In manufacturing field, scarcity of skilled labour is felt while a great sum is spent on the training of unskilled personnel and such is a time consuming process too. But to tackle this issue in measured way, forward-looking and iconic researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology, are quick enough to unroll training mechanism which is infected by augmented and virtual reality and young labourers are set to be trained in new and unprecedented manufacturing environment with real feel.
Not surprisingly, handy processes in manufacturing field that used to rustle out items for us earlier, have now undergone a sea-change, and new skill-set have occupied its place, processes and related implements. To put straight, Industry 4.0 dominates today’s manufacturing globally wherein new operations in manufacturing have taken hold of the situation and need for smart knowledge and related skills is deeply felt thereby, in order to let automation reach its zenith.
Mr. Yunbo Zhang, occupying the seat of assistant professor in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering observes that now, a cutting-edge training strategy is being developed whereby amalgamation of entities constitute the basis, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality applications and novice trainees are aided in picking up manufacturing skills with a first-hand approach. Furthermore, by harnessing smart technology to develop palatable solutions, knowledge and skills of senior machinists can be absorbed and so of premium artists of manufacturing.
In words of Mr. Zhang, “There are challenges in the workforce in the U.S.; manufacturing industries require a qualified workforce, meaning they can work the machines and conduct the manufacturing process in factories. We believe the training would be an important way to improve the situation,”
Clearly, specialized Virtual Reality goggles are designed for cadets and they pick up the skill and spruced with first-hand experience in learning manufacturing systems with a feeling of a typical factory setting. In grander scheme of things, instructions and exclusive tasks of training are rolled out to let learners delve-into factory setting with safety but with towering tech competence.
At this point, Mr. Zhang went on to explain further, “Augmented or virtual reality might be new to people, and for some, it is hard to understand what their experience could be. Most people, when they are doing training, are reading material or watching YouTube. Our platform will not be like that,” and also advised that the activities needed for equipment operations, will also get represented in virtual reality system in form of premium models. As such, researchers opine that such re-print in real-time practice environment would be of immense use to deepen the understanding only to be utilized at later stages in a workplace surrounding.
Traditionally, in fact, the super-rich manufacturing legacy in U.S. has always been marked by the trend wherein unskilled personnel were trained by accomplished craftsmen on various machines. A great portion of such training used to be handy and consumed many years to develop a skill in a person. But now, as a result of mega tech wave, traditional manufacturing has also been in state of evolution as the aspects of smart technologies and automation occupy the soul of manufacturing operations in modern times. Now, an employee needs to be well-versed and proficient in both the areas.
Mr. Zhang is of firm opinion that to gain skill and mastery over processes, such virtual format will still stay the course, as the framework developed by them, echoes the developments taking place in real-time workplace and with greater degree of proximity. In case of online training and practice, one can learn about the equipment operations in form of steps and can also be obliged to rectify the errors as such get highlighted. Truly, such a system is a type of boon to corporations who intend to train young recruits in best and in the most economical way and can also be used to train who simply want to refine their dexterity.
Now, Mr. Chao Peng, acting as co-PI on the project, bears in extensive industry experience alongside product development proficiency. Mr. Peng, is assistant professor in the School of Interactive Games and Media in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and dictate the proper utilization of VR and gamification technologies while they try to develop the framework meant for immersive training and displays through gadgets that are mounted on heads, is dominant aspect of such modern day training. He also looks upon the essence of games to impart superior training among learners and to fulfil the scope of sheer occupational excellence among them and to be make them job and future ready.
“Many of our students join our program because they want to make games. They are attracted by some of the entertainment elements,” Peng said. “Through this project, I want to bring in another perspective, that gaming is not just for entertainment. We are seriously teaching through this game-like application. Our students would have the opportunities to collaborate with people from other disciplines who may need their knowledge of game design and development.”
Their (Mr. Zhang and Peng’s) task gets funds from National Science Foundation and is regarded as “Affordable and intelligent augmented reality platform for manufacturing workforce and education,”, while this effort is thought to be an instance of a bigger project which Purdue University has offered to finance, i.e. “B1: Future Jobs and AI; Skill XR: An affordable and Scalable X-Reality Platform for Skills Training and Analytics in Manufacturing Workforce Education.” Sans doubt, such research and development effort is targeted towards the goal of pushing the spirits of national apprenticeships to fulfil certain new-age industrial needs that emerge as a result of tech and mechanical boom.
Moving further, there is considered an active involvement of social scientists and AI zealots in the RIT clan, while talks are underway with Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, on a new task whereby “fabrication corner” is advised to be built inside the museum. Now, initial designs and sketches are being worked upon, in a bid to build a express form of the workplace format and to ignite the interest of kids in such related areas such as engineering, game designing and manufacturing.
“We are first trying to focus on one application and solve the most critical points and then explore more applications and fields,” said Zhang. “When you talk about technology, you want to make it in an appropriate way. We need the expertise form the social science domain. There is a much larger plan we have, but this project is just a starting project.”