While a “cyberloupe” sounds like a tube Elon Musk would run ugly trucks through, it’s actually a jewellers loupe from the future made by watch company IWC.
Loupes, which are basically eye-mounted microscopes used by watchmakers to place fiddly bits of metal into watch cases, haven’t been upgraded much in the past few hundred years. Modern loupes now cover both eyes and feature bright work lights but IWC’s new Cyberloupe adds some high-tech to these traditionally low-tech tools.
At first glance, the loupe is pretty standard. You can adjust it to your face and bring the lens down over your eye to bring small things closer. But IWC has added a number of augmented reality and data transmission features that are partly gee-whiz gimcrackery and partly useful.
The most interesting thing about this loupe is the ability to transmit video right from the lens. This lets the watchmaker show a client what exactly is going wrong with the watch from afar or even lets experience watchmakers train novices via a video connection. While having a client view a watch repair remotely doesn’t seem very special, when these repair jobs often cost thousands of dollars every bit of integration helps.
“Customers have the possibility to have special functions of our watches explained to them live, without being present on-site,” said Antonio Palmisano, head of operations development at IWC. “Furthermore, our trainers at our headquarters can virtually train other watchmakers on the worldwide platforms. The Cyberloupe has the potential to extract specific information from our backbone IT systems PLM/ERP and display it directly to the user.”
Palmisano said the system could overlay details over the watch movement, explaining to the repair and manufacturing staff exactly where to put a gear, jewel, or screw. Machinists at Boeing and other manufacturers have used similar tech to help reassemble and repair complex machinery like engines.
“In the middle of our digitalised world, I’m still fascinated by the complex technology of our mechanical watches,” said Palmisano. “For outsiders, it is very difficult to gain insight into this ‘40mm diameter world.’ That’s when I had the idea to digitise the current classic watchmaker’s loupe, which we have been using for 150 years, and make it ‘intelligent.’”
Palmisano and his team are working on even more AR features for Cyberloupe 2.0, a product that will feature “improved image stabilisation and resolution” as well as “on-demand” VR overlays.