Immersive Hybrid Reality iHR
Experts in construction and computer technology at Heriot-Watt University have developed a ground-breaking immersive hybrid reality (iHR) system which aims to take the danger out of extreme working conditions. The system enables users to experience work activities within realistic site conditions, such as working at extreme height, without facing real health and safety risks.
The iHR system, which is funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), uses state-of-the-art wearable computer systems and a specially-modified virtual reality (VR) headset to enable trainees to see, navigate and interact with real and virtual objects in a realistic working environment.
The iHR recently won a CIOB highly commended Innovation Award in the Innovation in Education and Training category.
The iHR system is hosted at Edinburgh College. The Energy Skills Partnership (ESP) and Fife College are also investing in an iHR pilot system for wind turbine training, in collaboration with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. The pilot project mimics inspections on the top of wind turbines.
Dr Mohamed Abdel-Wahab from Heriot-Watt University said:
“The combination of real and virtual worlds provides trainees with a vivid, yet safe and realistic, experience of a jobsite. The iHR system could support the delivery of training in many areas of the energy, engineering and construction sectors. Indeed the application of iHR can enhance the quality of training provision.”
Dr Frédéric Bosché said:
“The system also delivered additional benefits in terms of engaging young people in STEM subjects in general, and energy, engineering and construction in particular. The team has developed a mobile version of the system (called MobiHR), that we have used to support our partner colleges in numerous Skills and Careers Fairs. Young people are excited about such new technologies, but would never associate them to industries like Construction that are often seen as anchored in old traditions, “not cool”. At those events, we believe our system helps inspire young people.
“From a technical viewpoint, our system delivers what we have called 'hybrid reality'. We use this term to differentiate its functionality from Augmented Reality (AR). In AR, the virtual content is always on top of the real views. In HR, the 3D structure of both worlds are accurately captured and merged so that if the user aims to put their hand beneath a virtual table, it will actually appear beneath the table (i.e. occluded by the table). Furthermore, the user can actually interact with virtual 3D objects. Traditional AR technology cannot deliver this.”
For more information about the iHR system visit www.ice.hw.ac.uk and or follow @ICE_HWU.
For information on other on-going project of Dr Frédéric Bosché and his lab, the CyberBuild Lab, please visit https://web.sbe.hw.ac.uk/fbosche/ .
Two videos showing the iHR system in action can be found at: http://ice.hw.ac.uk/research/immersivepage.html.
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