AR safety system wins student award

An augmented reality (AR) system that could help workers to safely shut down dangerous machinery has won UNSW’s Maker Games.

The award was the product of an industry challenge from construction materials manufacturer Boral. The company required students to find a safe solution for workers to not be electrocuted when turning off heavy machinery.

Using AR technology, step-by-step instructions are provided to the operator, and could avoid the 27 death that occur each year in industrial electrocution accidents and 530 hospitalisations.

“It uses augmented reality, and also machine learning to recognise the machine. And then augmented reality provides a visual reminder or alerts if the machine is on,” said computer science student, Saloni Goda.

One feature that impressed judges and audiences was the usability of the tool, so that any worker can step in if needed.

“It’s a really easy-to-use tool that any construction worker can look at the machinery and instantly get feedback on what they should do in the field. It uses some small safety glasses, which are essentially similar to [Microsoft’s] HoloLens, that give you a VR/AR kind of display. So that while you’re in the field, you can operate our software hands free,” said student Derek Sun.

The successful project was informed by the students’ visit to a live manufacturing site.

“When we went to Boral’s Maldon concrete factory, we realised that over the next 10 years, there’s going to be a generational shift, especially in the training and how they’re going to be doing electrical isolation,” said civil engineering student Charles Chan. “So this is the best opportunity to cut in and teach the new people the strict method and giving them step-by-step instructions.”

During the testing period, the students were mentored by Boral’s chief people transformation officer, Wayne Reade. The winning team will get the opportunity to travel to Shanghai and Beijing to see other entrepreneurial students and their learning environments.