Speeding innovation for industry
Demand for distance learning has gone through the roof since the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, the technologies that enable users to interact with virtual environments are getting better and cheaper—good news for the growing distance learning market. The goal of the EIT Manufacturing* project VMachina 2 is to develop a platform that enables industrial training stakeholders to quickly and effectively develop multi-user immersive e-learning modules leveraging virtual reality. All learners will need is a virtual reality headset and an internet connection to engage in hands-on training.
CEA-List developed a flexible network infrastructure for the solution that allows project partners across Europe to manage between one and six learners remotely and provide them with the best possible experience. The status of the physical machine can be saved and shared with other users—a major benefit for industrial training. CEA-List also delivered one of the project's major innovations: simulations of the physical behavior of the objects users interact with in the virtual environment that factor in user effort and interactions. This ensures a high-fidelity experience that is both realistic and technically accurate—something that is especially important when training operators on industrial machines. Scans of learners' faces can even be integrated into their avatars in the virtual world for an even more realistic, inclusive learning environment.
In terms of assessment, the solution analyzes learner behaviors and performance to determine how able they are to complete a task independently, how efficient they are, and whether or not they have followed all safety rules.
The technologies developed for this project have already been integrated into commercially-available solutions like the Interact plugin sold by Light and Shadows. The project has been extended for the third year running. The next step will be to address larger, class-sized groups. The idea is for around 30 observers to be able to connect to the VR simulation with an everyday computer so that they can see the tasks completed and talk to other users.
Ultimately, EIT Manufacturing would like to commercialize the platform so that European industrial training stakeholders can create powerful VR distance-learning modules on their own.
*The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Manufacturing community is a pan-European public-private partnership in support of a sustainable, entrepreneurial European manufacturing sector driven by innovation and education. The community focuses its efforts on developing real-world solutions to clearly-identified challenges.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.