The objective was to determine the effect of two head-mounted display (HMD) augmented reality (AR) devices on muscle activity and eye strain of electric utility workers. The AR devices were the Microsoft HoloLens and RealWear HMT-1.
The HoloLens is an optical see-through device. The HMT-1 has a small display that is mounted to the side of one eye of the user.
Twelve power plant operators and 13 manhole workers conducted their normal procedural tasks on-site in three conditions: HoloLens, HMT-1, and “No AR” (regular method). Duration of test trials ranged up to 30 s for operators and up to 10 min for manhole workers. Mean and peak values of surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals from eight neck muscles were measured. A small eye camera measured blink rate of the right eye.
In general, there were no differences in sEMG activity between the AR and “No AR” conditions for both groups of workers. For the manhole workers, the HoloLens blink rate was 8 to 11 blinks per min lower than the HMT-1 in two tasks and 6.5 fewer than “No AR” in one task. Subjective assessment of the two AR devices did not vary in general.
The decrease in blink rate with the HoloLens may expose utility manhole workers to risk of eye strain or dry-eye syndrome.
HMD AR devices should be tested thoroughly with respect to risk of eye strain before deployment by manhole workers for long-duration procedural work.