal in two words, basically is, right, let's give it three positive noise abatement. I want to turn down the noise and I want to turn up the gain on the signal so that you have less to attend to, and you can do a more thorough job with the things that you're trying to accomplish. I could go on forever. That's just sorry.


No, no. It is a podcast that sadly, we there's there's a lot more than that.


On a somebody I'm a nerd for I love doing this stuff.


I know. I love it. I love it. Because I just keeps on, you know, bringing in more requests. Like what oh, well, what about somebody saying, hey, you know, Brian's doing it. I need to talk to somebody about it. I need your recommendation getting a hold of you or what how would they begin that journey?


So that can be reached at at Brian?


Dot to get the key in there, Scott. Okay. Got it. Just have a conversation.


Yeah. Send me an email. I'll answer it as best I can. There's a lot of really great books out there. One that I would recommend for sure is this called predictably irrational. And it speaks to kind of the human condition and how we like to congratulate ourselves and say, Well, given the preponderance of evidence and I will do the free way them all and I will make the best choice. And that's not true at all. And this whole book, but I think it's Dan Riley and forgive me if I mistake his name, but brilliant guy. At a minimum, please watch the TED talk on that. Another great book that you can check out that will help you with this kind of energy. setting process first and start with why by Simon Sinek is my favorite. Yeah. So those two are foundational. His name's


Brian company's Boeing. Extended reality was on the top, a topic. That was pretty cool. Thank you. Great. All right. Once again, IoT solutions World Congress put it on your calendar. Yeah, it's a must attend event. We're going to wrap it up on the other side. So stay tuned, we'll have all the contact information for Brian's if you're not, we will be right back.


You're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


As we wrap up this episode of Industrial Talk, a thought comes to mind changes happening, changes happening in industry, you can look at Brian's conversation. Amazing stuff is being done at Boeing to make our lives better, safer, indefinitely, more efficient. Change is happening. And the only way that I know how to deal with change is that I'm going to continue to educate. And I'm going to continue to collaborate. And I'm going to definitely look at ways of innovating, just like Brian and Boeing are doing. We must make this a priority. Because change is happening. And it's happening ever so fast. It says you got to keep up with it. So that means you got to keep educating. That's what this platform is all about. This platform is dedicated to education, dedicated to highlighting the best thinkers in industry, that anybody else because it's important that we continue to pursue that education. That's why Industrial Talk is here. In light of that. We are creating a three part series, a three part series on Metaverse and augmented reality, virtual reality, that's number two, and then going to have both the providers of solutions and the users of solutions get together on a roundtable because I think this is really important to have this conversation. We're going to do it with logistics, we're going to do it in manufacturing, we're going to just because I think that these conversations have to be elevated and discussed. Be bold, be brave, dare greatly hang out with Brian and you're gonna change the world. We're gonna have another conversation from IoT solutions World Congress shortly so stay tuned.



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