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Experts can now look over engineers' shoulders with VR

Experts can now look over engineers' shoulders with VR

5G technology stimulates knowledge transfer

In technical fields, learning shouldn't be limited to books, classes and an apprenticeship or two. It would be great if we could add to these learning methods by allowing an expert to observe a novice engineer's problem solving using VR glasses. This 5G project makes it possible.

Since 2016, experiments have been taking place with 5G in Groningen. The project is called 5Groningen. VodafoneZiggo is working with businesses, non-profits and Agentschap Telecom to carry out technical tests to assess the practical applicability of the latest generation of mobile networks.

No lag connection
Within 5Groningen, an application was developed that allows an expert to remotely observe an engineer carrying out maintenance tasks in a chemical or industrial environment. By connecting the handy Augmented Reality glasses to a 5G smartphone, the engineer can make contact with the expert remotely at the click of a button. The expert can watch in real time as the engineer carries out tasks, and give them precise instructions. The technology works without any lag or disruptions. How? Using 5G technology and Virtual Reality glasses connected to a 360 degree camera.

Looking over their shoulder
The two professionals can have hands-free contact with each other. This makes it easy to point to objects, such as a specific button. It's also possible to receive step-by-step instructions and the expert can even share visual explanations. STARK Learning is working on further development that will enable knowledge and procedures to be stored, so they can be used in other situations. Since the expert is able to watch in real-time via the VR glasses, it's as if they’re looking over the engineer’s shoulder.

Innovative learning
STARK Learning is responsible for developing this application. This company, situated in Groningen, develops digital learning solutions and supports organisations in developing innovative learning programs. The business is specialised in solutions for the technical sector.

Practical digital tools
"There is increasing demand for digital tools on the shop floor," says Milan Vogelaar, owner of STARK Learning. "With the help of digital tools, employees can be trained quickly and efficiently in carrying out new tasks. Thick manuals are not always easy to use, and troubleshooting over the phone can have its downsides. We believe in practical digital tools that make people’s work easier."

Hazardous work environments
"When an engineer is in contact with an expert, it's important that they can look at the same object in real-time," explains Vogelaar. "This is especially crucial in hazardous work environments, such as offshore locations, power stations and chemical plants. If the connection lags, this only increases the risk of mistakes. With 5G, it's possible to connect anywhere with very low latency (lag)."

Network in slices
For this 5G pilot, TNO, VodafoneZiggo, VMware and Dell Technologies have built a complete, stand-alone 5G network with Edge Computing in an indoor test hall that uses the 3.5 Ghz frequency. This network makes new high-tech functionalities possible, including 'network slicing' and 'orchestration'. With these methods, the physical mobile network infrastructure is divided into virtual slices. By providing a guaranteed network capacity per 'slice', users are not squeezed out when it gets busy.

Measuring, solving, advising
TNO contributed knowledge of measuring latency and solving the challenges related to network connections. VodafoneZiggo contributed ideas regarding the technology and put STARK Learning in contact with other organisations that are using the same AR hardware. In addition, VodafoneZiggo gave advice on how the application can eventually grow into a product for the business world or the consumer market. VMware developed a platform that makes it possible to manage and control VR and AR hardware remotely.

Great leaps forwards
Vogelaar is enthusiastic about the collaborations within 5Groningen. "We've taken great leaps forwards. As a result of this pilot, it will be possible to control large numbers of AR and VR glasses remotely. This is a valuable feature for companies that will roll out this technology on a large scale and operate internationally. I see 5Groningen as a spider in a web that connects companies and organisations to streamline processes, find ways to accelerate and solve challenges."