Day 3 @ Laval Virtual: Ergo Wide 3

By Kate

Hi everyone. For my last day at Laval Virtual, I can’t help but blog about another CLARTE creation, Ergo Wide 3. CLARTE worked in tight collaboration with INERGY for three years to create exactly what was needed. Here’s the real-world scenario that this VR application resolves:

A fuel tank manufacturer called INERGY contacted CLARTE because they were losing too many employees to sick leave. Because of certain production line work station ergonomics, workers were taking long periods of absence due to work-induced injuries. On top of that, the company didn’t have the time or resources necessary to study multiple work station scenarios for all their locations.

Traditionally INERGY’s factories would receive production line set-ups with very limited adjustment/personalization options. For example, maybe the only thing the work station employee could adjust would be the height of the table. If the station was designed by really short people but used by really tall people, the tall workers would quickly start experiencing back pain.

The fact that the world keeps “getting smaller” and companies are spreading their manufacturing internationally multiplies the possibilities for work station mismatches and injury.

But what if the people actually working on the production line helped to design their work stations?

This is possible with Ergo Wide 3.

In fact the application is already in production by a subsidiary of INERGY called Troy. The first usage was for a workstation design for a factory in Korea. Through the application, someone at Troy headquartered in the US worked with a factory worker in Korea through a Web-based immersive virtuality environment.

Here’s an example of how the configuration works:

  • Said worker in Korea is inside a VR cave wearing body captors that translate his or her very unique anatomy into an anatomically correct avatar. The worker is immersed into a virtual representation of the proposed workstation design.
  • Said employee in the US is in front of a large screen watches a virtual representation of the workstation setup, including the Korean worker within the particular workstation environment. The two talk to each other through Skype to work out the design kinks.
  • There are several boxed the worker must access. US-guy asks Korean-guy to reach into the top left box. As he really does this, so does the avatar. In fact the avatar is like his virtual puppet.
  • Because the movement is health hazardous, the avatar’s hand turns red. US-guy asks Korean-guy to rearrange the boxes and place the too-high-up box in a more comfortable spot.
  • Repeat the motion of reaching into said box. This time the hand turns yellow. The placement still needs improvement.
  • The workstation employee rearranges the box until it’s comfortable for him and his virtual hand is green when reaching into it.

You can watch this CLARTE-created video to get a better feel:

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Here’s what I like best about Ergo Wide 3:

1. Crowdsourcing. What a smart concept to let the actual production line workers help design their workstations. Everyone wins this way.
2. Ergonomic science. I love how they’ve linked industry-standard ergonomics norms into the application. It’s precise and practical.

Bravo to the teams from CLARTE, INERGY for a great application!



P.S. Here’s the skinny on the software. They use SolidWorks and CATIA to create the production line environment and objects and 3DXML to import the 3D CAD data into the VR cave with 3DVIA Virtools. They use 3DVIA Virtools VR Pack for the cave, 3DVIA Multi-User Pack for the distant collaboration, and the 3DVIA web player for the remote application.

Day 2 @ Laval Virtual = Fire

By Kate

Hi. It’s day two at Laval Virtual and there are even more people circulating around the show floor. Today I’d like to showcase another example of how virtual reality is being used in the industrial world (although I’m tempted to tell you about the mixed reality bad breath game).

Virtual reality can be applied even to the most mundane things, like wooden pallets. Who even thinks about these? If you’ve ever been to IKEA you’ve walked by them in the warehouse/check out section. If you’ve ever been to the grocery store when they’re bringing in forklifted stacks of boxes packed with canned goods, you’ve seen them.

Have you ever thought about burning wooden pallets?

Well I can tell you that at least the pallet handling and logistics company Planet Pal has, and so has their insurance provider.

Planet Pal wanted to build a VR application to help them analyze a plethora of pallet burning scenarios, without burning away a plethora of physical and monetary resources.

They’ve partnered with some graduate students studying in the VR masters program at MNRV here in Laval, France. Three female students were assigned to the project. (I’m highlighting the female bit because the virtual reality industry is a very masculine world, so if you’re a young woman and interested in working in VR, go for it! There’s great work to be done.) They named the application Virtual Fire.

