Author: Sabarinath C Nair, Founder & CEO, Skillveri Training Solutions Pvt Ltd
A lot of questions arise in the minds of a buyer, who would like to get the benefits of a simulator to a training centre for welding or spray painting. Most important is, forget all these “jargons” of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, etc – finally do the simulators for welding deliver value to my training centre or shop floor?
The doubts are complicated by the fact that unlike simulators in the aviation sector or the medical sector, the welding training field has not seen much success with simulation. The intentions have been good, but the technological back-end has not been up to the mark.
If we look at the needs of simulation in welding training, we can arrive at the following pyramidal structure of requirements:
For each of these training levels, one needs to look at the simplest possible solution at the most affordable prices, instead of complicating the usage for everyone.
The one-size-fits-all approach ended up everyone blindly using virtual reality and its variants.
With the advent of Augmented Reality, there was renewed interest in simulation, because AR could make things appear more “real” than VR. A lot of tools in AR ended up not going beyond amusement level (Apple’s ARKit mostly puts a dinosaur in your room which you can go around poking!
The way Augmented Reality Simulators work is, the dummy objects (plastic plates instead of actual metal plates, welding torches) have markers that are seen by a camera, and a software program overlays welding effect (beads, molten pool, sparks) over and above the camera’s output. It works well for amusement on the day of inauguration of the welding simulator, but creates problems during usage if one attempts for actual training:
- The live image processing creates more lag than Virtual Reality, to the tune of 500 milliseconds. Any lag greater than 30 ms confuses our brain
- The field of view of the camera is very different from the field of view of human eyes, therefore, depth and size perception doesn’t work during simulation, again confusing the brain
- Simulation/cyber sickness within 10 minutes, which prevents any continuous practice required to learn welding, because a typical multi-pass weld joint requires at least 20 minutes, sometimes even hours to complete.
Given these challenges, we at Skillveri over the last 5+ years, spent a lot of effort in identifying aspects that have to be real, and aspects that could be virtual, and also in fine-tuning the mix between real and virtual.For simpler hand-skills involving one single hand action in a 2D surface, a zero-learning-curve tool is most suited.
What is eXtended Reality (XR)? It is a superset of VR, AR, MR, etc. The main difference in application of XR as fine-tuned by Skillveri is to match the real world with the virtual world, in terms of depth, distance and orientation, so that the learner does not feel as if entering a different world with a different scale. Instead of using a camera (vulnerable to scale errors, lag errors) Skillveri’s XR uses low-latency sensors which exactly position the physical objects inside the virtual world. There is no need to remove the HD 3-D vision helmet to interact with physical objects in real world.In addition, there is the unique ability to cut the welding joint across any plane and analyze the cross-section or micro-structure of the beads.
What’s more, with Skillveri’s XR, it is possible to add customized welding/painting jobs, which are up to 5 metres in length!