The advent of mixed reality in oil & gas — yay or nay?

Our team here at DeepStream visited the Microsoft office in Paddington recently to be shown their innovative Mixed Reality (MR) products. It was a really fun afternoon and we spent our time exploring oil rigs, refineries and service centres, all remotely using HoloLens goggles, of course.

Mixed or Hybrid Reality combines the real and digital worlds to superimpose virtual characteristics on real surfaces. These can then be viewed through devices such as the Apple Augmented Reality (AR) Toolkit which is a framework allowing creation of AR experiences for the Iphone and Ipad through AR enhanced games, cameras with Face Id and so on and the Microsoft HoloLens which is the first self contained holographic computer enabling people to engage with digital content and interact with holograms in the world around them.

This got me thinking about the practical applications of the Microsoft HoloLens in the Oil and Gas industry. The technology will be utilised more and more in the future in almost all sectors where equipment is used. For instance, engineers in Oil and Gas companies could access detailed as-built drawings of Oil and Gas equipments remotely, assess whether they are functioning properly or not, and decide whether or not they should be sent for repair or replacement. Access to MR business practices could reduce costs on a massive scale by negating the costs (mainly personnel) and risk (health, safety, environmental) associated with offshore design and engineering, as mentioned in Eniday. Further, leveraging advanced visualisation technologies would result in streamlined operations, more accurate placement of drill sites and consistent training & safety procedures according to Mechdyne. CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings/files for most of the equipments already exist which make them ideal for conversion into HoloLens ready software at a lower cost. Gunnebo Industries, a manufacturing company with operations in Oil and Gas, even has some of these files on its website while Aveva, a world leading engineering software provider to the plant, power and marine industries, designs CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software to aid the process of energy digitalisation further.

In terms of application to Oil and Gas procurement, MR could potentially be a game changer by eliminating the need for industry conferences for buying/selling which are common in the sector. This could take place by superimposing detailed drawings/files of relevant equipments on surfaces near interested buyers who could access them using a HoloLens, navigate virtually into the equipments and check out every aspect of the equipments before deciding whether to purchase them or not.

In fact, here at DeepStream, we are dedicated to ushering in the age of technology for Oil and Gas and are looking to include high-tech suppliers on our platform to make them and their equipments/technology more accessible to buyers.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that global spend on AR & VR will double each year from 2021. In US and Western Europe, AR & VR spending on discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing (currently ranked second and third respectively) are poised to overtake consumer segment AR & VR spending (currently ranked first) in 2021. In 2017, the key-use cases by investment for AR & VR include c. $362 million spent on on-site assembly and safety and c.$309 million spent on process manufacturing training.

What remains to be seen though is how quickly the Oil and Gas industry adopts MR. Changes in conventional attitudes are being observed in conferences such as the ITF Technology Showcase which used the Microsoft HoloLens to showcase a 3-D Power Wall and the potential uses of VR in the energy sector. Whether this can be translated into more widespread adoption in the industry is yet to be seen but it could certainly be sped along by embracement from the majors.

Written by Eeshita Pande