Skip to main content

Augmented-reality cable technicians are here to fix your internet

Picture this: You’re at home with your family (because that’s pretty much where we all are these days) when suddenly your cable TV signal dies. Normally, this would be a mere inconvenience, but these aren’t normal times.

The loss of cable connectivity could mean no more TV — or, far worse — no more internet. But how is the cable technician going to enter your home for a repair? Staying home and keeping a healthy social distance is pointless if an outsider has to come in. You can also bet the technician isn’t thrilled at the idea either.

But what if there were a way for that technician to come to your home and guide you through the diagnostics and repair in real time without once stepping inside? That’s what Cox Cable‘s On-site with Virtual Assist service does, using an augmented reality (AR) platform created by Birmingham, Alabama-based Help Lightning.

“On-site virtual assist has been a priority of ours for quite some time,” Len Barlik, Cox’s executive vice president and chief operating officer told Digital Trends, “but the rapid escalation of COVID-19 accelerated our push to make this available to our customers now. Knowing our responsibility to keep our customers and employees safe, our team readied this offering in just 10 days.”

Help Lightning - Be There Instantly

As long as you have a phone or tablet with a rear-facing camera and a working Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, a tech support representative can see what you’re seeing and insert their hands, tools, parts, or diagrams onto your screen so you can see exactly what needs to be done.

The Help Lightning app effectively merges two video feeds: The one captured by your device’s camera and a second video shot by the technician of their hands. The result is a combined video that lets the technician virtually point to the different devices and connections in your home while they talk you through the fix.

The technology allows technicians to telestrate (illustrate on-screen), freeze images, use hand gestures, and add real objects into the merged reality environment.

Cox Cable has the on-site virtual assist option in all of its markets right now, but the company isn’t alone. Siemens Healthineers, Otis Elevator, Ricoh, Bunn, and Johnson Controls are among Help Lightning’s other clients, and they too can offer virtual assistance if needed.

Needless to say, the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has had a big impact on Help Lightning’s business.

“Our usage by existing and new customers drove increased usage by 417% in March alone due to the shelter in place orders and travel bans,” said CEO Gary York.

Help Lightning’s system needs no special hardware — its app runs on iOS, Android, or the web — which means tech support workers can use from anywhere, even right outside a customer’s premises. The service has been used for non-commercial purposes too: Parents can get a virtual expert to help them ensure that their children’s car seat is correctly installed.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
Samsung patent shows the design of an unreleased augmented reality headset
best tech under $100

On Monday, October 21, reports emerged highlighting Apple's work on an augmented reality headset, but Apple isn't the only company working on the new tech. In fact, a new design patent was discovered that could give us a first look at an upcoming Samsung augmented reality headset. The patent was first spotted by Galaxy Club.

When it comes to consumer augmented reality, most companies are working towards headsets looking as natural as possible, but this headset seems to serve a different purpose. Instead, the headset looks to be something that you would wear for specific purposes, rather than simply during day-to-day activities.

Read more
IKEA’s augmented reality app just got a whole lot more clever
ikeas augmented reality app just got a whole lot cleverer ikea place

When you step inside an IKEA store, you do so in the full knowledge that it might be half a day -- perhaps longer -- before you'll be reemerging into the daylight. And when you do finally make it to the exit, it’s likely to be with a wallet far lighter than when you arrived. That’s just the way it goes with IKEA.

When your purchases get delivered, the final step is to discover whether they actually fit the rooms they were intended for. While most of your judgments may be on the mark, there’ll always be a couch that looks out of place or a dining table that doesn’t quite fit. And situations like that can cause all kinds of hassle.

Read more
Best Prime Day Apple deals in 2024: AirPods, MacBooks, iPads
Best Prime Day Deals

In case you aren't aware, Prime Day deals are officially coming up in just a few days. However, that doesn't mean you have to wait long until the fun begins. Early Prime Day deals are already here. And Apple, which doesn't always offer too many deals throughout the year, is making a their presence fairly well known this year even during early deals. Sure, some of the deals are on refurbished goods, but there are some good brand new items here too. Expect to see Prime Day MacBook deals, Prime Day smartwatch deals, and Prime Day headphones deals, all from Apple, covered below.
Today's best Apple deals

Amazon Prime Day 2024 is scheduled for July 16 and 17. What we know is that you don't have to wait for the shopping event if you need to buy a new Apple device right now. We've rounded up our favorite Apple deals that are currently available, but you're going to have to hurry with your purchase because we're not sure how much time is remaining on these offers.

Read more