A new research project between HYDAC Australia, Deakin University and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) will see immersive reality experts develop a virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) training solution that will teach and guide maintenance staff and trainees in real time how to safely service and maintain important hydraulics systems and components.
The 12-month research project focuses on enhancing the features and functionality – 3D content generation, product visualisation and user interaction – of the current prototype to accelerate the commercialisation of HYDAC’s overall VR/AR training solution.
HYDAC managing director, Mark Keen, said the intention has been to build a technology driven training solution, one that would enable HYDAC to offer consistent and high- level product training and support a safe and scalable solution across Australia and worldwide.
“As we explore and enhance the technology features and functions of the solution, the emphasis will be on how the information within the virtual training environment will support different users, and how they will interact with it,” said Keen.
“When we set out to build the VR system, we anticipated that much of the visual content would also be transposed into an AR environment to offer users a coherent learning experience. With the support of the IMCRC activate program, we will be able to bring the VR and AR elements together in one training solution. This will allow us not only to train trainees and maintenance staff using VR but also to support them live via AR in the field.”
Deakin Motion Lab Director Stefan Greuter says to achieve this, his research team will focus on the interaction design to enable hands-on interaction and a consistent and connected training experience for users of VR and AR devices.
“By providing customised training supported by VR and AR, HYDAC reduces the environmental impact of its training activities. By digitising the requirement for travel and equipment transport to customers and training centres, HYDAC makes hydraulics training more accessible to users,” Greuter said.
Deakin University is recruiting a dedicated programmer to work at both HYDAC and Deakin Motion Lab.
Manufacturing Innovation Manager, Dr Matthew Young, said due to COVID-19, innovative training and collaboration solutions are at the forefront of almost every Australian manufacturer. The virtual training environment that HYDAC is building goes beyond the classical remote learning scenario and could be applied to many industry sectors.
“There are many situations where technicians or application engineers do not have physical access to the products and components for training purposes. Remote training and collaboration solutions are crucial for Australia’s industry, especially when connecting manufacturers in urban locations with users at remote sites.”
“HYDAC’s VR/AR training solution examples and opens doors to many possibilities. It extends the service model for manufacturers with ongoing support and relationship development, no matter where the customer may be, i.e. whether in remote Australian locations or overseas,” Dr Young said.
HYDAC’s objective is to accelerate the commercialisation of the training solution.
“The end target is to fast-track commercialisation of solutions from basic VR training packages to complete site support, which will depend on customers who are early adopters in this area. Our feeling is that they will be defence-related because of the difficulty inherent in accessing many of the assets it once deployed and the sector’s requirements for high levels of technical support and verification of work practices,” Keen said.