The manufacturer and supplier Topsoe aims to make training of employees easier and better using extended reality. Learn about their new augmented reality and virtual reality instructions developed in MADE projects in the article and videoes below.
Training employees takes up a lot of time – and can rely on a few specialists available to facilitate the training.
We want to use the new technologies like augmented reality to reduce the overall training time, and by using these technologies, we become more system dependent instead of human dependent.Amit Prasad, Specialist in the digitalisation unit at Topsoe.
Topsoe develops technology, catalysts and services for the energy transition and produces more than 30,000 tonnes catalysators a year. Topsoe is part of a MADE research project that aims to investigate and implement extended reality tools for training employees.
Founded in 1940, Topsoe is a developer and supplier of decarbonization technology, catalysts, and services for the energy transition.
Topsoe’s mission is to partners and customers achieve their decarbonization and emission-reduction targets, including those in sectors such as aviation, shipping, and the production of raw materials.
Topsoe is headquartered in Denmark, with over 2,400 employees serving customers all around the globe.
30 percent faster training and no need for instructors
In the project, experts from the Alexandra Institute are assisting Topsoe by developing an augmented reality (AR) version of the cleaning instructions for a tablet machine. This part of the project works with on-site training experts and is a bit further ahead.
“The overall maintenance process is quite complex and needs to be done on a regular basis. The maintenance process consists of around 30 steps that must be completed in a particular sequence. And that’s why it is a good idea to have an augmented reality application built for this machine,” says Prasad.
When an operator at Topsoe needs to clean the machine, they can pick up their phone, hold it up in front of the machine and an overlay of virtual AR instructions appear.
“By using this kind of application, we’re going to eliminate the trainers’ time by 100 percent. And for operators who are in training, we can reduce the training time by 30 percent,” Prasad explains.
Phone version is more familiar
During the project, the expert team from Alexandra Instituttet created two versions of the augmented reality instructions: One for a HoloLens and one for a tablet or a phone:
“With the HoloLens, they (ed. operators) might not know how to interact with the system. So, it might be hard for them to begin with whereas using a phone will be much easier for them because they already know the basic ways to interact with the phone system,” explains Kaspar Rosengreen Nielsen, Principal Software Architect at Alexandra Instituttet, adding that even though the phone and tablet system is the preferred version amongst Topsoe’s operators right now the HoloLens version may well catch up in the future as the technology matures and becomes more widely used.
VR training and haptic feedback
Parallel to the development of AR-solutions, MADE PhD Chiwoong Hwang from Aarhus University is investigating the possibilities of remote training using virtual reality (VR) and how to integrate haptic feedback into the solution.
VR training is especially useful for completely new users of the machine while the AR-solutions is more relevant for users who may be intermediate and only need assistance to ensure all steps in the process have been completed.
However, to make the virtual reality training as close to reality as possible Chiwoong Hwang works with integrating a sense of weight and texture through so called haptic feedback.
“We do not only learn new information through vision. Our understanding of an apple for example also depends on the shape, weight, and texture,” Hwang explains.
So far, he has tested different types of haptic feedback and worked successfully with delayed motions in VR to create a sense of weight. Watch the video below:
His next step will be to work on creating a tactile sensation in the VR training meaning e.g., that it will be possible to sense whether a surface is smooth and clean or not.
MADE Research project
The research project is part of the MADE FAST research platform. You can read more about the platform here.
The partners in the project are: Topsoe, SynergyXR, Alexandra Instituttet, and Aarhus University
The project was launched in March 2020.