The Eras virtual workstation for Virtual Reality Applications
As part of the EU Mars project (www.erasproject.org) a virtual simulation workstation was designed. This includes the Blender Game Engine and an omindirectional treadmill, named Motivity. This technology enables virtual simulation techniques to be used together with classical CAD simulation tools in any case where a more effective interaction between the final user and industrial products under test is needed during the simulation process.
The technology described here is part of a sub-project of the ERAS project (www.erasproject.org ) named V-ERAS (Virtual – Eras) . ERAS is a system of systems, and a key enabler for Mars exploration. It will serve as a state-of-the art test bed for international researchers working on the five showstoppers for exploring Martian, which are:
3) Need for Regenerative & Bioregenerative Life Support;
4) Martian Dust
5) Crew health monitoring and training.
As part of the development of the C3 Command, Control and Communication (C3) System, the virtual ERAS simulation workstation is under development. This includes the development of an omindirectional treadmill called Motivity. The integration of Motivity within the overall ERAS Virtual Reality simulation workstation allows the astronaut's avatar to walk around the Martian simulated virtual space. The full offer includes:
1. The treadmill Motivity that is demonstrated for virtual activities
2. The SW and overall System architecture that has already been applied in the ERAS (European Mars Analog Station) project
The two technologies above can be provided either individually or as a full system. The major advantage of such virtualization is that it will be possible to undertake training sessions with a crew that can interact with its future environment before the actual station is built. In this way the station and associated missions can be designed more effectively. The main objective of this activity is to achieve sufficient fidelity in the simulations and validation of the data obtained during the training sessions so that they can be used for the design of the station itself. Many ergonomics and human factors are considered in the virtual model, to be verified and validated before the actual ERAS habitat construction. The specific features that this system provides may be applied into non-space sectors, for example:
a) Virtual training of technical operators in a range of industries;
b) Study of ergonomic factors related to the interaction between general users and industrial consumer products.
c) Use of the simulation techniques of Motivity together with the classical CAD simulation tools in any case where a more effective interaction is needed during the simulation process between the final user and the industrial product under test.
d) Application to Arcade games with the specific development of software and hardware devices.
e) Representation of complex technical /scientific data in the virtual environment.
The proposed technology contributes to:
• Communication: allows the components (control servers and clients) of the distributed system to communicate amongst themselves
• Online database: with the possibility to access online any data point of the DCS (Distributed Control System)
• Configuration database: keeps and manages the configuration data • Logging: collects the logs from all over the system and presents it to the operator
• Model space environments (Mars environments in case of Eras project) with high level of precision.
Innovations & Advantages
The innovation of the ERAS virtual workstation are mainly related to the :
a) Design: the design of the ergonomic harness is new in the virtual simulation sector.
b) The software developed for the simulation purposes, while based on open source applications, is completely new in its structure and scope. Furthermore the software developed can be easily tailored for different kinds of uses in the industrial or consumer sector.
c) The hardware of the workstation can be easily modified to meet the requested performance for the simulation scopes.
Crewed planetary exploration missions will be complex and high-demanding, both for activities in laboratories and Extravehicular Activities (EVA). The human crew will have to interact with a diverse team of mobile robots operating in a variety of control modes. To deal with this complexity there is a clear need for a concise and coherent design approach. Inadequate usage of technology will result in decreased task performance and may even increase the risks for astronauts’ health. As well as the need for excellent usability, the technology should provide excellent cognitive support for performing both nominal and off-nominal actions. The human/robotic team has to carry out a different set of activities according to predefined procedures, but should also show adequate responses to unforeseen situations or system failures. The problem is made even more complex by the communication delays to remote robot teams and/or the limited supervision that an astronaut can provide. This makes it necessary for the robot team to perform coordinated tasks robustly and autonomously. Indeed, communication will be one of the key challenges. Robots will sometimes be teleoperated with the need for high-speed communications with the operator. At other times, robots will be operated with long transmission delays over low-bandwidth communication links. More specifically, the ERAS / V-ERAS system shall provide the data processing and communications functionalities required to:
• monitor and control the planetary habitat’s environment and subsystems
• monitor and maintain crew health and safety
• communicate with mission support, robots and EVA crew members
• support data processing related to the mission objectives
• host the core part of the crew operations planning and scheduling support system
Current and Potential Domains of Application
Based on the above description, it is possible to foresee many applications of the Eras virtual workstation technology in other industrial sectors, with a tailoring of the technology expertise for each application. More specific applications of the technology could be:
- Bio-mechanical simulation of human behaviour in sport, car, defense, aeronautic sector.
- Study of human motion by means of motion tracking to improve the production performances of workers groups.
- Study of interactions between humans and robots in industrial environments.
- Ergonomic simulation of consumers behaviour in commercial centres.
- Simulation of operations in dangerous situations such as fire rescue activities, working in under-ground/ under-sea, working in confined spaces, working in dangerous areas of chemical, pharmaceutical, iron and steel, oil and gas sector.
- Simulation of medical activities and telemedicine activities in space and non-space sectors including military and defense operations.
- Simulation during the products development of the change of the objects shape related to the required performances of the objects.
- Development of games for entertainement industry.
- Development of educational applications for shools and universities.