Controlling Machines by Touching Your Palm
How can you accurately control a machine in a virtual reality application without any keyboard or user interface? Dominic Gottwalles and Centigrade developed a virtual industrial environment in which test persons controlled a machine by touching their own palm. For his master's thesis on this topic, Dominic Gottwalles has received the "Digitization in Mechanical Engineering" award by the German Engineering Federation (VDMA).
Industry is increasingly asking for innovative technologies based on virtual applications — for instance, to control or maintain machines. Dominic Gottwalles studied a central industrial application of Virtual Reality as a media informatics student of professor Antonio Krüger at Saarland University: "Entering numerical values is essential for the configuration of machines. In my master thesis, I therefore wanted to examine the possibilities of entering numerical values in a virtual environment," which resulted in a concept that allows the user to enter them with nothing but their hands. In this way, users are not burdened with additional ECUs, explains the master's graduate who completed his thesis in cooperation with Centigrade, headquartered in Saarbrücken.
Virtual Industrial Hall as a Test Scenario
With the company's help, Gottwalles turned the concept he had invented into a prototype: as a test scenario, he designed a virtual production hall with a production line consisting of several stations. At each station, test persons had to control the production process by entering numerical values. They could see a virtual representation of their hand with an illustrated numeric keypad on it and entered the corresponding keys by touching the palm of their hand. “In this way, we were able to assess the user-friendliness and performance of the prototype," concludes Dominic Gottwalles. The results encourage further exploration and tests of the palm control for industrial applications.
From Student to Software Developer
His results convinced not only the VDMA jury, but also the company Centigrade. Meanwhile, Dominic Gottwalles is developing modern user interfaces for various customer projects in his position as software developer at the company's Munich location.
For the first time, the VDMA Association for Software and Digitization had announced the award to honor "outstanding theses" and to promote digital transformation in mechanical engineering. From May to September 2017, professors could propose students from the fields of computer science and engineering. A total of 26 graduates from 21 German universities were nominated. Dominic Gottwalles received first prize in the category "Master Thesis".
This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.
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