News coverage of virtual reality has exploded since Facebook’s Oculus Rift was released earlier this year. Now, the term augmented reality (AR) is entering the popular lexicon thanks to Nintendo’s smash hit game, Pokemon Go. AR should mushroom over the next five years, with smart glasses shipments expected to reach 27 million units.
AR is already a promising industrial tool. Heads-up displays with digital overlays can be used for hands-on training and remote assistance. AR is definitely spurring the development of tomorrow’s hands-free factory.
Heads-up displays with digital overlays can be used in hands-on training and remote assistance that promises true interactive mixed realities.
When it comes to immersive technology, virtual reality (VR) takes a back seat to augmented reality (AR). The main difference between VR and AR is that in VR, the person...
News coverage of virtual reality (VR) has exploded since Facebook’s Oculus Rift was released this year. Now, the term augmented reality (AR) is becoming a household term thanks to Nintendo’s hit game, Pokémon Go. Beyond gaming, AR can help architects, engineers and other professionals. But such applications require a great headset. DirectIndustry e-magazine offers some tips on making the best choice.
AR may be a bit more promising than virtual reality for industrial applications, given its fundamental difference—it allows you to layer virtual information right on top of the real-world background. The potential for visualization, training, maintenance and collaboration in situ is far greater when the two are combined. Two devices illustrate the current state of industrial applications.
1. DAQRI: The Smart Helmet
The DAQRI Smart Helmet (DSH) is a combination safety helmet and AR headset that overlays virtual instructions, safety information, training and visual mapping on a real-world background. Workers in the oil and gas, automation and manufacturing sectors often need to understand complicated instructions to perform complex processes. The DSH enables them to see digital information overlying different contexts—a Siemens controller, a scanning device or quality control metrology equipment.
The helmet comes with its own battery and docking station. The price varies from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on customization options. Autodesk, GE and Hyperloop are currently testing it.
DAQRI CEO Brian Mullins says:
A field engineer may be responsible for 600 different work packages, using some perhaps only once in a career. Having the added data when it’s needed makes a big impact. Augmented reality is going to be a top-down industry, similar to the evolution of smartphones from enterprise to consumer devices. At first, people only used them to stay connected at work and make decisions, and to transfer knowledge as needed. Slowly, over the course of decades, they evolved into today’s smartphone. We think this is beginning to happen with augmented reality.
The device’s face shield and injection-molded plastic helmet are ANSI-compliant. The inner part of the helmet’s shell is a combination of cast aluminum and carbon fiber composite.
The DAQRI 13-megapixel HD camera recognizes colors, 2-D targets and can track moving objects. The helmet uses Intel’s RealSense technology with two built-in infrared cameras. DAQRI integrates them with an infrared laser projector that can sense depth by measuring deflected infrared light. A low-resolution camera is linked to an industrial-grade inertial measurement unit (IMU), enabling the helmet to compute its relative position in real time. It also comes with four microphones, which allow users to call a technical expert in the company.
2. Metavision’s Meta 2: Neuroscience Drives the Interface
The Meta 2 has a 90-degree field of view, a tremendous breakthrough for industrial applications like training, maintenance and manufacturing. Being physically tethered to a workstation limits all kinds of training applications and use on a factory floor for assembly or maintenance.
According to CEO Meron Gribetz:
The idea here is for people to share holograms, making them a lot more connected with the work and with each other. The neural mechanism that explains it is called mirror neurons. This subsystem of our minds suggests that we understand collaborative work much better when we can see each other’s faces and hands in full 3D at zero latency. To leverage that, everything has to be visible south of the eyebrows—you can see my eyes and I can see yours. We’re networking the glasses, so I can send you a hologram of a 3D model. That way, we’ll both see it from our relative perspectives. Neuroscience is really driving the design of our interfaces.
Metavision is accepting pre-orders for the Meta 2 developer kit, priced at $949. The devices are expected to ship in Q3 of 2016.
Scientific visualization, engineering design and medical imaging could soon benefit from 3D images that can be seen without headsets or special glasses.
There has been an explosion in the production of 3D data in recent years. Whether from product designs and layouts created using computer-aided design (CAD),...
The German Benteler group is testing augmented reality and Google Glass in its Belgian automotive facility. So far, the results are promising.
You have only a few hours to deliver a series of modules on time and in the right order. Implementing theJust-in-Sequence (JIS) concept, which applies Just-in-Time principles to inventory, requires new strategies from manufacturers.
To meet this challenge, the German Benteler group chose to test augmented reality and Google Glass in its Ghent, Belgium automotive facility. IT operations specialist Pascal de Mul told DirectIndustry e-magazine about it:
We are an assembly plant for Volvo. They require us to use a JIS environment, with four hours between receiving an order and the car leaving the plant. No two cars are the same. Volvo sends us a different order for every car.
Picking the Right Steering Gear
Augmented reality is used for a very specific task: picking the right steering gear.
There are 40 steering gears available for each order. Through Google Glass, each operator receives information about which part they need to pick and where it has to go.
What’s more, this information is not displayed on a real screen but on a virtual one superimposed over reality.
