We’ve had fun trying out the VR and AR headsets within our office, but this week we had the opportunity to show this technology to others within the industry at a MIDAS Lunch and Learn. It was exciting for us to watch our clients immerse themselves in a virtual environment of projects that we are currently working together on.
Having the opportunity to present this technology to others also opened the door for meaningful discussions. We were able to bounce ideas around regarding where we see this technology taking us as well as what they would like to see in the future.
After building projects in Unity for use on the Vive VR headset, making the switch to Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset was relatively straight forward.
The HoloLens is a computer; you only need a desktop or laptop to build the required functionality in Unity. However, a computer that sits on your head isn’t nearly as powerful as the gaming station we have been using to build these models. This causes some lagging when looking at large detailed assemblies.
Without physical controllers, hand gestures and voice commands are recognized by the device. This makes programming slightly more challenging, however it opens up more possibilities for functionality as we are no longer constrained to the six buttons on the Vive controllers.
Using April Tags (Fiducial Markers) we have been able to accurately place holograms over top of real world objects. We did this with our prototype wobble conveyor, augmenting the chutes and guarding over top of the wooden prototype we constructed, giving our client a better idea of what the final product will look like on the plant floor.
We have built a virtual reality experience on the HTC Vive in Unity that has much of the same functionality as the VRED model based off of demo files. Unity is a powerful game engine, and is much easier to implement extra functionality compared to VRED. With so many game developers, there is no shortage of useful documentation and tutorials. It’s trying to combine all this information, and adding to it to create something useful in our industry that’s the challenge.
We want our program to be useful for both large and small models, so we have added some teleportation functionality, allowing you to quickly move yourself in the XY plane with a laser pointer, and also vertically in the Z direction with the click of a button.
One of the aspects we see being useful for our clients is the ability to pull up documentation on specific parts in an assembly, as you’re viewing it in virtual reality. This could be all the drawings on file, or even maintenance history. So with the other controller we have implemented another laser that allows the user to select a part, and opens a heads up display that identifies the part in question. We have also added the ability to hide and show parts within the assembly. This is useful to get a closer look at specific parts or for contractors looking to do a mock disassembly before they get on the shop floor.
Now it’s time to work on implementing more functionality and importing even more information to make this a more useful tool.
We’re working with MIDAS once again – only this time on a virtual and augmented reality project that will allow us to immerse ourselves and our clients in 3D CAD models.
The MIDAS facility houses both the HTC Vive VR headset, as well as Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. With virtual reality the user is placed inside a 3D environment instead of simply viewing a screen. Augmented reality on the other hand uses computer generated images superimposed on the real world (holograms). Applications for AR could be showing a client what their plant is going to look like with a new generator installed and with VR contractors could do walkthroughs to see the inside of the generator before they are on the plant floor, reducing downtime.
Some of the software we are interested in exploring further includes: Unity, Unreal Engine, and Autodesk’s VRED. While both Unity and Unreal Engine were originally designed for game developers, they have strong VR functionality that we are excited to explore.
Autodesk’s program is appealing because of the compatibility with our existing modelling software, Inventor. This screen capture shows where we have been able to take the software thus far. Utilizing some demo code provided from Autodesk, as well some of our own to increase functionality; we have a VR setup that allows us to walk or teleport around a model. Using the Vive’s two controllers we were able interact with it using some of the provided tools, like a ruler, flashlight and sectioning tool.
Today we decided to send the printer back to the manufacturer for maintenance, but first we had to make sure it would fit in the box…
I/O Design hosted their annual Bike Day event on June 24th in Rossland BC, which included morning and afternoon mountain biking, a catered BBQ lunch, and lots of prizes! This year we also hired a professional videographer to document some of the riding:
Today we were fabricating the 3D printer top and bottom plates. The outline of each plate was converted into a DXF flat pattern and uploaded into the ShopBot software, so that we could cut out the shape.
While using the software, we failed to realize that the DXF flat pattern was not centred on the sheet of aluminium. This resulted in an attractive “accent chamfer”, as well as the discovery of a little button which centres the pattern.
We’re currently in the process of designing and building our own in-house delta style 3D printer, both as a learning opportunity, as well as for practical applications. We’d originally researched the possibility of simply purchasing one, however opportunity knocked with the opening of the new MIDAS facility located in Trail, BC.
Through MIDAS (www.midaslab.ca), we’ve gained access to an array of fabrication and manufacturing equipment which has been crucial to the success of this project. Some examples of the types of equipment we intend to use for this project include: CNC vertical mill, CNC turning centre, CNC table router, laser cutter, TIG welder, and soldering equipment. We also intend to use 3D printers for the purposes of generating several of the parts (yes, we’re going to 3D print parts for our 3D printer!).
The idea behind this project is twofold.
First, it’s a learning opportunity to be involved in the physical manufacture of products once we’ve completed our design work. Typically our project scope ends at the design stage of a project, and subsequent stages such as fabrication and installation are done by others. This project affords us the opportunity to expand our knowledge into these later stages, which should in theory make us better designers.
Second, it’s a way to obtain a fully functional 3D printer at the completion of the project. This will enable us to either manufacture actual fully functioning products that we can sell, or to produce physically tangible concept models whenever there would be a benefit to do so (for example to ensure that two parts actually physically fit together the way we intend them to).
As we make progress on this project, we’ll document any developments (both our successes, AND our failures). Currently, we’re in the digital design stage: