Can virtual collaboration replace real mobility?Exploring potentials and limits of VR teamwork.
Next MQ! Innovation Summit|November 8-9, 2018
In the Audi production plant of tomorrow, virtual reality will support many activities. Sascha Gebhardt, Michael Guenter, Alma Hertwig and Philipp Schönhuth provided VR glasses to the participants in their workspaces. They wanted to discover all of the things that can be improved.
Alma, Sascha, Philipp,
the three of you work in the Audi Production Lab, which works to advance innovation in production. Where do you see the potential of virtual reality?
There will be numerous areas of application, from production to planning and development. We draw a general distinction between three technologies for glasses – that of assisted reality, augmented reality and virtual reality. In the workspace we concentrated on the fully immersive VR glasses that completely place the user in the scenery displayed.
What did the setup look like?
We set up a demo for four participants each with the Vive glasses from the manufacturer HTC and moved them to a service center where there was a cockpit from an Audi car. There was a small problem there with the installation of the infotainment control device in the storage box. The participants could perform various actions with their hand controllers in order to identify it. They could cut through the front of the cockpit to free up the device; they could move it or mark on it.
We gave the participants virtual pens for this. They could draw freely in the air with them and thus mark in the model where the problem lay. And they could pass on the pens whenever they wanted, and exchange them.
The simulation replicated a typical workplace situation just like those I regularly experience. I work in the Audi Pre-Series Center, where I deal with virtual safeguarding of series production. We have long used digital visualization tools like the so-called CAVE at the Pre-Series Center, but now they are gradually being replaced by the VR glasses.
How helpful and useful are the state-of-the-art VR glasses? What was the tenor at your workspace?
We asked about three points: What functions are required in the display? What new interaction methods would be good? And how does virtual reality improve collaboration? Three feedback points emerged from the answers. Many participants wanted to take their personal work equipment with them, like real pens, into the simulation. The second thing was that personalized and animated avatars would help improve collaboration in VR. The third thing they wanted was to be able to carry out actions in VR environments that people in the real world couldn’t do, such as teleport from one place to another.
We take these suggestions very seriously, but of course there were also a lot of positive statements. A lot of participants were quite fascinated with the fact they could use the virtual pens to draw in the air or simply conjure up objects. And the technology continues to improve very quickly, of course. There are already controllers that provide tactile feedback. When a prospective physician gives an injection in a medical simulation, he or she can sense the resistance of the skin.
There are concepts to visualize the face with eye tracking and stretch sensors to show facial expression. There is a new approach with gloves and tracked real components for grasping things naturally. With future computers and the next generation of glasses, the resolution and display quality will improve considerably. Data can already be transmitted wirelessly and will also be adequately supported for a sufficient number of users. And the user will be able to freely switch between reality and simulation, since AR and VR are merging ever more tightly.
And what does that mean for working at Audi?
Interesting use cases would certainly include virtual meetings with colleagues at distant locations, which would save a lot of time and money, and working from a home office.
At the Pre-Series Center, we are already experiencing the potential of VR applications and I can also well imagine them in plant planning, in the design process and in many training tasks. For example, learning how to handle high-voltage batteries is much safer in the virtual world than in the real one.
What was your take on the groups of participants? And of the whole MQ!?
Our participants were extremely active and were highly interested in the topic.
I was impressed by the set-up and by how well all of the participants embraced the MQ!
Our workspaces were completely booked. It was also exciting for me to gain insight into the work of my colleagues in other departments.
What I found so great was the broad approach to the topic of mobility. A range of topics that covers everything from Fatima Bhutto to Dirk Ahlborn is really something quite special.
Head of Audi Production Lab, AUDI AG
The physicist Dr. Henning Löser is the Head of Audi's Production Lab. He adds a lot of experience in technology development to the summit. With his guidance we gained deep insights on future production techniques.
Process Technology Method Developer, AUDI AG
For almost ten years now Michael Günter is diving deep into VR and AR – since 2014 for Audi. He shared his insights on the development of technologies shaping the future mobility by glueing real life experiences and virtual realties together.
User Experience Designer, AUDI AG
As a psychologist Alma Hertwig knows how people’s brains work. At the Audi Production Lab she strives to give the customers the best experience possible. She conveyed an impression of how VR be connected to the real world.