Benteler decided to use xPick from Ubimax, a German company that provides wearable computing packages such as xInspect (for inspection and maintenance) and xAssist (for remote assistance). Using xPick, operators can visually pick rapidly without making a mistake, as the data comes directly from tables updated directly by Volvo.
Courtesy of Ubimax
Using Google Glass
The estimated budget for the pilot project was €40K, with most going to development. The hardware itself is not the most expensive element, even with the installation of a Wi-Fi network to feed data to the glasses.
The surprising choice was Benteler’s use of Google Glass. On the one hand, this device created a massive buzz for augmented reality. On the other, it flopped commercially and is no longer sold by Google. Pascal de Mul justifies this choice: “The frame is [light], and Google Glass provides holographic vision. You can look through the Glass and not at a screen.”
One Order Picking Task
Benteler is using the Ghent facility as a pilot plant, but only for this specific task. Among the 12-order picking tasks in the plant, selecting the right steering gear was the only one requiring such a high degree of accuracy. According to de Mul, augmented reality passed the test and could be implemented in other Benteler plants. The system is easy to use, resulting in reduced training time, a key positive factor.
JIS is a system which doesn’t allow failure. At the same time, this order picking activity relies on three shifts of four to five people, some of them only interns or temporary workers. With this new system, after 10 or 15 minutes max, they were all able to start order picking.
The second plus was accuracy. The picking system resulted in a zero error rate.
As the technology in robotics continues to advance, mobility has become a hot topic, especially for industry. Manufacturers are expressing increasing interest in robots that optimize production by navigating autonomously and working alongside employees safely.
Today mobility is considered a key technology for robotics in numerous applications ranging from industrial logistics via transportation tasks in care facilities to autonomous floor cleaning or lawn mowing. From early on, we have been developing solutions that enable robots to navigate freely and autonomously, which means without special infrastructure, even in unstructured environments.
With the rise of open-source frameworks like Robot Operating System (ROS) and ROS-Industrial, the integration and development of robotics systems has become easier and faster, he suggests.
Higher available computing power, the advancement of 2D and 3D sensors and the accessibility of advanced software components have also combined to result in significant developments.
At the technological core of our solutions here is a software toolbox which offers advanced capabilities for allowing a mobile robot to continuously localize itself, to map unknown environments, to plan optimized paths in dynamic settings and to configure and operate a fleet of autonomous mobile robots. For the German machinery supplierBär Automation, for example, we implemented our navigation software on their automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that are now in operation in several automobile manufacturing plants.
Instead of static assembly lines, car bodies are moved by AGVs through the car’s final assembly. The AGVs navigate fully autonomously so plant layouts may be quickly changed and vehicle routes may be adapted.
Courtesy of MiR
Also based in Germany,Mobile Industrial Robots ApS (MiR) produces and develops mobile robots for industrial applications, explains CEO Thomas Visti:
Our MiR100 automates in-house transportation. Advanced technologies enable it to create its own map, ‘identify’ its driving area and surroundings or import 3D drawings of the building. A built-in camera and sensors allow it to run safely beside employees.
MiR100 has been introduced atScan A/S in Denmark, which manufactures fireplaces and wood stoves. The robot delivers bolts, screws and other parts for assembly, explains René Hannibaldsen, production manager.
Before we got MiR100, an employee had to push the trolley from place to place. But of course it is problematic to use highly paid, manual labor for that type of task,” he says. “We save about half a full-time position by automating this process.
So what will mobile robotics eventually be capable of within industry?
Hägele expects to see more models equipped with arms and grippers to broaden their utility but is also excited about cloud navigation.
This is an extension to our navigation toolbox: self-navigating mobile systems continuously send relevant sensor and status data to a cloud-based server. By integrating all information in an IoT cloud architecture, the entire fleet benefits from an up-to-date and accurate mapping for improved localization accuracy and robustness.
The VEGAPULS 64 is the first radar level sensor for liquids that operates at 80 GHz. It is currently available from Vega, a German instrument maker. Previous generations of sensor, working at 26 GHz, could not be used in difficult industrial environments. Tripling the emission frequency gives the VEGAPULS 64 a beam angle of 3°, versus 10° for older models. This technological advance considerably improves sensor performance by reducing interference and false signals from condensation, foam, heating coils and agitators found in tanks. The result is much more accurate measurements, to ±2 mm.
VEGAPULS sensors feature another significant improvement—a Bluetooth communications module for remote sensor management via tablet or smartphone. This wireless communications function, which Vega calls PLICSCOM Bluetooth, elicited particular interest at VNF, the agency managing France’s navigable waterways. Alain Bélière, from VNF’s technical services, added it to a VEGAPULS measuring water level in a lock.
The sensor is in a hard-to-reach location and is powered by a solar panel. After considering several different wireless connection options, Bluetooth emerged as the simplest and most economical. Today, we can connect to the sensor from over 50 meters away. The time savings and ease of use are unsurpassed.
The agency has already ordered several Bluetooth-equipped VEGAPLUS 64 sensors.
Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…