Before Audi produces the first prototypes of a new car, engineers in the Pre Series Center check individual assembly steps in a 3D projection in a CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). The engineers assemble components virtually, thus determining whether this process is feasible and ergonomic for the employees on the production line. As part of a pilot project, the engineers are now—for the first time—moving the components in the virtual space using simple gestures.
The CAVE is an immersive virtual reality environment in which the floor and wall display 3‑D images of components (a full, classic CAVE is a closed, cube-shaped room). As part of series operation, the pre‑series developers control the virtual components using a controller from a games console.
|Myo armband. Click to enlarge.|
However, said Katharina Kunz, Audi development engineer for virtual validation, “We want to make picking up and moving the components more intuitive in the future.” Thus she is testing the Myo armband—an armband developed in the gaming industry for gesture control—with her team as part of a pilot phase.
The armband measures the muscle currents in the forearm and can deduce how the user is moving their arm and fingers. The armband then sends the motion data via Bluetooth to a computer. The same computer also collects the user’s position coordinates with the aid of an infrared camera on the ceiling.
The camera used is a Microsoft Kinect—the control hardware in a games console. To ensure that the Myo armband does not interpret every possible movement as a control gesture, the user activates the system by touching his or her thumb and middle finger.
Kunz and her team frequently use technologies from the gaming world: “They are ideal for us because they are relatively inexpensive and are being developed rapidly.” The engineers in the Pre‑Series Center aim to use the Myo in series operation in the coming months.