German automaker Audi is adapting gesture-control interactions from the gaming industry to test the assembly-line feasibility, ergonomics and efficiency of new car models.
Tested at its Pre-Series Development Centre and conducted within an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment known as ‘Cave’, steps of the assembly process are simulated using wall and floor projections. This allows 3D imagery of individual components to be configured and moved in a virtual space.
Until now, a games console was required as the interface. However, Audi is now piloting a project that allows for gesture control via the Myo armband, primarily developed for the gaming industry. The band analyses forearm muscle currents in order to decipher arm and finger movements. An overhead Kinect infrared camera detects the user’s position using co-ordinates, which it then communicates to a computer via Bluetooth. The gesture-control system is initiated by the user touching their thumb and middle finger.
This technology allows Audi engineers to simulate each and every step of their assembly process in a tangible and intuitive manner at a pre-prototype stage, helping to improve efficiency and streamline the design process up to three years before the start of production. Commenting on borrowing technologies from the gaming world, Katharina Kunz, Audi development engineer for virtual validation, said: “They are ideal for us because they are relatively inexpensive and are being developed rapidly.”
By adopting existing VR and gesture-control technologies, Audi remains ahead of the game and in a position to react rapidly as new technologies evolve and hit the marketplace, as well as streamline its own research and development process.
Brands embracing VR are already impacting story landscapes and opening up the way consumers experience content (see Sculpting VR Story Spaces with HTC) as well as the product experience. Look to Innovations in Automotive Retailing and Retail Beyond the Algorithm for further VR applications in retail spaces.
International CES – the world's largest consumer electronics event – begins tomorrow, promising a wealth of auto innovations. See our CES 2016 Trends Preview, and watch out for full coverage, coming soon.