visTABLE® and augmented reality – do they go together?

User wears augmented reality headset

Motivation

Researches and inquiries carried out today with the objective to use a variety of smart glasses with visTABLE® will be reason to go into details of this topic. And it should be added that HoloLens smart glasses (version 2) currently celebrate their 5th birthday. Congratulations!

First, let us explain a few terms and definitions to find a common language.

Terms and definitions

Virtual reality (VR) can be compared to a trip into another world. When putting on VR smart glasses, you will see things that look as if you were in another place – although you never left your original place. The real world is disappearing, and you will dive completely into the virtual environment. VR is often used for games and simulations where this effect is desired.

Augmented reality (AR) is as if “magic” things were added to the known world. You see the real world, but additional elements, such as images, texts or animation apparently floating in the environment are also displayed. AR is used to add helpful digital elements to the real world. A well-known example is an app for tourists which displays additional information about the highlights they are currently seeing.

Mixed reality (MR) allows for the merging of our physical self and imagination. You see the real world, but virtual objects can also appear in it, with the look and feel as if they really existed. They can interact with the real world. MR creates a mixture of digital and real elements, commonly generating new experience.

Current trends with smart glasses, such as video see-through or wireless streaming, blur the lines between the aforementioned realities more and more. We love ping-pong – therefore, an MR demo from leisure sector is mentioned here as an example.

Spatial Computing Ping Pong

HoloLens – AR smart glasses developed by Microsoft – are often also called MR device in order to describe their ability to insert digital contents into the real world and at the same time to enable interaction between digital contents and the real world. Let’s explain it in the following.

Features and peculiarities of HoloLens

HoloLens have been one of the first important and commercially available AR glasses gaining great attention and recognition in industry and public. This device captures the physical environment of the user and his inputs from hand gestures, speech and gaze, subsequently projecting holographic images through transparent lenses into the field of view. In contrast to VR headsets that were often used in the past, it is a fully independent device with limited computing power and relatively low rendering performance, but with optical see-through (OST) instead. Slim data are more important than ever before.

When starting to use the glasses, in addition to the high purchase price, first the limited field of view is noticed. When wearing the glasses for a longer time, in addition, the relatively high weight and poor battery life are perceived as disadvantageous. Before identifying appropriate use cases in practice, you should be aware of such facts which, unfortunately, cannot be changed in most cases.

Potential use cases in accordance with VDI 5200 Factory Planning – Planning Procedure

Let us start with the theory, then exploring the practice in detail. The table below shows possible use cases of AR technologies in six of seven defined factory planning phases in total.

Use casePlanning phaseAR potential
Data validationDetermination of the project basicsTARGET-ACTUAL comparison of existing digital data to the real world
Flow visualizationConcept planningVisualization of structuring material flows
Space visualizationConcept planning / Detailed planningVisualization of various space types
Layout redesignConcept planning / Detailed planningRepositioning of equipment in existing building structures
Collision checkDetailed planning / Realization planningVisualization of collisions between equipment and building enclosure
Relocation simulationRealization planningPresentation of a relocation concept, incl. bottlenecks
Equipment
installation
Realization monitoringCollision check taking into account the buildings, building services, media supply, etc.
Realization
documentation
Realization
monitoring
TARGET-ACTUAL comparison for building site
Employee trainingSupport for Ramp-upVisualization of the ACTUAL status of sequences

Elaboration of a workflow

The explanations and a few practical experiments allow to elaborate a workflow. Such a workflow would describe the interrelation between factory planning software and HoloLens, with visTABLE® acting as an AR editor for the device providing all relevant data in a sophisticated manner. Furthermore, the workflow should be able to map most of the aforementioned use cases.

  1. Creation and transfer of the digital factory model comprising geometry and meta data (factory planning software)
  2. Loading of the digital model (HoloLens)
  3. Localization of the digital model (local synchronization with the real world)
  4. Project work (work on the subject)
  5. Return of the results to the digital model (feedback from the experts)

What’s next? The next part of this series of articles will illustrate the implementation of a few use cases by way of prototypes. Let’s get one thing out of the way: We did not create a head-up display as in Terminator – but it inspired us.

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Jörg Riegel

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