Virtual Reality in the Manufacturing Plant

New research is underway at CAVS Extension into how virtual reality (VR) can be used as a training tool for manufacturers and combined with other technologies, such as 360-degree videos and laser scans. CAVS Extension research engineer Emily Wall delivered a presentation detailing these new capabilities at the IISE Annual Conference and Expo on May 21, 2019 in Orlando, FL. The presentation described how using 360-degree video cameras to record a manufacturing process can be turned into a video standard operating procedure. These videos can stand alone as a tutorial series or be integrated into virtual environments, and can be experienced through a VR headset. Advantages of using VR in training include, not only enabling the user to experience and watch processes that may be dangerous for in person training, but allowing for key process steps to be highlighted within the video, where the user can repeat the training as many times as needed. Using VR also assists new hires in being exposed to the manufacturing surroundings and machinery before they ever step foot into the physical manufacturing environment. Wall's presentation included several videos demonstrating the research conducted and showed participants what a user might see inside a VR headset.

The video linked here displays a manufacturing environment 3D model, a to-scale, 3D model of actual machinery used. The model was created by a laser scanning of the physical machine and combines two videos showing the process taking place from two different viewpoints. Wall stated that, "Virtual Reality is not the answer for all training and process documentation situations, however for some areas, such as hazard identification, poor quality identification, computer interface processes and environment/noise exposure for dangerous locations, it can be a very effective tool."