There’s no denying that augmented reality and virtual reality are taking massive leaps forward, and could integrate into our societies and workflows in exciting ways.

But, when it comes to industrial uses, can a pair of AR glasses like HoloLens or Google Glass become a game changer? Could they knock industrial tablets out of worker’s hands?

The Capabilities

Augmented reality windshields could provide heads-up displays for driving, marking routes and stops right across the driver’s view without ever having to turn toward a dangerously distracting cellphone. AR glasses create digital images and “paint” them over the view of the users. They reduce human error by putting schematics and plans right in front of the user’s face, and they allow users to create digital “markers” that can be seen by other users to point out potential fixes and the like.

AR glasses can be used for mapping, displaying a HUD, compass, and other tools that wouldn’t be out of place in a video game. And while industrial touch screen computers can achieve similar results in some areas, the high-end AR glasses are simply designed for another purpose entirely.

When it comes to pure tech-vs-tech, AR glasses push to the front of the crowd.


Industrial workspaces can be some of the harshest working environments there are. Concerns like heat, moisture, cold, sparks, vibrations, EM interference, wind, grit, static, and a hundred other conditions can brick most consumer-level electronics in no time at all.

Rugged Windows tablets come with military-grade parts and drop-tested frames designed to be used in rough spots like construction zones and manufacturing plants.

On the other hand, AR glasses tend to be relatively fragile, like any new technology, and there’s even been plenty of reports of mounts not holding and AR glasses either slipping or falling right off the user’s face. None of them are IP65 certified for particulates and liquid and could have trouble long-term in dirty environments.

In a head-to-head, the industrial tablet comes out on top in this particular wrestling match.

The Price Comparison

When it comes to finding the right choice for your industry, the question of price becomes complicated. There aren’t two different price points to compare — instead, AR glasses and industrial tablet PCs both cross the entire spectrum.

In general, a quality industrial tablet can land anywhere from $800 to $1800. Of course, there are cheaper versions and more expensive, but most will fall right into that zone and provide features like high-def camera, IP65 ingress protection, fanless design, and solid drop durability.

With AR glasses, the picture is more complicated. There are consumer-level AR glasses for around $250, but they often require a cable connection to a tablet or PC to function, and often don’t come with cameras and the other features that are most useful for industrial practices. On the other end of the spectrum, devices like Google Glass aren’t always available because they’re in a constant beta state, while Microsoft’s HoloLens (one of the more popular options for industrial applications) runs around $3500-$5000 depending on model and function.

It’s the HoloLens that tends to be the go-to AR glasses for industries like aerospace — in fact, Boeing and NASA both use the HoloLens and the HoloLens 2 for their manufacturing and maintenance processes.

And while the HoloLens is an incredible piece of gear that can perform amazing tasks like virtually laying out a full real-time wiring schematic for technicians building an airplane, the price is fairly prohibitive for wide-spread deployment for most industries. At best, most businesses might be able to manage one or two HoloLenses for supervisors and the like, to serve as a middle man to disseminate virtual information to the workforce at large.

On the other side of the coin, a company could buy 3 or 4 industrial tablets for the price of one HoloLens, and get a more durable, longer-lasting product out of the bargain. In this round, the price prize goes to the affordable industrial tablet.

Hands-Free Operation

One of the greatest benefits of AR glasses is undoubtedly the fact that they are completely hands-free. On this count, tablets not only can’t compete, but they’re not even playing the same sport.

AR glasses sit right on the nose and allow full use of both hands. And since the glasses can overlay information onto the real world, this allows for fully integrated data and practical real-world application.

Checking inventory, watching an instruction video, or following a digital schematic is much easier when you don’t have to put down your tools and equipment to pick up a tablet. A true blending of man and machine, high-quality AR glasses take this round handily.

Initial Set-Up

When purchasing new equipment, the initial setup and long-term maintenance burden for the IT department — or the beleaguered multi-hat wearing employee who gets stuck as the default IT department — is the ease of install is extremely important.

Industrial tablet PCs, especially the ones that run Windows 10, require very little setup. They come out of the box, they get plugged in, they get managed by network software, any extra applications are installed, and tablets are rolled out. The whole process is well-mapped for any IT department because an industrial windows tablet is relatively identical to the regular PC.

On the other hand, AR glasses can suffer from their own complexity. IT departments are less familiar with AR glasses in general, and many have yet to receive the kind of standardization that PCs have. Some require syncing with a phone, while others can operate on their own or with the aid of a tablet or computer. Either way, most of them do require another platform to operate from — which means they might still require the purchase of other hardware — like tablets — to fully deploy. That not only multiplies the initial price but the setup difficulty as well.

This round goes to the tablet.

Learning Curve

A vital factor in any deployment strategy is training: how long until the new gear is being used effectively by the intended employees?

Tablets have the advantage of already being a near-ubiquitous technology that almost everyone has at least had some experience with using. A Windows industrial tablet also benefits from, as we mentioned earlier, operating much like a desktop or laptop. Other than the addition of integrated features like barcode scanners and biometric readers, industrial tablets are extremely familiar to most modern workers.

AR glasses, on the other hand, come with a larger upfront time investment. The number of people who’ve used AR glasses like HoloLens could all fit in the same (large) theater — it’s still a technology in its infancy. As such, its an entirely new skill for almost every worker.

This is another round that the tablets take.

And the Winner Is . . .

Both. That’s right. While industrial tablets may have edged a few points over AR glasses in this article, the future of technology is hardly so black-and-white.

The fact is, AR glasses and their ilk can do tons of things that an industrial tablet can’t do, and industrial tablets have many benefits that AR glasses simply can’t match. However, the idea that you have to choose one or the other is inherently flawed — it’s like saying what’s better, a hammer or a drill? A drill is more expensive, but when you need a hammer a drill isn’t going to get the job done.

One of the best applications of AR glasses and industrial tablets is to use them in harmony. AR glasses often have to sync with another platform, and industrial tablets make great durable “home bases” for them, especially Windows-compatible devices like the HoloLens.

Consider how a supervisor or team lead could wear something like a HoloLens to direct operations, and team members could use industrial tablets to carry out the plans, tag inventory, track assets, perform checks, store e-signatures for forms, and a hundred other tasks and duties.

For more ideas on how to integrate industrial tablets into any workspace, contact Cybernet today.