In the case of the Laval Virtual demo everything “takes place” in the virtual replication of a real warehouse facility stockyard. Here’s how it works:

1. With your computer mouse, select the type of pallet you’d like to test and place it anywhere in the virtual environment. You can stack up to 50 pallets in one tower. Add as many pallet stacks that you’d like and arrange them together.
2. Select the fire (comes as a red triangle until you activate the burning) and place it where you’d like the fire to start.
3. Select the wind force and direction.
4. Start the fire.

Before your eyes, the poor wooden pallets will burn at an astonishingly fast rate. During my demo they were gone in 28 seconds. Like that. The application gives a sort of “score” after the experiment, showing you stats on the wind, stacks and burn time.

Here’s where the serious gaming part shines. You can repeat the exercise with the same wind conditions and fire origin (or other), but this time put more space between your stacks. See what happens. And tweak until you save the maximum number of stacks.

Today Virtual Fire is a prototype. Planet Pal plans to use it to prove to its insurance provider that the company is aware and sensitive to fire hazards, which is good for keeping its insurance coverage. And not only that, they’ll be able to apply the knowledge learned from the virtual experiments to create safer real-life pallet scenarios.

The developers told me they will be evolving the application to include other elements like geolocalisation, which links to fire factors such as air humidity and the types of winds you may expect at certain locations.

I always like to dream about future innovation possibilities, so imagine if a pallet fire spreads to neighboring homes or businesses? How many seconds or minutes would it take for an entire block to go down in flames? I think this would be really useful information for municipal planners and firemen, and of course us citizens who would benefit from safer communities!

So while wooden pallets may seem mundane, I think we all agree that fires are anything but that. Virtual Fire is another cool, or should I say hot, example of how virtual reality can help us live better lives.

Many thanks to the developers Lucie Coudurier, Nadège Carlier and Emilie Brisseau for such an elegant and useful VR application. Thanks also to the students at the Institute for Applied Mathematics who developed the fire algorithm, the secret to making the virtual fire scientifically realistic.



P.S. BTW, the developers used 3DVIA Virtools to create Virtual Fire.

Live from Laval Virtual Day 1: R-Screen

By Kate

Hi! I’m blogging from Laval Virtual, and as I type I can hear a virtual cat meowing. There’s lots of fun and crazy stuff going on over here, but today I wanted to highlight an “I spy” that I find particularly interesting for the automotive industry, and most importantly, car buyers like you and me.

R-Screen is a first-of-a-kind VR application allowing consumers to visit a car virtually, showroom style. What I mean is, rather than being in a VR cave or in front of a large, static immersive screen, you must physically walk around the virtual car to see it. Hint, there’s a pivoting screen involved, but you’ll understand better when you watch the video.

“So what?” you may be wondering, but consider the possibilities. Rather compact (3 x 2 meters), R-Screen could be used to:

  • Demo mobility concepts at shows without production. This provides OEMs an opportunity to save resources.
  • Showcase several cars in one spot. A different car, a different audience/day, same show floor real estate.
  • Try and buy new models before they’re in circulation. Want to get a feel for that new Renault model not yet available at the dealership near you? R-Screen lets you do this.
  • Test personalization options and features. You think you’ll like the model in red with an integrated GPS system? Well you may not once you pick up your new car. You can try on all kinds of options virtually before purchasing.

Here’s a little video so you too can take the tour:

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Now I can’t help wondering . . . Imagine being at your favorite dealership near you. With an evolved version of the the R-Screen, you select a car body that best suits your personality and needs. Then you pick from a list of engines that fit within the body. Then interior options, etc. etc. You’ve designed a “My Car” that isn’t necessarily on the vendor list. When you’re satisfied, you click a button. Your choices synch with the PLM metadata, and someone on the production side clicks another button and your “My Car” gets made and shipped to the dealership. No more advance production, storing and shipping. And you get exactly what you want.

Perhaps I’m dreaming a little, but I see this as a possibility for future innovations. What do you think?

Let me know if you’re at Laval Virtual. I’d love to meet up with you!

More to come tomorrow . . .


P.S. R-Screen was made with several 3DVIA Virtools modules, including their VR pack. CLARTE came up with the concept and developed it, and Renault holds the patent.

Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.