One of the biggest challenges is to design a system that facilitates collaboration between multiple humans and robotic entitites regardless of their geographical location. This project is aimed to design and develop a suitable Digital-Twin (DT) interface able to work with old industry architectures as well as be adaptable and suitable for Industry 4.0 environments. With the help of immersive technologies (VR/AR/MR), all parties will be able to communicate and interact with each other even when located remotely.
Collaborative robotics (cobotics) is a developing field, allowing robots to work in a flexible and safe manner and in close proximity to humans. There are many potential use-cases for this type of systems: applications ranging from engineering design, education and training, health & safaty to teleoperation, long distance collaborations and customer service. The augmentation of a human’s powers of perception and judgement by a responsive and precise robotic assistant will isolate the human worker from potential work hazards, and improve process efficiency. The robotic assistant is taught to perform complex, repetitive and strenuous tasks by the human, thereby reducing the likelihood of the human experiencing undue stress or physical injury.
When cobotics is combined with virtual reality, a new set of working and teaching methodologies becomes available. For example, a virtual classroom. In this scenario, the teacher is in front of the real robot (perhaps in a laboratory in Sheffield), and every student is connected remotely to the VR system (anywhere else in the world) where they can see their teacher and a virtual avatar of the real robot. The students would be all virtually together taking part in the same lesson, observing how their own robot avatar behaves in exactly the same way as the real robot. The students can learn, observe and interact with the real robot through its VR avatar (Virtual/Digital Twin). On the teacher side, they would be able to see multiple avatars (using Mixed Reality devices - MR), one for each student simulating the entire student cohort in the VR classroom. This way the teacher can provide performance feedback in real-time.
In an industrial context, the scene would probably look a bit different. Where a group of engineers would be located next to the factory machinery. A single or a group of experts or managers could visit the factory line remotely through the same VR technique. The engineers would be able to interact with them through MR techniques. This project is progressing towards a real implementation under the Industry 4.0 “Factory of the Future” concept.