I like it very much that we have the allowance to have a radio in our office, it ensures that once in a while some news tidbits have a chance of reaching my ear. This was the following “future concept” reached my ear: industrial workers shall be equipped with with “augmented reality goggles/glasses” so they get instructions on how to handle a work piece kinda like an HUD.
The concept is rather simple: instead of giving the worker a training, the worker is given said augmented reality (AR)-goggle a brought to his workplace. When a workpiece is brought to his workplace, the AR-goggle identifies the workpiece, the productions steps that need to be taken and “tells” the worker via “projection” (HUD) what he has to do (showing steps, perhaps a video of the needed steps and an explosion diagram), where the other needed parts (like screws) are to be found at his workplace and where the needed tools are (RFID-chips can come handy here if the AR-google is able to trigger those and thereby “see” where they are. No misplacement of tools anymore!). Furthermore a possible “safety feature” was mentioned: if the AR-google would be able to “control” the power supply of the tools and would “see” (via picture recognition systems or such) that the worker is doing things the wrong way (or not in the right order), the AR-google would send a signal to interrupt and block the tools of the worker and perhaps inform a foremen… or simply show the instructions what to do once more till the worker does it (much like a walk-through of a computer game that teaches you the game rules step by step based on in-game trial-mission examples).
The first thing that came to my mind was an old quote about the fabric of the future by Warren Bennis:
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man rom touching the equipment.”
Only that in this case, the technology makes the dog obsolete and the worker actually is to touch the equipment as long as the (other) equipment tells him so. I could now go on about “man being reduced to a robot”, but I leave these lines to non-RPG-centered blogs. Here, I go on about how to include the general concept into different RPG settings.
Cyberpunk/Near Future: keep the people dumb and replaceable
This concept can be turned in a veritable social nightmare easily. Industrial workers that are not already replaced by robots or automated factories are turned into something akin to a drone. It does not matter that you have 5 years of experience at your job and that this experiences ensures that you will know how to handle about three dozens of different problems that MAY arise during your task. This “experience” is kind of “recorded and available within a second”, and worst of all it is transferable to EVERY Jane and Joe that is smart enough to follow a pictogram instruction (that is, seeing something and repeating it one second after it was shown). It is good for the industry, as personal does not need to undergo training and supervision (or at least, both is not THAT necessary anymore) but it is bad for the worker. “Why shall I pay you more money if your skill do not make you better than the next best dropped-out-of-school, 16-years-old-need-a-job”? Might not be important for the players actual game (unless they are to sabotage the next data update for the AR-goggles of a factory), but it really adds to the “advanced technology does not advance human society” message of Cyberpunk games and those DarkFuture types of SciFi-Settings
DarkHeresy/Rogue Traders: the sacred rites
In DarkHeresy, Techonmant and Machine-Priests alike do tasks without any understanding of what they do. They are sacred rites to them, they know it works but don´t know why. While AR-goggles would for sure be holy artifacts in DH, having one of those “from the Golden Ages” as a McGuffin might be nice. After all, it this thing teaches everybody who wears it how to repair or produce certain items of technology, the Adeptus Mechanicus will be after it… as well as heretics of all kind.
Mutant Future: Artifacts Galore!
What if a character in the MutantFuture (or any like-minded retro-clone) would find such a google? A version that was not used design for production workers but for the consumer market? A “Mr.Handyman-AR-Goggle”. You put it on, look at an item you want to repair and the goggle lists and shows you the parts and tools you need, possibly feeding you positions of the stores where to “buy” them, based on the last time it was updated with the world-net (or something). A -nice- artifact to have and a potential adventure-hook-delivery-tool (once a character figure that artifact out!)