from MIT Sloan News

by Kara Baskin

Desktop workers have plenty of technology at their fingertips — Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Google documents — to quickly capture, transfer, and distribute knowledge.

Field workers don’t always have this advantage. Lab technicians, construction workers, and manufacturers often lack a way to train colleagues and communicate information. They’re forced to use tools first designed for people at a desk, and it’s inefficient.

Boston-based Waypoint Labs hopes to allow them to scale expertise using augmented reality software, which captures and digitizes information. The software works with Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, ideal for people who work with their hands.

“Our mission is building augmented reality software to help 1.5 billion front-line workers do their jobs. We want to get them the same tools and insights that people who work at a desk have gotten for decades,” said Waypoint Labs CEO Umar Arshad, MBA ’17. “As information technology has improved and made the lives of knowledge workers easier, the tools for front-line workers have stayed the same, and it’s led to rampant inefficiencies.”

Workers wear the headsets, and Waypoint’s software chronicles their movements. This allows workers to document their process in real time. With the headset on, workers can behave as if they’re training someone. Waypoint software monitors them audio-visually and spatially, in three dimensions. It captures this information through a knowledge processing engine and converts it into structured data into a format chosen by the customer. That could be an interactive website with photos and videos, Microsoft Word documents with photos to be used as training materials, or an interactive augmented reality training where trainees wear the same type of headset used to record the information.

“We target people who apply knowledge and expertise away from a desk,” Arshad said. “These are the people who make the world run.”

For example, one of Waypoint’s early clients is a biotech company working on cancer diagnostics. Using Waypoint, the company has trained lab technicians faster than before, when a consultant would facilitate training and document a process retroactively.

“A lab tech puts on a headset, our software documents what they do, and we output Word documents with photos to train new employees — it’s ten times faster and four times more detailed,” Arshad said.

The three-person company gained traction as part of MIT’s delta v accelerator program after launching at MIT’s Reality, Virtually, Hackathon! in 2016. Now, it’s close to closing a seed round of funding. Arshad’s co-founders are MIT Integrated Design and Management graduate Sara Remsen and Harvard Business School student Varun Mani.

“Our mission was simple: How can we use AR to make people’s jobs better? Not for entertainment: We want to use AR to empower people and increase productivity,” Arshad said.